After going 1-3 against what has to be one of most rugged non-conference schedules of any Football Bowl Subdivision team, the Miami RedHawks enter what could be considered their Season of Redemption – also known as the Mid-American Conference schedule.
Winning their first outright MAC East Division championship since 2010 certainly would salve some of the sting left by getting pummeled by their three FBS non-conference opponents, two of which (Ohio State and Iowa) are ranked in the Associated Press Top 25. The three have a combined 10-1 record with the only loss being Cincinnati’s at Ohio State.
Miami can get a good start on that quest with a win on Saturday at Yager Stadium against defending division-champion Buffalo. Kickoff is scheduled for noon.
Buffalo (2-2) is coming off a 38-22 win over Temple in which the Bulls defense forced five Owl turnovers and limited them to 31 rushing yards. For the second time in three weeks, Buffalo senior safety Joey Banks was named the MAC East Defensive Player of the Week. Banks logged six tackles, all solo, and returned an interception 46 yards for a touchdown – Buffalo’s first pick six since the 2015 season.
“They hit their defensive stride last week,” Miami coach Chuck Martin said. “Five turnovers are huge. They’re always aggressive – attacking, going north and south.”
Buffalo’s defense is allowing opponents averages of 321.8 total offense yards and 83.3 rushing yards per game. Both are lowest in the MAC. The Bulls rank second with an average of 28.0 points allowed per game.
»RELATED: MAC Standings
Miami’s offense is generating averages of 20.0 points per game, ninth in the 12-team MAC, and 95.8 yards per game, 10th in the conference. As if that isn’t a strong-enough suggestion that the RedHawks might have difficulty running the ball, they still might be missing three offensive linemen who were projected to be regulars in fifth-year senior right tackle Matt Skibinski, fourth-year junior left tackle Tommy Doyle and third-year sophomore left guard Pete Nank.
The Bulls offense is led by the MAC’s second-best rushing attack. Sophomore Jaret Patterson ranks third in the conference with an average of 90.8 rushing yards per game. Classmate Kevin Marks is right behind with an average of 79.8 rushing yards per game. Ground-game production takes some pressure off the shoulders of redshirt freshman quarterback Matt Myers, who has thrown for five touchdowns.
Buffalo was picked to finish third in the East behind projected-champion Ohio and second-place Miami. After playing the Bulls, the RedHawks get a week off before playing at Western Michigan and Oct. 12 and facing defending West-champion Northern Illinois on Oct. 19 in Oxford.
Martin described this year’s Buffalo team as “very similar” to previous editions. Miami leads the overall series, 14-7, but the Bulls have won five of the last seven games.
“We play each other every year,” he said. “We know each other pretty well.”
Certain to come up around the Miami program this week is last year’s game, won 51-42 by the Bulls at Buffalo. The RedHawks led, 21-14, early in the second quarter before Buffalo scored three unanswered touchdowns to open up a 35-21 lead. Miami fought back to forge a 42-42 tie going into the fourth quarter, but the Bulls scored the last 10 points of a game that lasted almost four hours and featured a combined 958 yards of total offense.
“If we win, we finish 7-1 and they’re 6-2,” Martin said. “We lost, so they were 7-1 and we were 6-2. We have to keep reminding them that, ‘That team kept you from getting where you want to go.’”
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