Staff Predictions: Penn State Vs. Buffalo

Here we go again.

This week’s edition of staff predictions is, like last week, unanimously in favor of the Nittany Lions. Let’s hope we’re right and Penn State can climb back to a 1-1 record.

Kaitlyn Dividock (season record 0-0): Penn State 28, Buffalo 14

If your last Saturday was anything like mine, you spent a lot of time screaming profanities at your TV. Temple basically shut Christian Hackenberg and company down, leaving the entire Penn State community in absolute disbelief. But even though Temple was a surprising loss, it was a free space for Penn State after decades of wins during the two teams’ long series. What the Nittany Lions need to do this week is not only beat Buffalo, but do it with flying colors. Otherwise, with its prime time meeting with Rutgers just a week away, panic alarms will start to ring throughout Happy Valley.

Here’s how Buffalo can cause problems: Even though the Bulls only have four starters returning on defense, it’s supported by a bunch of young talent (by UB standards, at least). They’re pretty athletic and can move around a bit. This can trouble the Penn State offensive line, due to the fact that it allowed ten (ten!!!) sacks against Temple, with only 77 total rushing yards. Also, Buffalo’s defensive coaching staff likes to run a 4-3, so Penn State better prepare for a lot of DE’s making headway into the backfield. As for offense, look for Buffalo to score early. UB running back, Anthone Taylor, will try and cause problems. At 5-foot-10, 209 lbs., he’s one of the better backs the Nittany Lions will face all year.

As for Penn State, it can look for its defense to have another decent showing, even with the loss of Wartman-White. Against Temple, Penn State generated 15 tackles for loss as well as successfully putting a stop to the Owls’ running game. Look for Carl Nassib and Brandon Bell to have big showings. On offense, I’m desperate for John Donovan to figure out how to generate yards. I would love to see more usage of tight ends and less screen passes, but a girl can only hope. Penn State should be able to string points together against the Bulls, though. Lastly, if the O-line doesn’t get its shit together, Hackenberg, as well as the stressed fans of Happy Valley, are looking at another tough, grueling season.

Ben Rappaport (season record 0-1): Penn State 24 – Buffalo 10

This game isn’t going to make Penn State fans feel completely better about last week’s atrocity, but it should at least be a nice little band-aid on the massive wound that has been spurned from the Temple loss. I’m optimistic Donovan will learn from his mistakes, and although I doubt dramatic differences will be show in the offense, we can hopefully see him start to feed Penn State’s stud running backs more. Akeel Lynch received only ten carries last game, and although it was tough to continue establishing the running game once it went down by more than two scores, you would think someone who was gaining 7.8 yards per carry would get the ball more. Look for Donovan to implement a heavy run-based offense to take the pressure off Hackenberg and the inconsistent offensive line. I’m personally hoping to see more of change-of-pace freshmen in backs Brandon Polk and Saquon Barkley. The defense will be fine, for this game at least, and I think Penn State fans really shouldn’t worry about losing to Buffalo. Although, that’s essentially the same thing I said last week… And we all know how that turned out.

Cade Reed (season record: 0-0): Penn State 30, Buffalo 10

We knew Penn State was going to have one or two bad losses this season and it just so happens that we got one out of the way early. Penn State will play for the first time at home this year and I think it will be the perfect time to hit the reset button on the 2015 season. If all goes well for Penn State, some early deep balls by Christian Hackenberg will open up the field for speedsters like Akeel Lynch and Brandon Polk to make their marks. The defense will find its legs again, facing a mediocre Mid-American Conference offense in the Buffalo Bulls. It’s do or die for the Nittany Lions after the team’s week one loss to Temple, but Coach Franklin and his staff have done their best to move past last week’s effort (inclyding burying the game tape under the practice field) and I think that the embarrassment from last week’s game will fuel a big Penn State victory.

