Stats indicate Northern Illinois will be challenged by Buffalo
BY STEVE NITZ Shaw Media October 12, 2012 8:34PM
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BUFFALO AT NIU
The facts: 2:30 p.m., CSN, 670-AM.
Updated: November 14, 2012 3:08PM
DeKALB — On the surface, Buffalo is 1-4 and has yet to beat a Football Bowl Subdivision opponent.
However, when glancing at the Bulls’ schedule and statistics, the record looks misleading.
Two of the Bulls’ losses have come against BCS teams — No. 14 Georgia and Connecticut. At the start of Mid-American Conference play, Buffalo lost to Kent State, which is 4-1 overall and 3-0 in the conference, and unbeaten Ohio.
The Bulls outgained the Bobcats 501-333 in their 38-31 road loss, but they were hurt by three lost fumbles.
The Bulls are 13-for-13 in the red zone (11 touchdowns, two field goals) one of three FBS teams to be perfect in that category. The others are No. 1 Alabama and Oklahoma State. There’s a reason Northern Illinois coach Dave Doeren believes the Bulls can pose problems Saturday at Huskie Stadium.
“On film, they sure don’t look like a 1-4 team,” Doeren said. “They’re a team that has a very talented roster.”
The Bulls can run the ball no matter who’s in the backfield. Branden Oliver leads the MAC with an average of 142 yards per game, but he sat out the last two weeks with a knee injury. If he can’t go, true freshman Devin Campbell will step in. He ran for 160 yards last week against Ohio.
Quarterback Alex Zordich can pose matchup problems as well. The junior ran for a career-high 110 yards last week. When Oliver is in the game, the Bulls feature more of a direct ground attack. They go to more of a spread offense when he’s out.
It’s comparable to what the Huskies run, and Zordich and NIU quarterback Jordan Lynch are similar quarterbacks. That could benefit the Huskies’ defense, which faced Lynch during training camp and occasionally takes reps against him in practice.
“It definitely prepares you for all aspects that come out of Jordan and out of [Zordich], whether it is running the ball or throwing the ball,” said NIU senior middle linebacker Victor Jacques, who saw action for the first time since
Week 1 last week against Ball State.
The Bulls rank seventh in the MAC in scoring defense and fifth in total defense. The unit features junior outside linebacker Khalil Mack, whom Doeren said is one of the best defensive players he’s seen “in a long time.”