The Bowling Green Falcons and Buffalo Bulls don't have a lot of history against each other, and what history they do have has been mostly uneventful. In fact, they've only played ten games against each other:
09/23/2000 BUFFALO 20, Bowling Green 17
09/08/2001 BOWLING GREEN 35, Buffalo 0
10/15/2005 Bowling Green 27, BUFFALO 7
09/09/2006 BOWLING GREEN 48, Buffalo 40
11/17/2007 Bowling Green 31, BUFFALO 17
11/21/2008 Buffalo 40, BOWLING GREEN 34 (2OT)
11/03/2009 Bowling Green 30, BUFFALO 29
10/02/2010 Buffalo 28, BOWLING GREEN 26
11/25/2011 Bowling Green 42, BUFFALO 28
11/23/2012 BOWLING GREEN 21, Buffalo 7 (Columbus, OH)
(Home teams in all CAPS)
A few things stand out here. First, Buffalo has only beaten Bowling Green in Buffalo once in five home meetings -- and not at all since the two first met back in 2000. Second, the road team in general has been very successful in this series since it became a yearly affair in 2005. The road team has won six of the last eight meetings. Finally, all but two of the meetings have been competitive, if not close. Each of the last seven meetings has been decided by 14 points or fewer, including three by less than a touchdown.
And see that 2008 game? That was the most important game of the first ten. In that contest, Buffalo won their only Eastern Division title that night in Bowling Green. Had the Falcons won, they would have only needed to beat Toledo the following week to capture the division crown for themselves (they went on to beat Toledo in that game, 38-10).
Friday's winner-take-all game at Ralph Wilson Stadium, home of the NFL's Buffalo Bills, will be as close as these two teams have ever gotten to reprising that 2008 game. We'll all be very lucky if this game even approaches the greatness of that double-overtime thriller.
By The Numbers
Each team enters this division championship game with identical records of 8-3 overall and 6-1 in the Mid-American Conference. A Buffalo victory would give them nine in one season for only the second time in program history -- the only other occasion was 1986, when the Bulls were a Division III independent. Bowling Green would also earn a ninth win with a victory. It would be their first nine-win season since 2004 and their first nine-win regular season since 2003.
Both teams aspire to make only their second appearance in the MAC Championship Game. Bowling Green's only appearance was in 2003, when they lost to Ben Roethlisberger's Miami RedHawks. That game was also the last time the game was held on a campus site, so Bowling Green has not played for the MAC title in Detroit. Bowling Green has not won a MAC championship since 1992. Buffalo's only appearance was in 2008, when they defeated Brady Hoke's then-undefeated Ball State Cardinals.
Both teams are at the top of the MAC in both offense and defense, so this match-up should be off-the-charts good. And there's no way to tell if it will be a shootout or a defensive struggle.
On offense, BGSU is 3rd in the MAC for scoring (35.4 ppg), total offense (461.7 ypg), and rushing (205.1 ypg). They're second in passing (256.6). Buffalo is fifth in scoring (33.0 ppg) and total offense (416.9 ypg), and the Bulls are fourth in both rushing (186.2 ypg) and passing (230.7 ypg).
Defensively, both teams are even better. The Falcons lead the MAC across the board in scoring (14.4 ppg), total defense (302.1), rushing (145.7 ypg) and passing (156.4 ypg). Buffalo is second in both scoring allowed (22.2 ppg) and total defense (366.0 ypg). They're also third in rushing defense (150.6). However, perhaps the one weakness among all of these stats is in the Bulls' defense against the pass. UB is just sixth against the pass in the MAC, as they allow 215.4 yards per game.
In the turnover battle, Buffalo could have an edge. While both teams have 12 fumble recoveries, the Bulls outpace the Falcons with 14 interceptions to only 5. However, neither team gives the ball away. Buffalo has only 10 turnovers in 11 games, while the Falcons have even fewer with just eight. Combined, the two teams have lost just six fumbles all season. Every other team in the MAC has at least six individually.
Another area of concern for the Falcons could be sacks. Buffalo (35) has the most sacks in the MAC, while BGSU has allowed more (31) than all but one other MAC team. On the opposite side, Buffalo has given up just 11 sacks in 11 games.
