The Buffalo Bulls open year two of the Mo Linguist era with a trip to Big Ten country, heading south to College Park to take on the Maryland Terrapins. The Bulls roster last year was decimated by graduation and the transfer portal, and at times in the 2021 season it felt like Buffalo was simply trying to stay afloat. There were times where Buffalo looked great (a road win against bowl bound Old Dominion held up very well) and there were times when the Bulls were listless (the 56-44 home loss to Bowling Green comes to mind).
Linguist hit the transfer portal hard this off-season, and there are plenty of new faces that will contribute this fall. A lot of these newcomers will be forced into early action, as the Bulls are one of the least experienced teams in the MAC this year, with only 10 starters returning. Despite the turnover, there is some solid talent returning here, and a road game against a Power 5 foe will quickly reveal the identity of this team. How quickly the new contributors can gel with the veterans will go a long way towards determining how the Bulls’ season plays out.
Year two of a coaching staff is generally when you can expect a coach to put his imprint on a program, and the Bulls are eager to get back to a bowl game after finishing 4-8 in 2021. While there are still some holdovers from the Lance Leipold era who will contribute, this team seems to have a bit of a new identity. That new identity will face it’s first test on Saturday afternoon.
Time and Date: Saturday, September 3rd, 12:00 PM EST
Network: Big Ten Network (a valid cable subscription is required for viewing)
Spread/Total: Maryland -24, O/U 65
Series History: First all-time meeting
The Bulls were hit hard by the transfer portal this off-season, with their returning starting quarterback Kyle Vantrease (Georgia Southern) and running back Dylan McDuffie (Georgia Tech) both opting to continue their careers elsewhere.
Rutgers transfer Cole Snyder emerged from fall camps as the starting QB for Buffalo, a year removed from appearing in six games for the Scarlet Knights in 2021, finishing last season 18-of-28 for 130 yards and a touchdown.
The Bulls at least have a second option they are comfortable with in senior Matt Myers if Snyder goes down. Myers was the starting quarterback for much of the 2019 season, and threw over 100 passes last year as a relief QB. Over the course of his three years on campus, Myers has completed 51% of his passes for 1,316 yards, 10 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. These are not numbers that will blow you away, but at the very least the Bulls know what they’re getting with Myers under center.
Either QB will have a great support group in the backfield, as Buffalo has continued to live up to the reputation of being a hard-nosed, run-first team first established under Lance Leipold. Despite the coaching change, Buffalo ranked fifth in the MAC and 31st nationally with 195.2 rushing yards per game. Despite the transfer of McDuffie, Ron Cook Jr. is a capable back who should be able to slide into the lead back role. As the second back last season, Cook produced 464 rushing yards and three scores on a healthy 5.0 yards per carry average.
The offensive line, long a foundation for the Bulls’ success, is a bit of a question mark. Left tackle Gabe Wallace is the only returning starter, and Linguist brought in three new potential starters from the transfer portal. It will take this unit time to gel, and it’s easy to envision them struggling at the onset of the season.
On the outside, receiver Quian Williams is an established performer and led the Bulls with 64 catches and 835 yards receiving last year. He will be joined by Louisville transfer Justin Marshall and Arizona transfer Boobie Curry, and this trio could end up being one of the most productive in the MAC. Of course, a lot of that has to do with the offensive line protecting Myers, but the talent in this wide receiver group could surprise some people.
Defensively, there is a lot less turnover. Six starters return this season for a unit that was a bit up and down in 2021, and the hope is that another year playing together will yield better results.
This front seven should be one of the best in the MAC this year. Leading the way is all-MAC performer James Patterson at linebacker, who is entering his fifth season as a starter and was second in the conference with 116 tackles last year. All four starters return on the defensive line, led by 2021 all-MAC performer Daymond Williams at defensive tackle. Max Michel has developed into one of the best defensive ends in the conference, and George Wolo, CJ Bazile and Kyler Laing will provide some fantastic depth. This unit may be the strongest on the entire roster.
