Coming off a painful loss to Ohio in the "Battle of the Bricks," Miami (Ohio) will welcome Buffalo to Yager Stadium for a critical MACtion divisional matchup on Tuesday night.
The RedHawks (4-5, 3-2 MAC) trailed 28-0 in the third quarter last Tuesday against the archrival Bobcats before mounting a furious rally. They scored five touchdowns the rest of the way but missed a PAT and then failed on a two-point conversion, which proved to be the difference as a late TD run by Ohio's De'Montre Tuggle helped seal the 35-33 win. The loss also dropped Miami to second in the MAC East division, a game behind Kent State.
The Bulls (4-5, 2-3) are coming off of a bye week, which they needed after losing 56-44 at home to Bowling Green on Oct. 30. Buffalo is two games behind Kent State in the divisional standings and still needs two wins to become bowl eligible, so this is a critical game for the Bulls, who are the defending East champs.
These teams have split their last four meetings with the home team winning each time. Buffalo won handily, 42-10, last season.
Buffalo at Miami (Ohio)
Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 9 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: Miami (Ohio) -7
When Buffalo Has the Ball
After starting quarterback Kyle Vantrease left the Oct. 30 game against Bowling Green late in the second quarter with a leg injury following a sack, Matt Myers came in and completed 12 of 24 passes for 239 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Vantrease threw a pick prior to exiting and those two turnovers loomed large in the 56-44 loss, as the Falcons turned both into touchdowns.
As for Tuesday night, Myers has previous starting experience for the Bulls, but head coach Maurice Linguist has said he expects Vantrease to be ready to play. For the season, Vantrease is completing 62 percent of his passes for 1,714 yards with eight touchdowns and five interceptions.
True to their name, the Bulls are ground-oriented on offense, as they are third in the MAC with 199.3 rushing yards per game. They have gone over 200 in each of the past two games, including 222 with five touchdowns in a losing effort against Bowling Green. Dylan McDuffie has emerged as the focal point of Buffalo's offense as he's posted three straight 100-yard games, including 166 and two scores on 34 carries against the Falcons.
Miami's defense has been among the stingiest in the MAC this season, as the RedHawks rank second in both scoring (23.7 ppg) and rushing (137.3 ypg) defense and are third in total (356.9 ypg) defense. Buffalo's running game vs. Miami's run defense will be the strength vs. strength matchup to pay close attention to. RedHawks linebacker Ivan Pace Jr. also is someone to watch after he racked up 18 tackles and two sacks in a losing effort against Ohio last Tuesday.
When Miami (Ohio) Has the Ball
It took the RedHawks more than a half of football to finally get going last Tuesday against Ohio, but when they finally did, the touchdown came quickly. Quarterback Brett Gabbert posted career highs in completions (32), attempts (55), yards (492), and touchdowns (five), while throwing just one interception. And don't forget that Miami's first touchdown didn't come until 8:30 left in the third quarter.
Gabbert has posted a tidy 14:3 touchdown-to-interception ratio this season in six games, but he hadn't really busted out until last week. He spread the ball around to eight different receivers against the Bobcats, but his favorite target is Jack Sorenson. The MAC's leading receiver in yards (986) and tied for the lead in touchdown catches (7), he went for 283 and two scores on 14 receptions against Ohio. He's averaging nearly 18 yards (17.6) per catch for the season.
Of course, part of the reason for Gabbert's and Sorenson's big numbers was because Miami couldn't run the ball against the Bobcats. Falling behind early certainly changed the game plan, but when your quarterback leads the team in rushing with 23 yards (on seven carries), that signals a bigger issue. The RedHawks are eighth in the conference in rushing, averaging 141 yards per game with eight total touchdowns on the ground in nine contests. The leading rusher is freshman Keyon Mozee, who is averaging just 4.3 yards per carry.
Buffalo falls in the middle of the MAC when it comes to points and total yards allowed per game. The Bulls are fourth in passing yards allowed per game (214.1) but also have surrendered 15 touchdowns compared to just three interceptions. It's likely Miami will lean towards Gabbert's arm once again, which means getting pressure on him will be important. Buffalo is first in the conference and tied for eighth nationally with 31 sacks, but the RedHawks have been solid in pass protection, giving up just 12.
Five different Bulls have registered three or more sacks this season, including senior linebacker James Patterson. The team's leading tackler by far (84 total stops), Patterson was responsible for half of his team's three sacks in the loss to Bowling Green.
Miami (Ohio) came up just short in its last game, while Buffalo has had an extra week to try and refocus on making a late charge towards bowl eligibility. The Bulls probably don't have enough games left to challenge Kent State for the East division title, but it doesn't mean they can't play spoiler, starting on Tuesday night. The RedHawks may have finally found their rhythm with their passing game, and while it came too late against Ohio, look for Gabbert's arm to be the difference on Tuesday night at home.
Prediction: Miami (Ohio) 35, Buffalo 28
Podcast: Week 10 Recap, Reaction to Coaching Changes and a Preview of CFB Playoff Rankings