BUFFALO OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE The biggest question mark for the defense heading into week two is how will Penn State replace middle linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White. It quickly became evident that the defense is unable to perform at the same level without Wartman-White and a hobbled Brandon Bell, who did his best to contribute despite being clearly being well below 100 percent in the second half. Gary Wooten is listed as the starter, although he struggled in relief of Wartman-White in week one. Penn State may experiment with different rotations using Von Walker, Ben Kline and redshirt freshman Troy Reeder, in addition to starters Bell and Jason Cabinda. Walker and Kline are the more experienced options, while Reeder has by far the highest ceiling.
Buffalo has an experienced and accurate passer in Joe Licata, which could cause problems for the Nittany Lions. The Bulls will almost assuredly attempt to establish a short passing game that can take advantage of the Nittany Lions' inexperienced linebacker corps (especially if Bell is not at 100 percent) to dink and dunk its way down the field, both putting together scoring drives and wearing down the Penn State defense in the process. Licata is also assisted by a game-breaking running back in senior Anthone Taylor, a small yet might back who rushed for 1,403 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. Needless to say, the offense is balanced and is capable of keeping opposing defenses on their toes.
Penn State will need to rely on Carl Nassib to have another big game to slow down Licata, and Austin Johnson and Anthony Zettel will need to return to their dominant selves that were somewhat missing in week one to really help out the back seven, including a talented yet still highly inexperienced secondary. Grant Haley is expected to return to the starting lineup at cornerback opposite Trevor Williams.
BUFFALO DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE: Where to even begin? First off, the offensive line must prove that week one was not indicative of their true abilities- otherwise, we are in for a completely disastrous season. This goes beyond ability to outman a MAC front seven- they must prove that they can communicate to work together as a cohesive unit and resemble a Big Ten line. In week one it appeared as though they just stepped back on the field for the first time after the Pinstripe Bowl and tried, unsuccessfully, to just push people around with no strategy to open lanes. This ultimately comes down to coaching, and they will need to show some signs of ability to read and make calls that will open holes and provide maximum protection against varying fronts. Every team from here on out will be throwing everything but the kitchen sink at the line, so they will need to improve in a hurry. Otherwise, they may lose all hope and confidence as the schedule continues to get more difficult.
The tight ends are another area that needs to establish an identity. Mike Gesicki was targeted once in the first quarter on a pass that fell incomplete. Outside of that play, the tight ends were completely non-existent in the passing game. Kyle Carter contributed a beautiful block that helped spring Penn State's only touchdown, and hopefully will be used more to bolster a struggling line.
Penn State will also need to find a way to get DaeSean Hamilton involved. The Big Ten's leading receiver as a redshirt freshman only had one catch for a measly five yards. Geno Lewis, a gamebreaking receiver when given the opportunity, was targeted four times on the first drive of the game and then forgotten about. Chris Godwin appears to be Hackenberg's new favorite target after stellar performances in the past two games, but it's still unknown just what this athletic receiving corps can do with such little opportunity.
Buffalo is in the very early stages of rebuilding and forming an identity on defense. Penn State has the talent to put up points against this defense, they just need to find a way to brush themselves off and play to the best of their abilities- and be put in a position to do so by the coaching staff.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Ready for some good news? Freshly-minted kicker Joey Julius had a fantastic first outing, connecting on his only field goal attempt for 34 yards and an extra point. Also, all of his kickoffs landed in or out of the end zone. He also became an internet sensation by the end of the first quarter. Punter Daniel Pasquariello had a solid week one outing, averaging 39.0 yards per punt on a very busy afternoon, with a long of 55. He struggled at times in 2014, but appears to be more consistent as a sophomore.
Koa Farmer was another bright spot as a kick returner, averaging 25.6 yards on five returns. His ability to regularly set the offense up with quality field position was a refreshing change of pace, after the return team often struggled to make it out of their own 20 in 2014.
Buffalo has a freshman kicker in Adam Mitcheson, who nailed a 40-yard field goal but also missed an extra point in his only collegiate game. Tyler Grassman returns as his fourth season as the starting punter for the Bulls, coming off a junior season in which he averaged 40.7 yards per punt. Wide receiver Jacob Martinez managed an 86-yard punt return touchdown in the Bulls' week one contest against Albany.
PENN STATE-27 BUFFALO-17 I would love to believe that we should expect domination on both sides of the ball and predict a 49-6 victory with a rebuilding MAC opponent coming to town. After the debacle against Temple, it's hard to be very optimistic until the team proves week one was a blip rather than a true indicator of this team's ability.
Penn State will get a couple early touchdowns courtesy of Akeel Lynch, but Buffalo will will put together a couple scoring drives of their own to keep it interesting. This time, the team keeps its wits about them in the second half as the defense finds its way after some tinkering with the linebackers, and a touchdown strike to Chris Godwin seals the deal.