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2021 Mid-American Conference Football Week 7 Game Preview: Ohio Bobcats vs Buffalo Bulls

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Buffalo (2-4. 0-2) hosts Ohio (1-5, 1-1), looking to get back into the MAC East race.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 02 Wagner at Buffalo
Buffalo’s James Patterson leads the Bulls in tackles this season with 57 tackles
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bobcats and Bulls figure to bring everything they have in this one to keep their MAC East title dreams alive with Kent State off to a 2-0 start. Buffalo already has a mountain to climb to get back into the MAC East race as they are effectively three games back with a head-to-head loss to the Flashes.

We’ll look at some game notes and keys to the contest for each squad.

Game Notes

  • Time and Date: Saturday October 16th at Noon. ET
  • Network: ESPN + (A valid subscription is required for viewing.)
  • Audio: Coverage starts at 11 a.m. ET. Ohio feed: Stretch Portal at https://portal.stretchinternet.com/ohio/ || Buffalo feed: https://ubbulls.com/coverage
  • Location: UB Stadium, Amherst, NY
  • Weather: Rainy, 65 degrees, winds 15-25 MPH
  • Line: Buffalo (-9) per ESPN Pick Center
  • Last Meeting: Ohio 21-20 (OT), on October 5, 2019

Ohio Bobcats

The ‘Cats head into this one looking to build on a lot of success the past two weeks, where they took Akron to task in the second half en route to a 17-point win and lost by three to the Central Michigan in a battle that came down to one possession.

Ohio’s QB Armani Rogers has brought consistency and productivity to a struggling offense. Since being installed as the starter in the second half of the Akron game, Rogers has guided the ‘Cats to 51 points in the past six quarters, raising Ohio’s offensive production to 19.3 points per contest.

With dual-threat Rogers at the helm, and the return of players like right guard Hagen Meservy, Ohio’s running game has started to emerge, currently ranking 40th in the FBS with about 190 yards per game.

And with a 15-25 MPH wind expected Saturday, Ohio figures to ride its three-headed rushing attack of Rogers and running backs De’Montre Tuggle and O’Shaan Allison. Tuggle leads the ‘Cats with 830 all-purpose yards and four scores, and is a dangerous kickoff returner with two scores in the last two season.

Another reason for Ohio to run is the Bulls have struggled at times this year against the run, ranking 95th in the FBS with 177 yards a game, so this matchup may favor the Bobcats this week.

One question Rogers answered last week was would he be able to pass with accuracy given a significant number of attempts, a thing he has not had a chance to do so far at Ohio. Rogers showed very good accuracy, completing over 72 percent of his 18 pass attempts.

Should it continue, Rogers’ accuracy in the passing game could make the Bobcats offense all the more effective, given that the Bobcats’ QB can keep the Bulls from selling out to stop the run.

Defensively, Ohio needs to show up against the run too if they are going to give themselves a chance to win, ranking 127th in the FBS in rushing yards allowed with 241 yards per contest.

Stopping the run will not be easy against the Bulls’ three-headed monster, as we will discuss below.

Ohio struggled to stop Central Michigan’s Lew Nichols III last week, as he rushed for 186 yards. That being said, Ohio has made some improvement versus the run since the Louisiana and Northwestern games earlier in the season.

From what can be determined about the run defense without access to the play book, it looks like the Bobcats are more consistently gap sound than in the non-conference and the main issue is tackling. In other words, it looks like players are regularly where they need to be but just need to finish by tackling.

A player emerging for the Bobcats who can help them shore up the run defense is captain linebacker Bryce Houston, who leads the ‘Cats with 37 tackles and seems to play better every week.


Buffalo Bulls

The Bulls are off to a rough start in conference play at 0-2, losing a tough battle with a very good Western Michigan team by seven points, and fighting hard to erase an early Kent State 21-point lead only to come up short in the fourth quarter.

Defensively, the Bulls have struggled at times, ranking 101st in the FBS, but they have a good share of All-MAC-caliber talent to counter Ohio’s offense.

Senior LB James Patterson, brother of the NFL’s RB Jaret Patterson, figures to be key in slowing Ohio’s rushing attack, coming into the contest ranked 11th in the FBS with 9.8 tackles per game.

After missing 2020 with an injury, defensive end Taylor Riggins is producing like the first-team All-MAC section he was in 2019, with seven tackles for loss, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

The Bulls offense is a solid 61st in the FBS, and is balanced in yards per contest with 201 yards passing and 209 yards rushing. Though balanced in yards, the offense is still keyed by the run, which ranks 28th in the FBS, and, Buffalo figures to use that strong ground game to test a Bobcat defense that has struggled stopping the run.

The Bulls rushing attack features Senior Kevin Marks, who leads the Bulls with 368 yards rushing. Buffalo also have two other highly-productive backs who have rushed for over 300 yards this season in Ron Cook Jr. and Dylan McDuffie.

Ohio may commit numbers to slow the Bulls rushing attack which could result in opportunities in the passing game for Buffalo’s leading receiver Quian Williams, who has 38 catches for 551 yards and a score.

Ohio counters with some young defensive backs in Roman Parodie and Pierre Kemeni, who showed some skills last week versus a very good Central Michigan wide receiver group.


Prediction

The winner in this one will be the team that can stop the run better and limit turnovers. If Ohio can slow down Buffalo’s rushing attack, the Bobcats’ offensive attack under Armani Rogers should be able to do enough to keep the game close. The ‘Cats will cover at +9 points.