It has been a MAC West battle all season. That battle will continue this week as Ball State heads to DeKalb to take on the Huskies of Northern Illinois. However, aside from that game, Toledo needs to focus on keeping pace with the Huskies and Cardinals. With a 4-1 MAC record, the Rockets of Toledo are still chasing two undefeated conference teams, the Ball State Cardinals and the Northern Illinois Huskies. The pressure may be on Toledo to keep up in the conference, but the Buffalo Bulls have just as much pressure upon their shoulders in Tuesday night's match-up.
The Bulls will charge into the Glass Bowl with a 5-0 MAC record on Tuesday night. Not only that, but the Bulls have also won seven straight games after starting off 0-2 following loses to then No. 2 Ohio State and then-ranked No. 23 Baylor. Since opening the season with back-to-back Top-25 opponents, the Bulls have not truly been challenged since. However, don't take the Bulls lightly, their 5-0 conference record has them on top of 4-1 Bowling Green for the lead in the MAC East. They also just steamrolled Ohio by 30 points on national TV. The star of Buffalo's surprise season is senior linebacker Khalil Mack who enters the Glass Bowl leading the MAC in sacks with nine and tackles for loss with 11.5. On offense, the Bulls are charged by running back Brandon Oliver, who enters as the MAC's leading rusher with 140 yards per contest.
On the Rockets side of things, David Fluellen's status for the game is unknown. Fluellen was held out of Toledo's 55-16 rout of Eastern Michigan two weeks ago with a lower leg injury. Fluellen, the MAC's second-leading rusher, would provide a large spark for the Rockets' offense if he is able to go. If not, then you know freshman phenom Kareem Hunt will be ready to go. The young workhorse carried the Rockets offensively two weeks ago against Eastern Michigan with 168 yards and two touchdowns. Aside from that, Hunt has rushed for 100-yards in three consecutive games, so he will be a big name to watch out for as well. As for the passing attack, senior Terrance Owens broke out against the horrific Eastern Michigan defense completing 18-of-24 passes for 375 yards and three scores, and has been playing well down the stretch.
A crucial loss for the Rockets once again is sophomore linebacker, Trent Voss who remains out for the season with a broken arm. Voss was one of the main players on a Toledo defense which has played somewhat inconsistent in the previous weeks. It will be up to the Rocket front seven to stop Brandon Oliver and force Joe Licata to throw. If the Rockets fail to contain Oliver, it could turn ugly fast, the same way it did for the Ohio Bobcats last week against the same Buffalo offense in a 30-3 loss.
With another conference loss, the Rockets conference championship hopes would come crashing down. However, the Rockets are already behind the 8-ball by losing to Ball State in Week 5, 31-24. That win helped the Ball State Cardinals storm out to a 6-0 conference record as they take on Northern Illinois, who is ranked No. 15 nationally with a perfect 9-0 overall record. Why does that game matter so much? With a Northern Illinois win, Toledo would have a chance to host the 10-0 Huskies at the Glass Bowl on Wednesday, November 20th. Not only that, but the MAC West would also be on the line.
The Bulls could remain perfect in the MAC with a win tomorrow. and keep their 1-game lead on Bowling Green in the East. If Buffalo can beat Toledo, and manage a win vs Bowling Green, the Bulls win the East.
Tuesday night's Buffalo vs. Toledo match-up can be seen on ESPNU or ESPN3 as the game kicks off at 7:30 pm.
Get ready for some more weeknight MACtion.