1. 60 minutes
Last week UB looked like the best offensive team in the MAC -- for 15 minutes. And they looked like the best defensive team in the MAC -- for 15 minutes. And, although certainly not last week, the Bulls have proved they can perform with competence on special teams. So what's it going to take to overcome Miami on the road on Homecoming? Start with carrying over the momentum generated in last week's fourth quarter and sustaining it for the duration this afternoon. Jeff Quinn has said all season his team needs to get over the mental hump, and some of the assistants are privately saying the same thing. Today it's not a matter of trying to overcome a talent deficit. It's merely a matter of the Bulls playing to their capabilities.
2. As Bo goes . . .
The Bulls lit up the stat sheet and the scoreboard in the fourth quarter of the Northern Illinois loss and, by necessity, almost all the yardage came via the pass. An aerial-happy attack isn't going to cut it this week against the RedHawks. Miami has yet to yield more than 251 passing yards in a game. Part of the reason is that teams such as Minnesota, Army and Toledo all hammered away on the ground for at least 236 yards. UB will have to show the same commitment to the run and open room for five-time 100-yard rusher Bo Oliver. It's up to the offensive line to control scrimmage against a penetrating 4-3 defense that has 54 tackles for losses with seemingly everybody in the mix.
3. Letting it fly
Miami quarterback Zac Dysert is 2-0 against the Bulls as a starter but his numbers aren't of the "wow" variety. The redshirt junior from Ada, Ohio, has completed a solid 45 of 73 against UB but only for 415 yards with three TDs against three picks. Dysert is more of a pocket thrower than he was as a freshman. He's masterful at the short passing game and it could be a long afternoon if the Bulls play loose in corner coverage, as is their tendency. His favorite target is Nick Hartwell, a sophomore dangerous after the catch, as attested by his 16.8 average on a team-high 44 receptions. It'll be interesting to see if RedHawks, who have just 704 yards rushing on season, switch gears against a UB 3-4 that lends itself to pass coverage.
4. Steady does it
Bulls have been a far less effective offensive team on the road. QB Chazz Anderson tends to start slowly in general and particularly in road games before turning it on in the second half (Pitt, Ball State and Northern Illinois). Bulls aren't good enough to wait 30 minutes for the engine to warm. While establishing a running game is vital, UB also would do well to call some sure-fire short passes to help Anderson get in a rhythm right from the get-go.
5. Extra points
Miami leads series 11-2 but UB has won two of last three. ... RedHawks are 2-5, 1-2 in defense of their MAC championship under first-year coach Don Treadwell, the former offensive coordinator at Michigan State. List of former Miami players who, like Treadwell, have returned to coach program include legends Ara Parseghian and Bo Schembechler. ... Teams rank 3-4 in the MAC in fewest penalties. ... UB has eight Ohio natives on roster, including Anderson and safety Josh Copeland.
Outlook: Gut feeling? They finally want it bad enough. UB 27, Miami 23.