Why Buffalo Will Win
– Jaret Patterson might be the team’s signature star, but Kevin Marks is a big-time back, too for the nation’s leading rushing attack. He’s bigger than Patterson and can tear off big yards in chunks, running for 510 yards and five scores – averaging 7.5 yards per carry in his five games. That 1-2 rushing punch should be able to go off on a Ball State run defense that’s fine, but can be shoved by anyone who commits to the ground attack.
– Buffalo doesn’t give the ball away. It has only played five games and hasn’t had a whole lot of opportunities to screw up, and it’s been air-tight. There were two turnovers in the win over Northern Illinois to start the season, and that’s been about it with just one giveaway over the last four games.
– Ball State’s offensive line is strong for the running game, but struggles in pass protection. Buffalo isn’t dominant in the backfield, but it brings just enough pressure to be a problem. The UB D has been outstanding on third downs. Get to QB Drew Plitt and slow down the tempo, and the stops will follow.
Why Ball State Will Win
– The offense has found a nice groove. The backs have been there to run in chunks, but without Caleb Huntley over the last three games, the offense has relied even more on QB Drew Plitt, and he came through with 13 touchdown passes on the year while spreading out his five interceptions through five different games. This is an efficient offense that has a knack for coming through when it absolutely has to.
– Can Ball State handle the Buffalo running game? Short answer, sort of. It can get hammered for big yards, but it doesn’t get gouged all that badly. Eastern Michigan was the only team able to rip off enough big runs to be a concern. Everyone else – including Western Michigan, who committed to the run last week in a 30-27 Ball State win – struggle to get close to five yards per carry. Think bend-but-don’t-often-break with this group.
– Buffalo hasn’t had to throw. It’s not that it can’t, but it hasn’t needed to. Can Ball State make UB have to start pushing the passing game? Kyle Vantrease threw for 353 yards and four touchdowns in the win over Miami University, but that was about it. He hasn’t been all that accurate again everyone else, and he only has two touchdown passes in the other four games. Ball State has to test him.