The Falcons (2-7, 2-3 MAC) are coming off of a dominating 44-16 road win against Kent State on Halloween night. The Bulls (3-6, 1-4 MAC) last played at Akron on Oct. 28 where they lost 21-20. With just three games remaining, Buffalo must snap its four-game losing streak to have a shot at finishing with six wins and gaining bowl eligibility.
What’s more, the Bulls are looking to snap a six-game losing streak to their MAC East rivals. Buffalo’s last victory over Bowling Green came back in 2010. The past three games between these two have been decided by no more than eight points, including last year’s 27-19 Falcons victory.
Bowling Green at Buffalo
Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 7 at 7:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Buffalo -10.5
Three Things to Watch
1. No. 1 QBs back in action
Bowling Green welcomed back freshman Jarret Doege, younger brother of former Texas Tech star Seth Doege, to the starting lineup last week against Kent State. Jarret Doege replaced James Morgan as the starter in the Falcons’ fourth game only to suffer a back injury the following week. Although it was initially feared he was lost for the season, Doege was cleared to return and he helped lead Bowling Green to a 44-16 win over the Golden Flashes last Tuesday. He was effective, completing 14 of his 18 pass attempts for 174 yards and two touchdowns and, perhaps more importantly, didn’t turn the ball over. He’ll look to build on that performance against a Buffalo defense that has done a decent job against the pass (195.3 ypg allowed) and limiting teams on the scoreboard (24.7 ppg), but still gives up a fair amount of yards (404.8 ypg).
Similar to the Falcons, the Bulls also have had to use multiple starters at quarterback because of injury. Tyree Jackson opened the season as the starter, but he got hurt and was replaced by Drew Anderson, who played well (10 TDs, INT) over four games. But Anderson also got hurt, forcing head coach Lance Leipold to remove the redshirt from Kyle Vantrease, one of the top recruits in the Bulls’ 2017 class. As can be expected, Vantrease struggled in his first taste of action (43.9 percent completion rate, 2 TDs, 2 INTs), but Jackson returned last week against Akron and should be the starter moving forward, as long as he stays healthy.
A dual threat, Jackson is second on the team in rushing (222 yards, 4 TDs) even though he’s missed several games. However, he may find more success attacking Bowling Green’s defense through the air. The Falcons are tied for 10th in the MAC (out of 12 teams) in passing defense, giving up 251.3 yards per game. Buffalo is third in the conference in passing offense at 271.1 yards per game and the three quarterbacks have combined for 15 touchdown passes and only five interceptions.
2. Buffalo WR Anthony Johnson
With Jackson back under center for the Bulls, you can bet he will look for Johnson, his favorite target. The junior wide receiver is third in the nation with 888 receiving yards and he’s 13th with 55 catches. While 12 other receivers have more receptions than Johnson to this point, no one is averaging more than his 16.2 yards per catch (tied with Colorado State’s Michael Gallup).
Johnson has six touchdown catches thus far and has recorded three 100-yard receiving games. Given Bowling Green’s defensive issues, it’s entirely possible he will make it four such efforts on Tuesday night.
3. Bowling Green RB Andrew Clair
With 111 rushing yards last week against Kent State, the Falcons’ freshman running back posted his fourth consecutive 100-yard game. After not playing much early in the season, Clair (above, right) has emerged and now finds himself fourth in the MAC in rushing at 70.6 yards per game. In conference games only he’s gaining 103 yards per game on the ground and overall is averaging an impressive eight yards per carry.
Buffalo’s defense ranks near the bottom of the MAC against the run (209.4 ypg), but the Bulls are very solid at linebacker with Khalil Hodge, second in the nation in tackles (13.2 per game), leading the way. Bowling Green also is dealing with injuries along its offensive line, as starting center Tim McAuliffe and right guard Jack Kramer both missed last week’s game because of knee injuries. Statistics aside, Buffalo’s defense figures to pose a stiffer test for the Falcons compared to Kent State so it will be interesting to see if Clair can maintain his recent production running behind a makeshift offensive line.
Bowling Green has the momentum after last week’s convincing win over Kent State while Buffalo enters with a four-game losing streak. But the Bulls need this game more since they still have a shot at bowl eligibility if they can win out. Falcons running back Andrew Clair has been a force on the ground recently, but Buffalo’s offense is whole once again following the return of starting quarterback Tyree Jackson. And while the records are similar, the Bulls have lost four games by four points or fewer, three of those coming in MAC play. Look for Buffalo to snap its losing streak in front of the home crowd on Tuesday night.