Tim Reams (season record: 0-0): Penn State 38, Buffalo, 14

Beaver Stadium. Home opener. It doesn’t get much better than this. Despite the forecast calling for chilly temperatures and rain, Beaver Stadium is going to be packed with at least 90,000 electric fans ready to bounce back from last week’s alarming loss. I hate to mention the loss to Temple for the 10,000th time but it’s not something myself, the team, and especially fans and critics will be forgetting anytime soon. The loss to Temple showed some deeply rooted issues in offensive execution, but there were a few glimmers of hope from the Temple game. One of those positive takeaways was the play of Akeel Lynch, who averaged 7.8 yards per carry on 10 attempts. Look for Lynch to have a huge game this Saturday on the ground, because that ball will be too slippery for Hackenberg to pass as much as Donovan would like. The defense took major hits in Philly but watch out for some new players to step up on the defensive side of the ball, including Wooten, Cabinda, and true freshman Jake Cooper. I’m putting my faith in the team for this Saturday and hoping they come out and fly around with an attitude. If the team doesn’t come out with some serious focus, physicality, and intensity, Buffalo will hang around with them and give them a tough game in Beaver Stadium. Buffalo is by no means a team from power conference school, but do not doubt them — they are disciplined, physical, and are coming off a 2014 season averaging almost 30 points, which when compared to Penn State’s offensive production, is threatening. I believe the Lions’ ground attack and defensive bounce back will send the Bulls back home to upstate New York with a loss under their belt.

Doug Leeson (season record 0-1): Penn State 23, Buffalo 13

I was a sophomore at my high school when our football team beat our cross-town rival for the first time in what seemed like forever. My school was led by senior Okezie Alozie, who played both running back and safety. Here’s an incredible read on him, his struggles growing up, and the work he put in to be a Division I athlete providing for his family. He was one of those high school football players who just makes the game unfair when he’s on the field. Now, I’m a sophomore at Penn State and he’s a senior linebacker at Buffalo. In this game, I’m most excited for the powerful moment if/when Okezie sacks Hackenberg.

That being said, a hungry Nittany Lion defense will force some turnovers and Hackenberg will throw his first touchdown pass of the year. I doubt Penn State will capitalize on every march into opposing territory, but Joey Julius will put up a few points to give his team a comfortable lead. Onward to Rutgers.

Sara Civian (season record: 0-1): Penn State 14, Buffalo 7

Just last week, my foundation was shook to the core when Temple blew away what I considered a conservative prediction. With all of my innocence and optimism obliterated, I still don’t believe Buffalo will beat Penn State. I hesitate to underestimate anyone like I did Temple, but I digress. Considering the team buried the Temple game tape, it seems like Penn State is ready to move forward. Penn State has a history of weird opening games, like last year’s too-close victory over UCF. Beaver Stadium gives the Nittany Lions an obvious edge, as well. Penn State is a 20-point favorite in this game, and a win is likely.

Ben Berkman (season record 0-1): Penn State 20, Buffalo 13

Penn State lost to Temple. Penn State will not lose to Buffalo.
The Bulls are a much-improved squad, and come fresh off a 51-14 stampeding of Albany. Six-time Division III National Champion coach Lance Liepold – now the head man at Buffalo – had his team in prime form in its first outing. It’s a feat James Franklin, for all his showmanship, couldn’t do. Buffalo also hosts some offensive firepower: Quarterback Joe Licata and running back Anthone Taylor possess the spark that was absent in the Lions’ attack last weekend at the Linc.
But that’s about where the advantages end. Buffalo, a lowly MAC school, won’t have the skill across the board to win in Beaver Stadium. Expect them to hang tough for over a half, then ultimately falter in a low scoring, gritty, B1G affair. It could, in fact, mirror Penn State’s last home win, against none other than the Temple Owls.

David Abruzzese (season record 0-1): Penn State 21, Buffalo 10

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, well, you can’t fool me again.

Last week was a pure, unmitigated disaster. Penn State looked completely underwhelmed, and Temple took advantage. The Owls deserved to win, and that’s that. I’m from Upstate New York, and my dad attended the University at Buffalo. My high school teammate plays fullback for the Bulls, so it’s safe to say I’ve been around my fair share of UB football. I loved watching UB’s magical 2008 MAC Championship run under Turner Gill’s leadership. But that team is a thing of the past. Led by senior quarterback Joe Licata, and coached by six time Division III National Championship coach Lance Leipold, these Bulls shouldn’t be taken lightly. That said, Buffalo resides in the MAC, and face a Penn State team geared for Big Ten competition in unfriendly confines. I also expect the Nittany Lions to be pissed off. Remember, this team is fresh off losing to Temple, something that hadn’t been accomplished in over 70 years.

Though Buffalo can’t be overlooked, I try to believe that Penn State can right the ship somewhat, and get this season back on track. Expect Christian Hackenberg to play with intensity, and expect the defense to be stout. There is no way Penn State can lose this game, right?

