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Buffalo Bulls vs. Penn State Nittany Lions Preview and Prediction

James Franklin

James Franklin

Penn State got off on the wrong foot in the 2015 season opener last week. On the road in Philadelphia against the Temple Owls, Penn State’s offensive line showed as many holes, if not more, than anybody wanted to see after the 2014 season. Penn State allowed quarterback Christian Hackenberg to be sacked 10 times by the feisty Owls defense. This week Penn State hopes a little home cooking does an offensive line well as the Nittany Lions look to even their record at 1-1 in Beaver Stadium against the visiting Buffalo Bulls of the MAC.

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Buffalo at Penn State

Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET (Saturday)

TV Channel: ESPN2

Spread: Penn State -21

Three Things to Watch

1. Can Penn State’s offensive line start plugging any holes?

No offensive line in the nation may have had as poor a season debut as Penn State’s. Giving up 10 sacks is embarrassing, and there is simply no other way to say it. Offensive line coach Herb Hand has his work cut out for him.

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There are a couple of things to hang a hat on for Penn State though. Buffalo’s defense is not on the same level as Temple’s perhaps underrated defensive unit. Penn State may have a bit more of a physical edge against the Bulls compared to last week’s mismatch with Temple. Penn State’s offensive line actually showed some promise early on last week before everything started to crumble. Keeping the confidence going will be key for the coaching staff and team captains.

2. Will Jacob Martinez make any big plays on special teams for the Bulls?

Penn State may have some concerns to focus on, but the special teams coverage team should be aware of Buffalo’s return man Jacob Martinez. Martinez returned a punt 86 yards for a touchdown last week for the Bulls in a blowout win over Albany. For his performance, Martinez earned MAC Special Teams Player of the Week in the East division.

3. Will Penn State mix things up on offense?

Penn State started off well on offense last week against Temple, but showed an inability to make adjustments once Temple started shutting down Penn State’s playbook. Offensive coordinator John Donovan will be looking to silence some critics he has had to face in the aftermath of last week’s performance (and a lousy 2014 season). Jet sweeps may have slightly more success this week against the Bulls, but Penn State’s offense cannot consistently rely on plays that put much trust in the offensive line to keep defenders from collapsing behind the line of scrimmage until proven otherwise.

Final Analysis

This should be a good opportunity for Penn State to bounce back and get in the win column for the first time this season.  Penn State’s offensive line clearly will be a work in progress, but we will see just how much can be improved from Week 1 to Week 2. Hackenberg needs to have time to breath if this offense is going to hit its stride. It should get better this week.

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Prediction: Penn State 30, Buffalo 13

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also writes for CollegeFootballTalk.com and hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.