- Time and date: Saturday, October 15 at 1:00 p.m. ET
- Network: ESPN3
- Location: Warren McGuirk Alumni Stadium in Amherst, New York
- Spread: Buffalo (-17)
- ESPN FPI: Buffalo has 86.7% chance to win
- All-time series: Buffalo leads, 7-6
- Last meeting: UMass 31, Buffalo 26 — November 27, 2015
- Current streak: UMass, 1 (2015)
Setting the scene
Week 7 presents a late-season non-conference matchup for Buffalo, which faces former MAC member UMass this Saturday afternoon. Amherst superiority is on the line as Buffalo hails from Amherst, NY while UMass resides in Amherst, MA. The Bulls are rolling after rattling off four consecutive victories, but they have yet to win a non-conference matchup this season. A golden opportunity presents itself as UMass has lost all but two games versus FBS competition since 2019.
The Minutemen actually won the most recent matchup between the teams, but the Bulls triumphed in 75 percent of the contests while the two shared MAC membership.
Buffalo Bulls outlook
Buffalo (3-3, 3-0 MAC) has conducted one of the most impressive turnarounds this season. Maurice Linguist’s Bulls are the only team in the FBS to claw out of an 0-3 start to get back to .500 so far. Buffalo has been brilliant in MAC play, winning three games by an aggregate 54 points over the last three Saturdays. However, the team endured a brutal loss to FCS competition early in the season, so the Bulls can’t afford to overlook the opponent in a trip to UMass.
The script was officially flipped when the offense went on a 50-point rampage at Eastern Michigan for the MAC opener. It was that day in Ypsilanti when the Bulls discovered the potency of their offense in both facets of the game. Buffalo has employed an effective two-back system with Ron Cook Jr. serving as the speed threat and Mike Washington operating as the power hitter. Washington leads all Bull rushers with 409 yards and six touchdowns, while the quick-footed Cook has dabbled in the receiving and kick return game to make an impact all over the field.
Rutgers transfer quarterback Cole Snyder has found success in the passing game as well, assisted by one of the MAC’s top receiving tandems in Quian Williams and Justin Marshall. These receivers rank seventh and eighth in conference, respectively, in yardage and the duo is responsible for seven of Snyder’s eight passing touchdowns this season.
In recent years, Buffalo’s signature involved winning battles in the trenches. While the offensive line struggled with protection earlier in the season, the Bulls have honed their shield up front during their win streak. On the other side of the trenches, Buffalo demonstrated the pass rush ability of its defensive line by registering four sacks in last week’s win over Bowling Green.
This pass rush allowed the Bulls to witness palpable defensive improvement in Week 6 as they held Bowling Green to just seven points. Buffalo’s turnover-happy defense played a major factor in limiting the Falcons to single-digits by recording four takeaways. The highlight of that game was a fumble recovery which resulted in the first career touchdown for multi-time All-MAC linebacker James Patterson. The senior inside linebacker remains on track for the honor once again with 48 tackles, four tackles for loss, and two fumble recoveries through the first half of 2022.
UMass Minutemen outlook
UMass (1-5) separated from the MAC after the 2015 season, but the Minutemen’s 2022 schedule is loaded with former conference opponents. The program wound up on the wrong side of a 55-10 beatdown to Toledo and squandered a 13-0 point lead in a 20-13 result at Eastern Michigan. Buffalo presents head coach Don Brown’s team one final stab at taking out a MAC opponent.
UMass kept its contest close with Eastern Michigan thanks to a 3-1 advantage in the turnover battle. Generating takeaways has been one of the strengths of this team in 2022 and they gather 1.8 per game. Cornerback Jordan Mahoney has been especially prevalent in this realm, picking off two passes, recovering two fumbles, forcing two fumbles, and accumulating two defensive touchdowns in a standout individual season. The star sophomore corner looks to maintain his disruptive numbers as he faces vaunted Buffalo receiving corps.
Under their new defensive-minded head coach, the Minutemen allow 31.7 points per game, but that is visible progress compared to allowing an FBS-worst 43.1 points in 2021. One of the biggest differences has been UMass’ rise to the occasion on money downs, stifling offenses to 32.4 percent on third downs and 38.5 percent on fourth downs — both top 35 rankings in the country. Only four teams force incompletions at a higher rate than the Minutemen at 51.9 percent, so avoiding 3rd and long opportunities against this defense is ideal for opponents like Buffalo.
Still, there are aspects of UMass which remain highly exploitable including the run game. And offensively, not much has trended in the team’s favor. Only winless Colorado averages fewer points per game than UMass’ 12.8 and only triple option based service academies complete fewer passes than the Minutemen’s eight per contest. UMass has struggled with accuracy out of the pocket this year, averaging an FBS-low 70.8 passing yards per game on a 45.7 percent clip.
It’s been a revolving door at quarterback, and the Minutemen elected to start Garrett Dzuro last week. After a 5-of-7 outing, the quarterback got nicked up and is considered day-to-day for this week. UMass has other experienced options including 2021 primary starter Brady Olson and Gino Campiotti, who has received the majority of in-game reps this season.
Since UMass left the MAC prior to the 2016 season, the Minutemen have not been able to prove superiority over their ex-conference. The program has compiled a 1-6 record against MAC competition in seven seasons, and this will be its third and final opportunity to improve upon that standing this season.
Buffalo is on a roll right now and the Bulls knocked off some of the better teams in the MAC in their early-season turnaround — disposing of 4-2 Eastern Michigan by 19 points and coming up clutch against 3-3 Miami (OH). Considering the level the Bulls have clicked lately, this game should be decided fairly quickly, as Buffalo looks far from the team that lost to Holy Cross in Week 2.
Prediction: Buffalo 42, UMass 10