Leipold is known as a straight-shooter, almost to a fault. He says what he thinks, believing that hes not fooling good coaches with obfuscation anyway and not worrying about the others because he knows he can beat most of them.
So, hes come right out and said lately that hed be crazy not to feature the most established part of his offense this season. That would be the running game. Leipold has a pair of very good backs in sophomores #26 Jaret Patterson and #5 Kevin Marks. They are 1 and 1A, splitting the carries almost evenly as well as the yardage. Patterson and Marks neatly divided in nearly equal parts 1,858 yards and 27 rushing touchdowns as freshmen a year ago.
They have a veteran offensive line with three seniors behind which to run and everyone a returning starter other than the center. They like the inside-zone stuff and then mix it with stretch runs to the edge which theyll probably do less of here because of PSUs speed there. Its this simple: If Buffalo cant run at least somewhat effectively, it cannot stay close in this game.
Even by MAC standards, Buffalos secondary is pretty ordinary of size, speed and experience. It might be the Bulls least accomplished unit. While safeties #22 Joey Banks and #33 Tyrone Hill got plenty of time a year ago and are aggressive in run support, CBs #8 Aapri Washington and #12 Devon Russell are both small (5-9) and a little green. Washington is a redshirt soph who got 6 starts a year ago and Russell is a community college transfer with 5 starts. They are ripe for the picking, especially when matched against 6-4, 232-pound Justin Shorter.
Johnson headlines Penn State visitor list
Buffalo was fortunate to have an FBS-level quarterback the past three years in 6-7, 249-pound dual-threat Tyree Jackson who opted to seek NFL employment after last season rather than play his senior year. Jackson was raw in spots but a big, dynamic playmaker the Bulls could count on in tight spots.
Lots, then, is unknown about his redshirt-freshman replacement #10 Matt Myers. Leipold allowed him to throw only 10 passes last week in a 38-10 win over FCS Robert Morris. He mostly handed off to Patterson (12-90) and Marks (13-75), though two of his five completions went for TDs to TE #89 Zac Lefebvre, one on a pretty wheel route down the sideline.
Myers is big (6-4, 220) and fairly mobile and another good catch for Leipold. The kid led a New York state high school champion in the medium-large enrollment class (A) and is a proven winner. He just hasnt had any run until this season and might be prone to writing a few checks his arm cant cash just yet.
Again, its lousy timing for Buffalo to be making this trip into Beaver Stadium. Had it been last season, or had Jackson not made that hasty decision to turn pro, the flanks could be a different story in this game. The Bulls had two very good wideouts last year in senior Anthony Johnson and K.J. Osborn who accounted for 110 catches, 1,902 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns. But Johnson graduated. And Osborn, considerably due to his QBs decision to leave, transferred himself to Miami (FL) where he starts at X-WR for the Hurricanes and caught 4 balls in their opener against Florida.
Whats left is totally unproven. The entire remaining wideout corps did not total as many catches as the departed Johnson and Osborn.
After Penn State racked up 79 points last week against Idaho (the teams highest total in a game since scoring 81 points in 1991 against Cincinnati), the Nittany Lions hope to keep up the momentum against the Buffalo Bulls Saturday under the lights at Beaver Stadium.
Its an unlikely match-up for FOX to put in its prime time national slot. The two teams have played just three times dating back to 1900, when the Nittany Lions lost 10-0. But Penn State holds a 2-1 edge against the Bulls, including a 27-14 win in the second week of the 2015 season, when then-freshman running back Saquon Barkley scored his first touchdown and ran for 115 yards.
According to Penn State football beat reporter Joe Juliano, most teams in the Big Ten schedule at least one Mid-American Conference game a season because theyre a Division 1-A and will offer a good game, but Big Ten teams rarely lose the match-ups. It also helps the MAC schools, because when they go on the road into Big Ten stadiums, they make a lot of money.
This week, the Penn State Nittany Lions will host yet, another matchup at Beaver Stadium. After opening the season in a big way against the Idaho Vandals, the Lions are looking to build on top of that progress. Their opponent for week two happens to be the Buffalo Bulls.
In odd-numbered years, Penn State has four homes games within the Big Ten and five away games. The Nittany Lions always play seven games a season at Beaver Stadium, which is why they face three non-conference opponents (Idaho, Buffalo, Pittsburgh) at home to start this year.
In the booth will be longtime sportscaster Tim Brando and former San Francisco 49ers running back Spencer Tillman, in their second year calling college football games on FOX after previously working together for 15 seasons on CBSs College Football Today.
UB’s X-factors are linebacker James Patterson (Jaret Patterson’s twin brother) and tight end Zac Lefebvre. James Patterson is UB’s top returning tackler and one of its co-captains, while Lefebvre has already emerged as one of Myers’ top targets – he caught two touchdowns against Robert Morris. UB coach Lance Leipold said during the preseason that he anticipates using Lefebvre as an option in the passing game more this season, but the tight end can’t be the only significant option for the Bulls.
Streaming: Fox Sports app (requires cable authentication), fuboTV, Playstation Vue, Hulu with Live TV, DirecTV Now (all require a subscription)
Joe Juliano and Tyler King will be covering all the action live on Twitter. Notes and observations about the game will be at inquirer.com/college-sports.
College Football Extra is scheduled to air on FOX at 7 p.m. (following Colorado-Nebraska), hosted by Rob Stone alongside analysts Brady Quinn, Reggie Bush, Matt Leinart, and Urban Meyer. Its the group FOX assembled to host its new pre-game show Big Noon Kickoff, an attempt to compete against ESPNs pre-game juggernaut College Gameday.
Big Noon Kickoffs debut drew 838,000 viewers, compared to the 1,768,000 viewers ESPN drew for College Gameday (plus 139,000 more for the shows ESPNU airing).
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