The Buffalo Bulls can lock up a spot in the MAC Championship Game when they pay a mid-week visit to the Ohio Bobcats. Game time is set for 7:00 EST on Wednesday, November 14, at Peden Stadium in Athens, Ohio. Fans can catch the action on ESPN2.
Oddsmakers list the Bobcats as 2-point favorites at home. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 12 college football odds.
As mentioned, the Bulls are just one win away from going to the MAC Championship Game for just the second time in program history and the first time since 2008. Buffalo is currently riding a five-game winning streak that has brought them to 9-1 overall and 6-0 on conference play. In the process, the Bulls have also clinched their first bowl appearance since 2013.
Just one win in either of their two remaining games will be enough to get the Bulls to the conference title game. However, Buffalo surely doesn’t want to spoil all the momentum they’ve built up over the past month, especially with a 12- or 13-win season still on the table. The Bulls are also one of the top vote getters outside the top-25, so becoming ranked is a distinct possibility if they can keep on winning.
Meanwhile, the Bobcats are clinging to hope of reaching the MAC title game for the second time in the last three seasons. Unfortunately for Ohio, that task became a lot more difficult after last week’s stunning loss to Miami (Ohio). A safety in the 4th quarter ended up being the difference in a 30-28 loss to their in-state rivals.
For what it’s worth, the Bobcats are already bowl eligible at 6-4. There’s a good chance they’ll play in a bowl game for the ninth time in the last 10 years. But now they need to win their last two games, starting with Wednesday’s game against Buffalo and hope that the Bulls also lose their season finale against a 2-8 Bowling Green team. That’s the only scenario that gets Ohio to the MAC Championship Game, so the odds are rather slim.
If it matters, the home team has won this matchup in eight consecutive seasons. The Bobcats have dominated their home games during that stretch, with their last two wins over Buffalo both by coming by over 20 points. Of course, the Bulls also notched a 31-24 against Ohio last season.
I respect Ohio and won’t put too much stock in last week’s loss. But I was still surprised to see them favored over Buffalo in this game. Week after week, the Bulls have proven that they’re the best team in the MAC this season, and I don’t expect that to change. As 2-point underdogs, it’s easy for me to lean toward Buffalo in this game.
The biggest difference between these teams is defense. Buffalo has played solid defense for most of the season, allowing just two of their 10 opponents to score 30 or more points. Ohio, to be fair, struggled defensively early in the season but is holding MAC teams to just over 20 points per game. However, the Bulls have been nearly as good in MAC play and have been more reliable on that side of the ball during the course of the season.
Specifically, Buffalo has done a solid job against the run, which is the biggest strength of the Ohio offense. Army and their triple-option is the only team to do some serious damage on the ground against the Buffalo defense, and even they averaged an acceptable 4.4 yards per carry. Even on the few rare occasions that the Bulls have had trouble defensively, they’ve been hurt through the air more than via the ground attack.
The Bobcats have long been a team whose success is predicated on running the ball. The Ohio offense features a good running quarterback in Nathan Rourke and two capable running backs in A.J. Ouellette and Maleek Irons. But if the Buffalo defense can hold the Bobcats to a reasonable total on the ground, they can leave it up to Rourke to beat them with his arm. Rourke has had some big games this year against bad teams, but those performances have over-exaggerated his numbers. If the Bobcats have to rely on Rourke throwing the ball, the Bulls will like their chances.
On the other side of the ball, Buffalo is far more secure at the quarterback spot with Tyree Jackson. His accuracy can be lacking at times. But the Bulls have enough of a running game to set up Jackson taking shots down the field. It’s safe to say the Ohio defense hasn’t faced a quarterback like that all season. It’s worth mentioning that Jackson has been sacked just eight times all season, so he usually has plenty of time in the pocket to push the ball downfield.
Ultimately, I think the Buffalo defense will do enough to slow down the Ohio running game while the Bobcats will struggle to keep Jackson from making game-changing plays with his arm. There’s little chance of either team pulling away in this game. But with all they’ve accomplished this year, I can’t bet against the Bulls, especially as 2-point underdogs.