On the backend, the Bulls went to the transfer portal to help bolster their secondary. Elijah Blades (Florida) and Caleb Offord (Notre Dame) transferred to help solidify the cornerback position, while Jahmin Muse (Boston College) should assume one of the safety positions. Marcus Fuqua and Dylan Powell both saw action at the strong safety position last season, and one of them figures to take on that role this year. Given Maryland’s propensity for throwing the ball, this is a unit that will be tested in week one.
Maryland is coming off of their best season under head coach Mike Locksley, finishing 7-6 and defeating Virginia Tech 54-10 in the Pinstripe Bowl. In three seasons under Locksley, the Terrapins have established their offensive identity: they’re going to throw the ball, and they don’t care if you know it.
Maryland was 13th in the FBS in passing offense last year, averaging 304.6 yards per game through the air. Quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa (Tua’s little brother) set just about every single season passing record at the school, and he returns along with a deep stable of wide receivers.
The speedy Rakim Jarrett leads the way after amassing 829 receiving yards and five scores last year, and he’ll be joined by fellow big play threat Dontay Demus, who averaged over 18 yards per reception on the season. On top of that, the Terps also added Florida transfer Jacob Copeland, who led the Gators with 41 receptions and 642 receiving yards in his last year in Gainesville. This is one of the deepest receiver rooms in the Big Ten, and the Bulls secondary will have their hands full.
The run game is not quite as high powered for Locksley’s squad, ranking 91st in the country with 136.4 rushing yards per game and four yards per carry. Leading rusher Tayon Fleet-Davis is gone, but running back Colby McDonald showed great promise as a true freshman, averaging 5.4 yards per carry. All signs point to him being the lead back. Ramon Brown is a name to remember, who comes to College Park as a four star high school recruit. He figures to get some carries and provide a change of pace.
The offensive line struggled at times last year, but there are four starters back and a few proven commodities. Left tackle Jaelyn Duncan was a Second Team All-Big Ten selection last year, and fellow senior Spencer Anderson provides versatility, having played both right tackle and center. Despite the individual talent in this unit, there were some issues in 2021. As mentioned previously, this is a team that only averaged four yards per carry on the ground, and this line also allowed Tagovailoa to be sacked on 5.1 percent of his drop backs on the season. Both of those marks ranked 11th in the Big Ten, and both need to be improved if the Terps want to return to a bowl game. Because of these struggles, you’d have to figure teams will bring the pressure against Maryland this year. Buffalo will likely be no different.
Defensively, things were a struggle last year for the Terps. This unit ranked 98th nationally in scoring defense, 99th in pass defense, and 85th in total defense. Only four starters return, and there will be some underclassmen that will be expected to step into the starting lineup.
The defensive line is the most solidified group on this side of the ball. Defensive tackle Ami Finau was an Honorable Mention All-Big Ten selection last year, leading the team with five tackles for loss and disrupting things in the middle. Next to him is fellow defensive tackle Mosiah Nasili-Kite, who was second on the team with four sacks. With two proven veterans in the middle, it’s not crazy to think that the run defense will be improved.
Ruben Hippolyte is the only starter that returns in the linebacking unit, and likewise for cornerback Jakorian Bennett in the secondary. Bennett is a great individual talent, leading the team with 13 pass break ups and three interceptions last year on the way to a Third Team All-Big Ten selection. Fellow cornerback Deonte Banks is returning after missing the last ten games of the season, and if fully healthy should provide a serviceable corner on the other side of the field. The safety position is a cause for concern – Jordan Mosely and Nick Cross made for a formidable duo last year, and were the top two tacklers on this defense. Both are gone, and there’s nobody on the roster with any significant game experience. Buffalo has built their identity as a run first team over the past decade, but if there’s a unit to exploit in this game, this could be it.
Analysis and Prediction
Buffalo is a team in transition right now, looking to establish their identity in the second season under Linguist. Maryland certainly has the talent edge in this game – Tagovailoa and his stable of wide receivers could have a field day against a Buffalo secondary that will be relying on three new starters. On the flip side, it doesn’t seem that the Bulls have the firepower to exploit the Terrapins weak secondary. Buffalo’s offensive strength, running the ball, will be going up against Maryland’s formidable offensive line, and that feels like a losing battle. While I think the Bulls can make this a game for a half, eventually Maryland’s talent edge will prevail.
Maryland 41, Buffalo 17