The Buffalo Bulls need tonight game to stay on top in the MAC East. Despite the 7-1 start to the season UB is only one game up on Miami and one game up on the Ohio Bobcats. A loss to Miami would not only put UB behind the RedHawks (given Miami will own the tie breaker), it will also give Ohio an in to catch the two teams when they play on Thursday night.
Miami needs the game to not only stay in the race for the east division, but to keep a clear path towards a bowl game. At 3-5, Miami can afford to lose only one more game and after tonight they still have dates with Ohio and Northern Illinois, two of the better teams in the conference.
So it’s fair to say that both teams need this game badly, in a way it may be season defining for each squad.
Don’t let the out of conference record fool you, Miami is a solid squad and they have gotten better as the year has went on.
Two plays are the difference between Miami being 5-3 (4-0) or 3-5 (3-1). In their 40-39 loss versus Western Michigan, Miami missed a 50-yard field goal as time expired. Last week at Army Miami elected to go for two in double overtime but came up just short.
The same Army team that absolutely embarrassed Buffalo needed double overtime periods and a gamble by their opponent to escape Miami.
UB get’s a lot of praise for their line, but Miami is also solid up front. The Redhawks have given up just seven sacks through eight games, which ranks 12th in the country.
They have have four backs running for four or more yards a carry, and two averaging more than seven. And in the passing game Gus Ragland has 14 touchdowns to just three interceptions.
They also have the best redzone offense in the MAC.
On the other side of the ball they have an efficient defense which doesn’t really stand out in any particular way but also has no glaring weaknesses.
The Bulls need to play a clean game, and if they once again wait until the second half to do some damage it could be too late. Miami’s defense is good enough to punish a one dimensional team and their offense really is not making a ton of mistakes.
Not seeing Chuck Harris on the two deep is a bit disheartening for Bulls fans. He and the defensive pressure that Buffalo’s front seven generate have made the the best passing defense in the conference, and tops in turnover margin.
The Bulls are winning, but the offense has been a bit of a cold start the past several games. The passing game, in particular, has looked off and the Bulls have have had to use strong second halves to come back, or just to put away a team.
Once they get going the freshman duo of Kevin Marks and Jaret Patterson make up one of the best backfields in the MAC. If they come out of the gate strong it should take some of the pressure off of Tyree Jackson.
Jackson’s numbers have been down, significantly, since the Army game. Over the last three MAC games Jackson has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns and his completion percentage has slipped from around 60% to around 50%.
For most of the season UB’s offensive line played nearly perfect in their protection of Tyree Jackson, but Toledo showed that the UB offensive line can be beaten, and beaten soundly if they have an off day.
The Teams that often win conference titles and bowl games are not necessarily the best team in the conference, but the teams who get hot towards the end of the season.
UB started the season red hot but have cooled to the point where Akron was only down four at the half and the Bulls were down two scores to Toledo at the same point.
All the subtle flaws of the team, and every team has them, seems to be manifesting now, if they were a mid season hiccup then UB needs to get past them, and start playing their best football again.
I think UB shakes off whatever has been ailing them lately and puts away a very good Miami team 34-24.