This weeks MAC Championship game is something of a redemption game, for both teams.
For Ball State there is the chance to revenge the programs 2008 loss to Buffalo. Ball Sate was undefeated, ranked #12 in the nation, and looking to paste an upstart Buffalo team that had never won anything in the MAC.
The Bulls destroyed Ball State.
For Buffalo the pain is more recent, the 2018 championship game against Northern Illinois. A game that Buffalo had well in hand until the team fell apart late, losing the title to NIU. Many of the players on UB’s roster were a part of that game, including Jaret Patterson.
This year both teams have played very well in conference. Buffalo is ranked an undefeated (5-0) and Ball State comes in 5-1, after losing their first game and handling the entire MAC West to close things out.
But the similarities kind of end there.
Ball State was often down late in the game, and managed to overcome the deficit. Against Western Michigan, to secure the west, they were down two scores heading into the fourth quarter.
Buffalo has used an explosive running game to get out ahead of opponents and stay there. Aside from a scare against NIU in week 1, the Bulls have pretty much led the entire season.
Of the two teams, Ball State is the more tested team. Winning against Toledo, CMU, WMU, their only loss coming against 2-1 Miami. Buffalo, on the other hand beat Miami and Kent, every other win came against a team with 0 or 1 wins.
The Key Matchup for Buffalo
The Bulls running game vs the Ball State run defense.
Ball State is the second best scoring defense that Buffalo will face this season, ranked first in the west and fifth in the conference. They are one of just four MAC programs to keep opponents at or under 4.0 yards a carry.
They kept Central Michigan, a pretty decent running team, to 4.3 yards per carry when they blew the chips out, 43-20.
Buffalo is far and away the best rushing offense in the conference. Whether it’s Patterson or Marks, the Buffalo offense can wear down an opponent over time, get stronger as the game goes on, and dominate in the second half.
The best rushing defense in the conference, Miami, they managed 4.5 yards a carry. For Buffalo that’s a pretty low mark.
The Key Matchup for Ball State
The Cardinal passing game vs the Buffalo pass defense
If UB’s defense has one chink in the armor, it’s pass coverage. If the opponent can bottle up the pass rush, then the secondary has been soft. Kent State’s Dustin Crum torched the UB defense and Drew Plitt is up there with Crum as a QB.
Now, in the defense of the defense (intended) they first half of the season the secondary was very thin due to injury down at times three starters. They have looked better lately, but they’ve looked better against Akron and Bowling Green (so take that for all it’s worth).