It took five weeks and overtime, but the Buffalo Bulls finally found the win column for the first time last weekend against Akron. Now, with win number one under their belts, the Bulls return home for the first time since week three to play host to Central Michigan. We’ll preview the game before going over why I’ll be backing the road favorite in this one.
Buffalo was not the only team in this matchup to open conference play with a win, as the Central Michigan Chippewas managed to hold on for a 26-23 win over Eastern Michigan to give them a two-game winning streak. After allowing 13 points in the third quarter and falling behind 23-19, Central Michigan got a touchdown run by Marion Lukes in the 4th quarter while holding EMU off the board.
The Chippewas' running game has been the reason for their three-win start to the year and for them being ranked 68th in offensive EPA. Behind Myles Bailey, who leads the team with 305 rushing yards, and quarterback Jase Bauer, who has six rushing touchdowns, the Chippewas are averaging 143 rushing yards per game and rank 57th in EPA per rush plays.
Central Michigan’s run play percentage of 56%, which is the 32nd highest in the country, sets them up well against a Buffalo defense that is 99th in defensive success rate and 98th in EPA per rush play. Before holding Akron to just ten points on Saturday, the Bulls had allowed 38 or more points in the four weeks leading up to that game. The Bulls' front seven stepped up big time in the game, holding Akron to 117 rushing yards while also picking up five sacks.
Interestingly enough, Buffalo’s 13 points on offense was the fewest they’ve scored all season, yet they were all the Bulls needed for their first win. With an average of 23.8 points per game, Buffalo enters this weekend ranked 120th in offensive EPA and 124th in EPA per pass play despite being ranked 30th in pass play percentage.
Whether they’re winning or losing, Buffalo isn’t afraid to drop back with quarterback Cole Snyder, as he is averaging 40.3 attempts per game and has 11 touchdowns to four interceptions.
Central Michigan is currently listed as (-3) point road favorites, and I’ll be backing them for my play. The Chippewas want to run the ball, and they should have a ton of success doing so against the Buffalo defense. With the Bulls allowing an average of 6.6 yards per carry and 231.3 rushing yards per game, I don’t think they’ll be able to contain Chippewas quarterback Jase Bauer and his dual-threat ability.
The CMU defense is certainly not perfect and will allow some points, but the CMU running game has proven more effective than the Buffalo passing game, so I still think the Chippewas can outpace them offensively. For a team that throws the ball a lot, the Bulls are 130th in yards per pass with an average of 5.0, and they rank 101st in offensive success rate on pass plays.
When these two teams met last season, the Chippewas managed to hold Cole Snyder to 191 passing yards and an interception. Meanwhile, the Buffalo defense was dominated by the CMU run game, as the Chippewas finished the day with 303 rushing yards and a 31-27 win. With Buffalo still suffering from the same problems, I think we see a similar outcome to last year’s game on Saturday afternoon.
Central Michigan (-3)