Losing to an FCS school at home is never how you want to start the season, but after this past weekend, that is the case for the Buffalo Bulls. Following a loss to Wisconsin in week one, Buffalo returned home and gave their fans little to root for while playing Fordham. Now, with a two already in the loss column, Buffalo will look to find the win column for the first time as they play host to the Liberty Flames.
The Liberty Flames have had an ideal start to the season. Not only did they get two home games to open the 2023 campaign, but they were able to pick up wins and covers in both games. In week one against Bowling Green, the Flames proved they could beat teams on the ground by rushing for 246 yards and a touchdown, but this past weekend against New Mexico State, they showed that they have a well-balanced offense that does damage on the ground and through the air.
In their 33-17 win over the weekend, the Flames ended the game with 526 total yards of offense. Quarterback Kaidon Salter would throw for 276 of those yards while throwing for two touchdowns, and Quinton Cooley would pick up 106 on the ground. While Cooley will certainly play a factor on the ground this weekend, it’s Salter who could do some real damage through the air against the Buffalo secondary.
There’s no denying that Fordham is a solid FCS school, but over the weekend, the Buffalo Bulls made the Rams look like they were an FBS powerhouse. Buffalo allowed Fordham to throw for 309 yards and five touchdowns against them while also allowing the Rams to have a 100-yard rusher. While this was happening, Buffalo QB Cole Snyder was slinging it all over the yard for 265 yards and three touchdowns.
Snyder’s offensive performance would not be enough to outweigh the Bulls' defense, as the Bulls fell 40-37. While Snyder has been a bright spot for the Bulls, it’s clear the offense is still missing something and that something might be a consistent run game. Buffalo is 129th in EPA on rush plays through two games, and a one-dimensional offense clearly cannot make up for the team's defensive shortcomings.
A common saying you’ll hear when betting football is don’t overreact to week one or early games, and while I agree with that notion, I don’t think it’s an overreaction to say that the Buffalo defense can’t stop anyone. With that, I’ll be taking the Liberty Flames as (-3.5) point road favorites as my play in this one.
The Flames have an offensive success rate that ranks 9th in the country according to CFB Graphs, and they’ll take on a Bulls defense that is 111th in defensive EPA. Buffalo’s defensive success rate on rush plays through two weeks has them ranked 115th in the country, while Quinton Cooley and the Liberty offense are 5th in offensive success rate on rush plays, which sets up a significant advantage for the Flames.
On defense, Liberty has a defensive success rate on pass plays of 35.4%, which is 53rd in the country, and while 53rd may not be the best ranking, they are lining up against a Buffalo offense that is 123rd in offensive EPA. If the Flames can limit Cole Snyder through the air, then their defense should be able to get enough stops for their offense to take a nice lead.
Liberty Flames (-3.5)