The bowl season will kick off next Saturday, with three games taking place over the weekend. For the Buffalo Bulls, the opportunity will present itself for the team to erase their disappointing stretch run, which saw them lose two of their last three games of the season. The Bulls will head to Idaho to face the San Diego State Aztecs in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.
Buffalo (8-4) has a very methodical offensive attack led by quarterback Joe Licata. On the season, Licata has completed 59.1 percent of his passes with 21 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Bulls are averaging 229.9 passing yards per game (67th in the country) and 171.9 rushing yards per game (66th in the nation). The Bulls are averaging 30.8 points per game and are ranked 58th overall in scoring offense.
Buffalo likes to run the football behind a very physical offensive line and utilize play action off the success of the running game. Alex Neutz (11 touchdowns) is the team’s big play wide receiver and can stretch the field against an Aztecs secondary surrendering 259.7 passing yards per game.
San Diego State is very solid in stopping the run, as the team is giving up 132.92 rushing yards per game. The Aztecs, yielding 32.3 points per game and ranked 98th overall in the country, will look to force Buffalo into becoming one dimensional on offense. In order to get the victory, the Aztecs must shut down Bulls running back Branden Oliver (1,421 yards, 15 touchdowns).
Offensively, the Aztecs will look to attack the Bulls vertically with their passing attack. San Diego State is ranked 35th in the country, averaging 262.3 passing yards per game and has an underrated quarterback in Quinn Kaehler. Kaehler has completed 60.1 percent of his passes for 2,796 yards with 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. San Diego State is scoring 28.2 points per game and has two standout running backs in Adam Muema (1,015, 12 touchdowns) and Donnel Pumphrey (750 yards, 8 touchdowns).
The strength of the Bulls’ defense is the defensive line and the linebackers. On the year, Buffalo has given up 22.3 points per game and the Bulls are ranked 27th in the nation in scoring defense. The Bulls have a very aggressive defensive front four that is able to rush the passer. On the year, Buffalo has recorded 36 sacks through 12 games (three sacks per game). Senior linebacker Khalil Mack is the heart and soul of the team. Mack is a dominating player and can make plays sideline-to-sideline. He leads the team with 10.5 sacks on the year and is considered by many scouts as a possible top 20 NFL Draft pick.
Buffalo will need to slow down the Aztecs’ vertical passing attack, as the Bulls are yielding 216.6 passing yards per game. Buffalo will have to force San Diego State out of their comfort zone and utilize run blitzes into creating third down and long situations.
This game could come down to turnovers, and the Bulls are very opportunistic in creating turnovers; on the year, Buffalo is +16 in turnover margin. San Diego State has struggled with ball security and is a -12 in turnover margin on the year.
Prediction: The three week layoff should benefit the Bulls and allow the team to regroup after a sub par November. The game is being played in Idaho and that should benefit the Bulls, being that they are from Buffalo. The game could feature cold and windy conditions that could affect the passing attack of the Aztecs. Look for the Bulls’ defense to step up and shut down the Aztecs in a very low scoring affair.
Buffalo-21, San Diego State-13