- Time and Date: Saturday, September 17 at 1:00 p.m. ET
- Network: ESPN+
- Location: Brooks Stadium — Conway, SC
- Spread: Coastal Carolina (-13.5)
- ESPN FPI: Coastal Carolina has 69.2% chance to win
- All-time series: Coastal Carolina leads, 1-0
- Last meeting: Coastal Carolina 28, Buffalo 25 — September 18, 2021
- Current streak: Coastal Carolina, 1 (2021)
Setting the scene
Buffalo will get a taste of the signature “Surf Turf” at Brooks Stadium in Conway, SC this Saturday afternoon. After the teams clashed in Upstate New York last September, the second leg of the non-conference home-and-home moves to Coastal Carolina’s signature teal field.
The Chanticleers are 2-0 while the Bulls are 0-2, but both teams were entangled in one-possession games with FCS schools in Week 2. However, Coastal Carolina emerged unscathed in a 31-27 victory, while Buffalo witnessed the unthinkable. On the final play of a game deadlocked at 31, Buffalo’s opponent Holy Cross completed a 46-yard Hail Mary to stun the Bulls and hand them their first FCS loss since 2016.
Now, Coastal Carolina looks to coast to its third consecutive 3-0 start while an upset-minded Buffalo hopes to avoid its first 0-3 start since 2005.
Buffalo Bulls outlook
It’s no question Saturday night was Buffalo’s lowest moment since the team lost to Albany to commence a 2-10 season in 2016, Lance Leipold’s first year at the helm. But things eventually fell into place years later when Leipold implemented his schemes, recruited star players, and appeared in three bowl games and two MAC championships.
Year two of the Maurice Linguist era is off to a similar brutal start after dropping the most winnable game on the schedule in heartbreaking fashion, but the Bulls need to prove the 2022 season is still salvageable.
The team certainly has pieces on offense to do damage. After current Georgia Southern quarterback Kyle Vantrease transferred out of the program this offseason, the team was forced to replace the longtime starter with former Rutgers signal caller Cole Snyder. Snyder has yet to throw an interception this season while showing decent capability in the run game with 67 yards through two games — 19 away from the team-lead.
Snyder has viable weapons in Quian Williams and Justin Marshall, who combine for 20 receptions, 301 yards, and three touchdowns, and the two might form the best receiving duo Buffalo has seen in quite some time. That being said, what’s taken a step back in the offense?
Buffalo has made a name for itself by fielding some of the nation’s best offensive lines in recent years. In 2020 the Bulls only allowed one sack total and they ranked among the nation’s elite in sack prevention yet again in 2021 despite a 4-8 record. But through two contests, five sacks have already been yielded by the new-look group. Thus, amplifying this protection could provide positive ripple effects, improving factors such as Snyder’s 59.4 completion percentage and the unit’s 90th ranked rushing attack.
On defense, the Bulls must prepare to counter Jamey Chadwell’s option-heavy attack. Linebackers will play a major role in stifling Coastal Carolina’s creative run game, so reigning First Team All-MAC selection James Patterson and the team’s leading tackler Shaun Dolac are key names that must step up Saturday. Additionally, the Bulls must hone their havoc fundamentals and create more turnover opportunities. Buffalo has generated only one turnover this season, and takeaways are hard to come by when facing Grayson McCall, who has only tossed seven interceptions in 542 attempts at Coastal Carolina.
Coastal Carolina Chanticleers outlook
With head coach Jamey Chadwell remaining on campus and quarterback Grayson McCall returning for his third consecutive year as the starter, Coastal Carolina immediately received the label as Sun Belt contenders for 2022. While the 38-28 win over Army on Week 1 supported that label, Week 2’s near-slip-up against FCS foe Gardner-Webb proved there is plenty of work to be done in Conway.
It was an uncharacteristic game for the Chanticleers as McCall absorbed four sacks and the team was limited to 36 rushing yards. Even despite winning the turnover battle 5-2, Coastal Carolina required a McCall touchdown pass in the final seven minutes to escape victorious.
As mentioned earlier, McCall doesn’t throw interceptions too often. But the junior quarterback is also one of college football’s quintessential models of accuracy. In 2021, he posted a season-long completion rate of 73.0 percent and he is replicating that in 2022 by firing on 72.3 percent of his drop backs. So far his rushing production isn’t mirroring the levels from his past two seasons, but McCall remains a dangerous threat when running the speed option, especially since he times his pitches better than any quarterback in the FBS. Still, Buffalo contained him to 12 rushing yards in 2021 thanks to three sacks and excellent containment from the defensive ends.
With NFL Draft selection Isaiah Likely no longer on campus, the main skill position players to watch in Chadwell’s offense are running back Reese White and Georgia State transfer wide receiver Sam Pinckney. White leads the team in rushing with 168 yards and is very adept at angling to the boundaries on option plays and Pinckney is the explosive receiving threat Coastal Carolina needed after losing its three leading receivers from 2021. Pinckney will challenge Buffalo’s 103rd ranked pass defense after obtaining a team-best 156 yards in his first two games as a Chanticleer.
Coastal Carolina’s biggest surprise on defense last season was the dominance of true freshman Josaiah Stewart. The edge rusher posted an absurd 13 sacks, 16 tackles for loss, and three forced fumbles in his first year out of high school and he remains a dangerous force as he transitions to sophomore status. Stewart already has met multiple rushers in the backfield this season, and he picked up his first share of a sack in 2022 in last week’s win. If Buffalo hopes to fortify the protection around Snyder, taking Stewart out of the game should absolutely be the No. 1 priority in the gameplan.
Coastal Carolina displayed signs of vulnerability last week with a shaky pass defense and an ineffective running game, but the Chanticleers still hold considerable advantages entering this matchup. The main advantage is Coastal Carolina’s imposing defensive line against Buffalo’s front five, and that edge could create plenty of turnover opportunities for a team which ranks top 10 in turnover margin thus far.
On the other side of the ball, McCall’s dual-threat tendencies may present a major issue for a Buffalo team which hasn’t contained either the air or ground with much success — ranking below 100th in both categories. With Coastal Carolina’s stars like McCall and Stewart playing significant factors, this year’s contest looks bound to be more lopsided than the 2021 showdown in Buffalo, and the Chanticleers will prepare an elaborate postgame locker room celebration en route to 3-0.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 38, Buffalo 14