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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 13, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Huskie Stadium (24,000) -- DeKalb, Illinois. Television: CSN Chicago. Home Record: Buffalo 1-1, NIU 3-0. Away Record: Buffalo 0-3, NIU 2-0. Neutral Record: Buffalo 0-0, NIU 0-1. Conference Record: Buffalo 0-2, NIU 2-0. Series Record: Northern Illinois leads, 7-1.
GAME NOTES: The Buffalo Bulls will try to snap Northern Illinois' 18-game home winning streak when the two Mid-American Conference rivals square off in DeKalb on Saturday.
The Bulls will be concluding a three-game road swing with the trip to Huskie Stadium. Buffalo lost each of its first two games of the road set to Connecticut (24-17) and Ohio University (38-31) by just a touchdown each. It has lost three straight overall and five in a row against FBS competition. A win would be a historic feat for the Bulls as they are 0-15 all-time in MAC West Division opponent stadiums.
NIU has two other streaks to maintain in addition to its home-winning streak. The Huskies have also won five in a row overall and 10-straight MAC games. The 5-1 start for NIU is its best since 2003. Coach Dave Doeren has been sensational since taking over the helm of the program as he enters this one with a stellar 16-4 record in two seasons.
This will be the third straight year these programs square off. NIU has won the last seven encounters with Buffalo since losing the series opener in 1968.
The Bulls are ranked seventh in the MAC in total offense and ninth in scoring offense with averages of 386 yards and 26.8 points per game. Buffalo clearly relies on its rushing attack, which now had two premier options.
Buffalo's is capable of playing with anyone due to the big play ability of its running backs. Branden Oliver is one of the most talented in the MAC. After gaining 1,395 yards last season, Oliver picked up 467 in the first three games of the season before going down with an injury. Although Oliver was unable to play last week, UB still managed to produce a season-high 313 rushing yards, as freshman Devin Campbell had a breakout performance with a career-high 160 yards and a touchdown on 30 carries.
Oliver is expected to return this week, but Campbell should see some action as well.
Another reason UB was able to continue its rushing success without its usual feature back last week was the outstanding play of Alex Zordich, who gained 108 yards on 18 carries to become the first QB in the school's FBS history to surpass the century mark. Zordich has thrown a touchdown pass in all five games this season, but he has completed less than 50 percent of his passes for 794 yards.
The most positive aspect of Buffalo's passing game has been junior wideout Alex Neutz, who has already caught seven touchdown passes. In his career, Neutz has 94 receptions for 1,486 yards and 14 scores.
The Bulls like to gamble often defensively, which has led to a conference leading average of 3.6 sacks per game, but it has cost the team at times, yielding a generous 32.8 points per contest.
Khalil Mack is an impact player on the defensive side of the ball for Buffalo. The junior linebacker is leading the nation in tackles for loss with 2.75 per contest.
Mack will be UB's best chance of slowing down NIU's powerful Jordan Lynch-led attack. The Huskies are averaging 454.8 yards and 35.5 points per game so far this season.
Lynch may be the most explosive quarterback in the nation. He is second to only Michigan's Denard Robinson among FBS quarterbacks with 131.5 rushing yards per game. Lynch is producing 340.7 total yards per game, which is the seventh best average in the FBS. He has been described as a linebacker playing quarterback by his head coach.
Although Lynch is leading the team in rushing yards with 789 on 114 carries, Leighton Settle is a capable back with 393 yards and 5 TDs on 87 touches.
Martel Moore is Lynch's primary target in the passing game. Moore has caught 28 passes for 410 yards and 5 scores this season. Tommylee Lewis and Ashford Perez have both reeled in double-digit receptions as well.
Defensively, NIU has the second best scoring defense in the conference due to its ability to stop teams in the red zone. Opponents have only scored on 65 percent of their trips inside the Huskies' 20-yard line.
Although Buffalo is capable of an upset due to its power rushing game, the Huskies have been impossible to beat in DeKalb recently. Lynch is making a strong case for MAC Player of the Year in his first stint as a starter.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Northern Illinois 38, Buffalo 28
10/10 10:53:24 ET
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