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2023 MAC Football Week 2 Game Preview: Fordham Rams at Buffalo Bulls

The Bulls look to get their first win of the season against the talented CJ Montes and his storied Fordham Rams.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 18 Fordham at FAU Photo by Aaron Gilbert/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This week, the Buffalo Bulls, coming off a disappointing but promising loss to Wisconsin, face off against one of the most storied and interesting programs in the Football Championship Subdivision in the Fordham Rams.

We’re a long ways from the legendary Seven Blocks of Granite, considered one of the greatest offensive line units of all time, but Fordham’s impact on the small program landscape is immense. Although not in the Ivy League, they’re credited with popularizing the term ‘ivy’ to denote a historic, elite private school located in the US’s northeast.

Game notes

  • Time and date: Saturday, September 9 at 6 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required)
  • Location: UB Stadium in Buffalo, New York
  • All-time series: Buffalo leads Fordham by a 2-1 margin
  • Last meeting: Buffalo won by a margin of 49-13 in their last matchup in 1995.
  • Current streak: Buffalo (2, 1993-present)

They play in the Patriot League, often considered the Ivy League for small-i ivies (as opposed to the big-I Ivies.) Unlike the Ivy League, the Patriot League participates in the FCS playoffs, and also unlike the Ivies, the Patriots give out athletic scholarships; however, Fordham voted to do so before the rest of the conference did, which meant that during the 2010-13 seasons, the Rams were ineligible for the conference championship (although they were so successful during these seasons that they were selected for the playoffs anyway). Their coach during those seasons? Joe Moorhead, current head man at Akron.

Despite playing in the first-ever televised game of American rules football, which they won, and the Seven Blocks of Granite, which claimed Vince Lombardi as a member, Fordham has canceled their football program five times. The fifth time lasted from the late 1950s to the late 1960s, when students, similar to what Massachusetts Institute of Technology students would do a decade later, decided to resurrect the program as a club sport in the hopes to use that as a platform to convince the administration to make it a varsity sport again. The ploy worked, and after a stint in Division III, the Rams joined the FCS in 1989, where they’ve played ever since.

Their biggest rivals are Holy Cross, although they used to have a trophy game with Manhattan Ivy rival Columbia called the Liberty Cup, which Columbia cancelled in the mid-2010s after Columbia decided they just weren’t up to snuff.

So Fordham’s been a big deal in yesteryear, but what about the here and now?

Well, they’re coming off a playoff season, and very much looking to return. They haven’t gotten off to the greatest start, with a 13-34 loss to fellow FCS competitor Albany and a 46-16 learnin’ against the doormat Wagner Seahawks. They enter this game in the same position as Buffalo, really. Just as Buffalo is looking to right the ship and enter the rest of their non-conference schedule on a high note, Fordham is looking to show that they can beat teams that have done better than 1-24 since 2020. Helping them in that regard is first year Ram CJ Montes, fresh out of New Mexico. He’s currently a fantastic 67.7 percent through the air for 517 yards, six touchdowns, and zero interceptions. His favorite target is MJ Wright, who has 157 yards on 14 receptions. Also look out for Mekai Felton (seven receptions for 112 yards) and Garrett Cody (six receptions for 102 yards).

Being primarily a passing unit, their running game can be described as middling, with Julius Loughridge being their leading back with 133 yards rushing.

Their true weak link is, however, their defense. They’ve only recorded three sacks and one interception in their past two games, which feels rather lackluster when you’re playing teams like Wagner. Their raw yards allowed is not encouraging, as they have allowed 415.5 yards per game on average so far in the first two contests. Combine that with a 41 percent third-down conversion rate, and it’s a long day at the office for the Rams defense.

Buffalo’s game plan will be simple: target Fordham’s weak secondary and shut down their passing game. Their secondary allows over 13 yards per catch, basically guaranteeing a first down if you can catch them off-guard.

Kick-off is set for this Saturday at 6 p.m. Eastern time, with the streaming-exclusive broadcast on ESPN+.