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2023 MAC Football Week 13 Game Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles at Buffalo Bulls

This has always been a strange series, and this week’s matchup promises what could be another weird chapter in the story.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Wisconsin USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Well it is pretty close to that time of year: the season is almost behind us.

One of the two teams in this week’s contest between Eastern Michigan (5-6, 3-4 MAC West) and Buffalo (3-8, 3-5 MAC East) still has a chance to play in one more game this year, hoping to keep that fall magic going just a little bit longer.

With how the Bowl Season landscape currently looks, there are more than enough slots to find room for a 6-6 team from the MAC to find a postseason home, making this a must-win contest for the Eagles. There’s a way to get in at 5-7, but Ball State would be the first MAC team in line in Academic Progress Rating (APR) assuming they can collect their fifth win vs. Miami.

Buffalo, meanwhile, can only play the spoiler in this game. Whether they win or lose, they are not going to a bowl game. Up until last week, there was a chance at the MAC East division despite their losing record, but at this point, it’s all about pride for the hosting Bulls.

Game notes

  • Time and date: Tuesday, November 21st at 7:30 p.m. ET
  • Network: ESPN2 (A valid cable subscription is required.)
  • Location: UB Stadium in Amherst, New York
  • Gambling Considerations: Buffalo is a 6.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 35.5, per DraftKings.
  • All-time series: Eastern Michigan leads 6-4 in this relatively “new” MAC matchup, with Buffalo winning the last three contests dating back to 2018.
  • Last Meeting: Buffalo cooked up Eastern on the grill, posting a fifty-burger and winning by three scores against a stunned Eagles outfit in an early conference game on Sept. 24, 2022.

Eastern Michigan has scored an average of 20 points per game and have allowed 25 points per game. Their running game hasn’t found second gear, as they average a lethargic 104 yards per game between Samson Evans and Jaylon Jackson, who each average around 46 yards per game. Their aerial attack isn’t much better at 160 yards per game with 10 interceptions. The Eagle passing game has been led by Austin Smith, who has completed 56 percent of his passes for 148 yards per game on average, throwing for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions. The receiving corps has been led by Tanner Knue with 47 yards per game, with Hamze El-Zayat and JB Mitchell who each have around 30 yards per game. The defense has allowed an average of 179 yards per game. In the air, the defense has allowed 208 yards per game. On the plus side, their offense has only coughed up four fumbles. The defense has seven interceptions and eight fumble recoveries.

I would say the Eagle defense has been adequate, but notably missing an edge. EMU hasn’t been the sack machine that is has been in the past few years, nor has it really generated a ton of turnovers. It has been good in situational play, however, keeping Eastern Michigan in most of the games though. Of note on defense is Bennett Walker with 3 interceptions and Mikeh Coleman with 4.5 sacks. The linebacker pair of Chase Kline and Joe Sparacio are both top five in the MAC in total tackles.

The Bulls have scored an average of 22 points per game and have allowed 27 points per game. On the ground, they average 130 yards per game and in the air, they average 186 yards per game. The offense is led by Cole Snyder and his 56 percent completion rate for 179 yards per game, with 13 touchdowns and nine interceptions. CJ Ogbonna has also been utilized at QB in select situations, with 45 carries for 171 yards and three touchdowns. for some parts of the game. The rushing attack has been led by Ron Cook Jr., who averages 51 yards per game. The two main receivers are Marlyn Johnson and Darrell Harding Jr., who each average around 36 yards per game. Their defense has allowed 175 and 191 yards respectively. They have given up 11 interceptions and fumbled the ball 5 times, but the defense has 11 interceptions and seven fumble recoveries to keep the turnover margin positive.

Of note on the Buffalo defense is turnover savant Devin Grant, who leads the team with five interceptions, while Max Michel leads the team with five sacks.

If I look at these two teams on paper, I would say that they are pretty evenly matched. Odds declare that Buffalo is a six-point favorite over EMU, which is admittedly a bit of a surprise considering the records.

Given that it is a home game for Buffalo, I will say they will win by a field goal. But if I look at other factors, is it more important for Eastern Michigan to go bowling than it is for Buffalo to ruin that? I have a feeling that Eastern Michigan is going to pull this one out and will win but we will see. They haven’t looked good in their last few games.