Ethan Kasales (season record 0-0): Penn State 23, Buffalo 13

Regardless of what happened last week, this team is tired of hearing about the struggles that have plagued it at key positions (read: the offensive line) and is ready to finally build some positive momentum on offense. I expect the running game to be featured heavily against a young Bulls defense that is still trying to find its identity. However, if the line can’t open up holes against an inferior Buffalo front seven, it’s anyone’s guess what Offensive Coordinator John Donovan will try next. Last week was a disaster as far as disguising the offensive sets and mixing up personnel packages. But Franklin and Donovan know there’s building pressure to fit their scheme to the players, not the other way around. Donovan has to give his slot playmakers and tight ends the chance to find space across the middle rather than another overload of predictable, outside short-yardage screens. Simply put, the Nittany Lions have too much talent to slip up against a subpar Buffalo defense, unlike the veteran unit they faced last weekend. I think it takes the offense some time to get things going Saturday but they’ll eventually pull away thanks to solid outings from Akeel Lynch and Chris Godwin. Bonus: Kicker Joey “Big Toe” Julius nails a 50-plus-yarder!

Matt Coleman (season record 0-0): Penn State 20, Buffalo 7

It may be another slow start for the offense in this year’s home opener, but they’ll get a rhythm going by the second half. This team is angry, but focused. Angry is only a good way to play if you can channel it correctly, and I believe James Franklin can channel that anger in the right way. Buffalo is not a bad team by any means. Coming off a 51-14 demolishing of Albany last week, they will be playing with a lot of confidence. That confidence will soon disappear at the sounds of 107,000 screaming Penn Staters. It’s an awful environment to play in if you’re a visitor, and it’s not going to be easy for Buffalo, especially against a quality defense such as Penn State’s. That being said, I can’t see Buffalo getting anything started downfield against this defense in Beaver Stadium.
The offense is under a microscope. Every player and every coach will be highly criticized when anything goes wrong, as they should be. Last week was dreadful. Nobody wants that again. With that being said, the coaches and offense rebound this game. Maybe, just maybe, John Donovan utilizes the speed he has at wide receiver for a few deep balls. Before that though, they need to establish the run game with Akeel Lynch. And I believe that they will get that done. Expect Lynch to be well over 100 yards by the end of the game. With the running game set up, Christian Hackenberg can show off his arm with some deep balls to Geno Lewis and Daesean Hamilton. If he gets the time, he’ll convert. The offensive line is angry. They’re tired of hearing about their faults. Expect them to prove themselves this week.
Most importantly, the kicking game solidifies itself as a consistent unit. Joe Julius makes two field goals and nails every PAT. He may not be Sam Ficken, but he’ll find his way into your heart. Penn State wins fairly easily at home.

Jacob Abrams (season record 0-1): Penn State 17, Buffalo 14

Yes I know, I only have Penn State winning by only three points. The way that the Nittany Lions played in Philly made me wonder about the actual ability they have on offense. Don’t get me wrong, the talent is there (at least everywhere else but the offensive line), but it still seems that they couldn’t play in sync against Temple.

It’ll depend if John Donovan can learn from his mistakes. Another question mark is who will fill in for the loss of Nyeem Wartman-White at the mike linebacker. Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda will have to increase their roles to help keep this linebacker squad a formidable one. I don’t see Buffalo really putting up a fight, but I don’t believe in the Penn State offense just yet. It all starts with Donovan, and we’ll see if this disappointed team will change its scheme. If not, it could get ugly in Happy Valley.

Mike Reisman (season record 0-1): Penn State 27, Buffalo 17

The great thing about sports is that one game is just one game. There is not necessarily any correlation between a team’s performance in one game to its performance in the next, and the Nittany Lions should be thankful for that.
While there were probably themes from the Temple game that will carry over to the rest of the season, there is absolutely no reason Penn State should play as poorly as it did against Temple. The team is simply better than that. Now, I’m not saying Christian Hackenberg will come in and throw for 500 yards while Akeel Lynch puts up 100 in the first half with huge gaps from the offensive line, but this team will play better. Especially after losing in the absolutely demoralizing fashion they did, the Nittany Lions should come out looking like a significantly better team against a fairly weak MAC opponent.
A sense of urgency — even desperation — should certainly be in the heads of both players and coaches, and rightly so. Because if for some reason Penn State can’t pick it up on Saturday and look like the team everyone projected it to be, it’ll be in for another long, long game under the lights against Rutgers in two weeks.
What’s your prediction? Let us know in the comments below.

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Posts from the all-student staff of Onward State.

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