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Week 7 Football Preview: NIU Huskies vs Buffalo Bulls

The Huskies head to New York for a showdown with the Bulls...but who will walk out with the win?

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Northern Illinois Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bulls (3-3, 1-1 MAC), a week after their record setting 7-OT thriller with Western Michigan, will welcome the Northern Illinois Huskies (3-2, 1-0) to UB Stadium and hope for a better result.

This will be just the 12 meeting between the Bulls and Huskies, with NIU holding a commanding 10-1 series lead, including winning the last ten games in the series. Buffalo hasn’t beaten the Huskies in quite some time. In fact, the last time UB beat NIU we hadn’t even landed on the moon was all the way back in 1968.

Buffalo wants to change that this week.

The Offenses

As of writing this, Northern Illinois Head Coach Rod Carey hasn’t said who will be starting the game this week but now there are three possibilities.

Ryan Graham started throwing last week and they are still evaluating where his arm is. Daniel Santacaterina was benched in last weeks’ 24-3 victory over Kent State after getting sacked twice and throwing an interception on his only pass attempt. Then there’s the new guy, Marcus Childers. Childers looked pretty good in relief of Santa last week, going 13/21 for 114 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 65 yards on 17 carries. It looks like Carey is playing it close to the chest this week so it might be a game time decision as to who will start under center for NIU.

Jordan Huff had his best game two weeks ago against SDSU then last week he struggled, carrying the ball 18 times for just 58 yards. Huff is still a big back that has some good speed so he’s still a dangerous rusher - averaging 5.4 yard per carry (408 yards in 75 rushes).

Chad Beebe will return for NIU this week to give whichever quarterback is back there another option. This year wide outs Christian Blake, Spencer Tears, and DJ Brown, along with tight end Shane Wimann, have been the main targets since Beebe went down in week two. Blake and Tears led all receivers with 261 and 217 yards receiving respectively. Both of them (plus Wimann) have three TD grabs.

Buffalo, like the Huskies, have dealt with an injury at quarterback. Tyree Jackson was hurt in week four that has left Drew Anderson starting the past two games. Anderson has looked really good in his two starts, throwing 848 yards, nine touchdowns, and completing 60.2% of his passes (53/88).

Most of the completions Anderson and Jackson have thrown were to junior Anthony Johnson. The 6’2 receiver has over a third of all of Buffalo’s receptions (37 of the 104) and 40% of their receiving yard (631 of the 1581). His 631 yards ranks him fifth in the NCAA! The Huskie secondary will need to key in on him to halt this UB offense that lit up the WMU defense.

The Bulls will run it with Emmanuel Reed who has 402 yards on 94 carries this season. The 5’8 sophomore is small, shifty, and hard to bring down. But he’s going against one of the best defenses in the country this week.

Buffalo’s offensive line has really played well lately, not allowing a sack in more than two games (85 passing attempts) and will look to slow down Sutton Smith and the Huskies D-line that’s been outstanding this year.

The Defenses

NIU’s defense comes into the game as one of the best in the country. They’re allowing just 3.54 yards per play, which is fewest in the NCAA, and are seventh in total defense giving up just 260.8 yards per game.

And sophomore DE Sutton Smith has led this defense all year. He leads the NCAA in sacks per game (1.4) and tackles for a loss (14.5, nearly 3 per game!). He’ll need to play his best if he wants to get past that strong Bull O-Line and get some pressure on Anderson.

NCAA Football: Northern Illinois at San Diego State Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

He’s not the only one stopping opponents in the backfield though. The Huskie defense is the best in the NCAA in tackles for a loss (48), averaging 9.6 TFL per game!

The Huskie secondary has been no slouch either, as they rank sixth in interceptions with nine and are ranked third in the country in defensive passing efficiency. However, the Bulls’ quarterbacks haven’t made too many mistakes, throwing just two all season.

Shawun Lurry is closing in on being NIU’s all time leader in picks, he just needs two more to claim that title.

If the Huskie defense comes out playing like it has it the first five games this could be a long day for Anderson and company.

Buffalo’s defense got gashed last week...but to be fair most of those points came in their very demanding OT. Their D has played quite well all season long, allowing no more than 31 points in a game (in regulation). They held Minnesota to just 17 points and the triple-option attack of Army to just 21.

Junior linebacker Kahlil Hodge has been a beast for the Bulls. He’s been all over the field and has amassed a whopping 82 tackles so far! He also has two TFL, a sack, an interception, and a forced fumble. Look for him to disrupt this Huskie offense any way he can.

Buffalo can get pressure in the backfield, as they have 28 tackles for a loss with four players having three or more.

Their secondary has played well, allowing only 175 passing yards per game and just eight passing touchdowns (six of which came last week...and just two in the first five games!).

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Tatum Slack is their best coverage guy, as he has eight pass break ups. But Ryan Williamson leads the team with two picks.

Game Information

Where: UB Stadium (Buffalo, New York)

When: Sat., Oct. 14th at 3:30 PM EST (2:30 CST)

Weather: Partially cloudy with temps in the high 60’s/low 70’s. Winds around 12 miles per hour.

TV: ESPN3, ESPN3, WatchESPN and the ESPN App. Check your local cable provider for more information.

Line: NIU is favored by 4.5 points.