Both teams are at the top of the MAC in terms of time of possession and third-down efficiency (on both offense and defense). On special teams, Bowling Green may have an edge. Falcon kickers are 13-for-16 on field goal tries and have missed just one extra point, while Buffalo kickers are just 12-for-19 on field goals with three missed extra points. Bowling Green has a net of 37.4 yards per punt, good for third in the MAC, while Buffalo is ninth with a 35.6 net average. BGSU also averages ten more yards per punt return than does Buffalo.
Four Names To Know
Bowling Green Falcons
Heath Jackson -- Jackson is an Ada, Ohio native who has dealt with injury adversity for most of his career at Bowling Green. However, finally healthy, he has stepped in admirably when injuries struck down others -- notably Chris Gallon and Jared Cohen. In the four games in which he's caught a pass, he's been excellent. He caught four passes for 33 yards and a touchdown against UMass, then had a season-high seven catches for 72 yards against Toledo. He caught four for 38 against Miami, then had a season-best 74 yards (plus a touchdown) on five catches against Ohio.
Jackson missed the game against Eastern Michigan with a sore hamstring but should be back on Friday. He'll be an integral part of the game plan for Bowling Green.
Jude Adjei-Barimah -- Adjei-Barimah, a junior from Columbus, Ohio, is also coming back from an injury that kept him out of the game at Eastern Michigan. Like Jackson, Adjei-Barimah has been an integral part of his position group due to other injuries. This year, he's accounted for 20 tackles, but three of those have been for losses, including one sack. He's also one of the team leaders with three passes defensed. Boo Boo Gates is the most well-known of BGSU's defensive backs, but Bulls' receivers will get to know Adjei-Barimah very well on Friday.
Joe Licata -- Licata, a sophomore from Williamsville, N.Y., is already one of the MAC's best quarterbacks. He ranks fourth in the league with 218.8 yards per game and is fifth in pass efficiency. With a 21-6 TD-to-INT ratio, Licata would be even higher on the efficiency list, but his 60.9 completion percentage is slightly below the others above him. On Friday, Licata will be tasked with deciphering a Falcon defense that doesn't often get to the quarterback (average of two sacks/game) and doesn't have many interceptions but still manages to shut down opposing signal callers. Bowling Green has some very good cover guys in the defensive backfield and does an excellent job getting teams into obvious passing situations. Licata will need to be successful on early downs in order to have a good day.
Khalil Mack -- What can be said about Mack, a senior from Fort Pierce, Fla., that hasn't already been said? He's an absolute monster. He has 82 tackles this season, and more than one in every seven is a sack. His 12 sacks lead the MAC, as do his 16.5 tackles for loss. Those 16.5 TFLs contribute to a career total that will become a new NCAA record. Did I mention NCAA records? The five fumbles Mack has forced this year has allowed him to break the NCAA career mark in that category. Mack also has three interceptions, two of which he's returned for touchdowns.
Look for Mack to constantly line up against one of Bowling Green's freshman tackles, which will likely force the Falcons to put two (or maybe three?) guys on him at all times. This will cause troubles for the Falcon offense and perhaps allow other Buffalo defenders to wreak havoc in the Falcon backfield. If BGSU cannot adapt, it could be a long day for their offense.
TV / Streaming
The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPNU, with kickoff scheduled for 1:30 p.m. ET.
If you aren't near a TV but have an internet-capable device handy, you can watch online at WatchESPN.com.
Bowling Green: As always, the game will be broadcast on the Falcon Radio Network. The web stream can be accessed HERE. Todd Walker and John Gibson will be on the call. Radio stations in the network include WFRO (99.1-FM) in Fremont, WWSR (93.1-FM) and WCIT (940 AM) in Lima, WXKR (100.7-FM) in Toledo, WONW (1280 AM) in Defiance, WFXN (102.3-FM) in Mansfield, WXXF (107.7-FM) in Ashland, and WHKW (1220 AM) in Cleveland.
Buffalo: You can listen to the game call on the Bull's flagship station, 1270-AM WHLD in Buffalo. You can also hear the game on 1280-AM WHTK in Rochester. The live stream can be accessed HERE.
Not able to watch or listen? Follow the game play-by-play with live stats HERE.
Our friends over at Bull Run are providing all sorts of great coverage of this week's clash. Give them a look. As for us, we've got your game preview and a look-back to five years ago when Bowling Green and Buffalo last played for the MAC East title.
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