A pair of MAC East rivals will face off on Friday to finish off the 2019 regular season at UB Stadium. While the visiting Bowling Green Falcons (3-8, 2-5 MAC) have nothing left to play for, the Buffalo Bulls (6-5, 4-3) will be fighting for crucial bowl positioning and a chance to secure their second winning season in the last six campaigns.
The Falcons are reeling, having lost four of their last five games, and coughed up 66 points in a blowout home loss to Ohio last week. To say that it's a tough first season for head coach Scot Loeffler in Bowling Green is an understatement.
On the other hand, Buffalo is playing its best football of the year. Winners of four of its last five games, the Bulls have scored at least 40 points in three of their last four contests and clinched bowl eligibility last Wednesday against Toledo.
Bowling Green at Buffalo
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 29 at 12 p.m. ET
Spread: Buffalo -29
When Bowling Green Has the Ball
There's no way around it: it's been a tough offensive season for Bowling Green. The Falcons have been held to single-digit scoring five times, and the underlying numbers aren't much better. Their 164.3 passing yards per game rank 119th in the nation, and both quarterbacks — Grant Loy and Darius Wade — have been held under 6.0 yards per pass attempt.
With inconsistency under center, Bowling Green has had to lean on a solid if unspectacular running game led by Bryson Denley and Davon Jones. The Falcons rank 59th nationally at 166.9 rushing yards per game, but stopping the run just happens to be Buffalo's biggest strength. The Bulls are one of eight schools to hold opponents under 100 rushing yards per game and three yards per carry this season, so it could be hard for the Falcons to find any rhythm on offense.
When Buffalo Has the Ball
Buffalo's rise over the last five games has coincided with running back Jaret Patterson's continued development into a star. After rushing for 598 yards and four scores through the first six games, the undersized sophomore has cranked out 730 yards and seven scores in the last five weeks. Patterson is already sixth on the Bulls' all-time rushing list with 2,341 yards and should challenge for Branden Oliver's top spot in the next year or two.
Patterson's emergence has taken the pressure off of quarterback Kyle Vantrease, who only has a 58.9 percent completion rate this season. If he can stay on target, the sophomore has some intriguing weapons headlined by wideout Antonio Nunn.
Bowling Green has trouble enough moving the ball on offense, and Buffalo's ironclad run defense won't make life any easier. If the Bulls can take that aspect of the game away, the Falcons will only have a chance if they can force Buffalo into some untimely mistakes. But that seems unlikely for the home team, as the Bulls are one of the best teams in the nation at preventing turnovers, so expect a second consecutive winning season for Lance Leipold and Co.