It’s November, which means there is plenty of midweek MACtion for college football fans. This week’s slate includes a showdown between the Kent State Golden Flashes and Buffalo Bulls. Game time is set for 7:00 EST on Thursday, November 14 at Dix Stadium in Kent, Ohio. Fans can find the game on CBS Sports Network.
Oddsmakers list Buffalo as a 6-point favorite on the road. The game also has an over/under of 55.5 points. Be sure to check out all of the Week 12 college football odds.
The Bulls are hoping to keep things rolling after winning their last three games. Buffalo was 2-4 at the midway point in the season, which was disappointing after a 10-4 season last year. But they have turned things around and are just one win away from becoming bowl eligible. Buffalo has only played in three bowl games in program history, so getting to a bowl for a second straight year would be a huge accomplishment. Of course, securing a bowl spot might take two wins in their final three games rather than the one they need to become eligible. Also, the Bulls have an outside shot of winning the MAC East division if they can win their three remaining games and get a little outside help.
Meanwhile, Kent State is moving in the opposite direction with three consecutive losses. The Golden Flashes are currently 3-6 on the season, meaning they need to win their three remaining games to have any hope of receiving a bowl invitation. In their defense, three of their losses have come against Arizona State, Auburn, and Wisconsin. Also, all three of Kent State’s conference losses have come by a touchdown or less, including a 35-33 heartbreaker against Toledo last week. No matter what happens the rest of the way, Sean Lewis has undoubtedly moved Kent State forward in his second season. However, the Golden Flashes would surely love to add another win or two to their record before the end of the season.
Dating back to 1999, Buffalo has nine of the 17 head-to-head meetings between these two schools, giving them a slight edge over Kent State’s eight wins. The Bulls have also won four of the last five meetings, including last year’s 48-14 thumping.
This is a tough game to pick because Kent State has improved over the course of the season and has played a lot of close games in conference play. However, Buffalo is starting to peak at the right time of year and has won back-to-back games in lopsided fashion. I think the Golden Flashes can make things interesting, but as long as the line is less than a touchdown, I like the Bulls to win and cover.
Buffalo’s season started to change for the better when Kyle Vantrease replaced Matt Myers as the starting quarterback. Myers had some success and had to face some top teams during the non-conference season, but he completed just 47% of his passes with only six touchdowns to four interceptions. Vantrease, on the other hand, has been a far more reliable passer. On the season, he’s completed 62% of his passes with five touchdowns and only one interception. More importantly, the Bulls are 3-1 since he took over and have scored 43 points in back-to-back games.
Before the change at quarterback, the Bulls already had one of the best rushing attacks in the country. Running backs Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks have combined for over 1,700 yards in nine games this season. But now Buffalo has a quarterback that forces opposing teams to respect their passing attack, taking focus away from the running game. That balance has become too much for teams like Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan in recent weeks and I think Kent State’s defense will have similar problems.
To be fair, the Kent State offense has shown plenty of explosiveness this year as well. Dustin Crum has been one of the most reliable quarterbacks in the MAC. He boasts an impressive 68% completion percentage with 13 touchdowns to just one interception. However, Crum is also the team’s leading rusher, which is sometimes problematic. Also, second-leading rusher Jo-El Shaw is no longer with the team, which is a serious hit to Kent State’s backfield. The Golden Flashes being overly reliant on Crum is one reason why they’ve fallen short in close games and haven’t been able to keep up with other teams over four quarters.
Meanwhile, the Buffalo defense is more reliable than the Kent State defense right now. The Bulls have allowed 21 points or less in four straight games and are giving up less than 18 points per game in MAC play. During their three-game winning streak, they’ve stuffed the run and forced teams to become one-dimensional. If that happens this week, it’ll put even more pressure on Crum’s shoulders to carry the Golden Flashes.
Ultimately, I expect Buffalo to beat Kent State on both sides of the ball. The Bulls have the better defense, the more dynamic running game, and a quarterback who’s been consistent and mistake-free during his time as a starter. Crum may be the best player on the field, but Buffalo is the better team, so I’ll eat the points and take the Bulls to cover six points.