The Buffalo Bulls (0-1) will face the Army Black Knights (1-0) in West Point on Saturday. Army won their first game of the season in dominating fashion, with a 64-6 win over the Fordham Rams. The Buffalo Bulls come into this matchup after an opening week loss to the Minnesota Golden Gophers. The Bulls fought in Minnesota, losing just 17-7 as heavy underdogs.
Last year the Bulls possessed the worse run defense in the MAC. Last week against Minnesota the Bulls defense allowed 169 rushing yards. That might seem like quite a bit, however the Gophers averaged only 3.3 yards per rush in the contest. Buffalo allowed 239 yards through the air, with a good chunk of those yards coming from a 61 yard touchdown pass in the first quarter. The Bulls defense really held their own against P.J. Fleck’s new team. Thanks in part to middle linebacker Khalil Hodge who had a whopping 20 tackles.
The Bulls will face a different kind of offense this week. Army is extremely one dimensional, and they proved that last week. Against Fordham, the Black Knights rushed for 513 yards and did not complete a single pass. Starting quarterback Ahmad Bradshaw threw twice, but did not complete either pass. However, the Chicago native did rush for 177 yards and one touchdown on nine attempts. Army will look to do the same thing against a Buffalo run defense that struggled in 2016.
The Bulls offense looked solid against the Golden Gophers. Sophomore quarterback Tyree Jackson threw for 211 yards, one touchdown and one interception. Jackson found a good connection with wide receiver Anthony Johnson who caught 11 passes for 140 yards and one touchdown. The Bulls struggled on the ground, rushing for only 51 yards. The Bulls will need to address that this week so that Army does not expect a full out barrage from the air. A balance between their run game and pass game will test the Army defense.
The Bulls and Black Knights matched up in the fall of last year. The Bulls won a nail bitter 23-20 in overtime. Tyree Jackson scored three touchdowns in the win along with 212 all purpose yards. The Black Knights ran all over the Bulls with 396 yards on 67 carries. In that game, nine different players carried the ball for Army. This means the Bulls defense, especially their front seven, need to be careful because anyone could receive a handoff from anywhere in Army’s tricky offense.
NCAA leading tackler, Khalil Hodge, will have to get his defense ready stop the run early. If Army gets momentum in their run game, they will be extremely hard to stop. The Black Knights run a fast pace offense with a lot of different formations.
Limiting turnovers and controlling possession will be Tyree Jackson’s key to success. If Buffalo’s offense can drain the Army defense through long drives, it will relieve some pressure of their defense.
PREDICTION: 28 Buffalo, 24 Army