The longest break in Miami’s football schedule this season will end Tuesday..
After nine days off following a non-conference overtime loss at Army, Miami will resume Mid-American Conference action at East Division-leading Buffalo (7-1, 4-0). Kickoff is set for 8 p.m., and the game is will be televised on ESPN2.
The game is the first of four midweek games to end the regular season for Miami (3-5, 3-1), which is tied with Ohio for second place in the East, a game behind the Bulls. The RedHawks are scheduled t will meet the Bobcats on Nov. 7, followed by a long trip to DeKalb, Ill., for a game against West Division-leading Northern Illinois on Nov. 14 and the regular-season finale at home against Ball State on Nov. 20
“Obviously, this is a huge game in the MAC East,” RedHawks coach Chuck Martin said. “Anytime you play a team in the East and can pin a loss on them is huge.”
The Bulls only loss has been to Army, the same team Miami lost to on Oct. 20 at West Point. Buffalo is 7-1 for the first time in school history, a slate of wins that includes the program’s first victory over a Big Ten team (Rutgers). A win would boost the Bulls to 5-0 in the conference for the first time since 2013 and keep them in the driver’s seat for their first division championship since 2008, which also is the year they won their only conference title.
Martin pointed out that he’s learned how quickly the picture can change in the MAC. He learned that first-hand in 2016 when his RedHawks reeled off six straight wins to finish tied with Ohio foe the East Division championship. The Bobcats went to that season’s MAC Championship game by virtue of their win over Miami.
Akron’s 2017 team is another example. The Zips looked like they were in trouble after losing, 24-14, at Miami to slip to 4-2 in the conference, one game behind 5-1 Ohio with two to play. They rebounded to edge Ohio and beat Kent State, clinching the division title when the Bobcats also lost at Buffalo.
“They next thing you know, they’re playing for the conference championship,” Martin said. “They kept on playing and kept on winning. In this league, you’ve got to keep playing. You’ve got to keep grinding. Things can change in a hurry in this league.”
Quarterback Tyree Jackson, a 6-foot-7 junior, leads Buffalo’s offense. He ranks second in the MAC with an average of 231.6 passing yards per game but he poses a dual threat to defenses, Martin said.
“He’s got a crazy strong arm,” Martin said. “He makes big plays with his arm and his feet. He can throw it over your head, and he can also adlib. He can take off out of the pocket and hurt you. A lot of people thought they’ve got the best offensive player in the league in Johnson.”
While Jackson is dangerous, defense is Buffalo’s strength. The Bulls lead the MAC in scoring and total defense.
“They don’t give up a lot of points and they create a ton of turnovers,” Martin said. “There’s a reason why they only have one loss and have beaten some good people.
“They have had a really good year. They were hitting their stride late last year and kept moving forward. They’re looking good. It doesn’t look like they’re going to get too many losses. This is a huge game on the road against a really good team. It would be a huge win and put us in a good position for the final three weeks.”