It’s time for MACtion!
Coming off a huge upset victory over the BIG 10’s Northwestern, Miami (2-2) will ride its momentum into Buffalo (1-3) to begin Mid-American Conference (MAC) play this Saturday. In the preseason, 20/24 voters chose the RedHawks to represent the MAC East Division in the conference championship at the end of the year.
The RedHawks are a MAC-best 30-12 in their last 42 games against conference opponents, including winning four of their last six games versus the Bulls. However, the ‘Hawks have not won in Upstate New York since 2016.
The ‘Hawks have won three-straight MAC openers since 2019. However, the home team is the 1.5-point favorite. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, the Bulls have a 64.4% chance of winning.
The last time the two squads met ended in a 45-18 Miami victory at Yager Stadium. Quarterback Brett Gabbert threw a 58-yard touchdown on their first offensive play. He was impressive throughout, completing 21/28 passes for 351 yards and four touchdowns.
Unfortunately, Gabbert will not suit up for the RedHawks as his injury suffered in week one still has no timetable for return. In his place has been Aveon Smith.
Smith is 2-1 as the starter, however, the redshirt freshman is a less efficient thrower than Gabbert. At Northwestern, he averaged 3.3 yards per pass while connecting on 7/19 tosses, far less than the 200 to 400-yard passing days we commonly saw from Gabbert.
Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin understands Smith’s limitations and decided to call run plays more than double the time as passing ones.
“Staying ahead of the chains for our offense is important,” Martin said Monday. “It’s important for any offense, but it’s more important when you have an inexperienced quarterback. You’re not quite as explosive as you may be if you had a more experienced guy like Brett back there.”
The run-heavy game plan for the RedHawks prevailed in Evanston. Running back Keyon Mozze carried the ball 21 times for 171 yards, including breaking one for 66 yards in the fourth quarter that set up a Smith score.
The ‘Hawks should look to pound the rock in Buffalo, as the Bulls allow a horrendous 181.5 rushing yards per game (108th in the country).
Buffalo’s offense is the opposite. The Bulls dropped a 50 bomb on Eastern Michigan last week, only sending out the punter once.
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Bulls quarterback Cole Snyder has come alive with seven touchdowns in his last three games after a dud performance at Maryland. Also, the team records 131.8 yards per game on the ground.
“They do all the things great offenses do,” Martin said.
However, Buffalo might be in for a Snyder-dependent Saturday afternoon. The RedHawks are sneakily the nation’s 11th-best run defense, only giving up 83.5 yards.
Last weekend, the ‘Hawks held Wildcat running back Evan Hull, who previously averaged 217 all-purpose yards per game, to 62 rushing yards and ten receiving on receptions.
The Bulls' only win so far in 2022 occurred when Snyder threw the ball the least, and the ground game produced almost 100 yards.
It takes a lot of preparation before a matchup against a Power-Five team. Following a win at Northwestern, there is speculation that the RedHawks could take their foot a bit off the gas against a MAC opponent.
However, RedHawk offensive lineman Reid Holskey assured the press on Monday that the team is not going to that Saturday lightly.
“Buffalo’s gonna be a good team,” Holskey said. “We have no intention of coming into a game feeling any less motivated to play than the week before.”
Buffalo started their conference play early with a win over the Eagles. All it takes for the RedHawks is to win over the Bulls, and they can begin the rest of the schedule 1-0 in the MAC East Division.
Kickoff is underway this Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EST on ESPN+.