Buffalo Preview: Miami Aims to Clinch Spot in MAC Title Game
By: Jack Mueller
For the second consecutive week, MACtion is coming to Oxford, as the Buffalo Bulls will take on the Miami RedHawks at 7p.m. at Yager Stadium.
The Miami University RedHawks are one win away from securing their place in the MAC Championship at Ford Field in Detroit on December 2nd. A win against Buffalo tomorrow or against Ball State the following week will set up a rematch between the RedHawks and the Toledo Rockets.
Miami has been dominant in the MAC in 2023, building a 5-1 record to this point. Their lone loss was against the aforementioned Rockets, who stole a win at Yager Stadium by four points after the RedHawks came up just short after Brett Gabbert went down with injury.
Buffalo has been just okay in the MAC, as they’ve played their way to a 3-3 record so far, but 4 non conference losses, including an opening week loss to #17 Wisconsin, makes their record look a little more grisly than it is at 3-7.
The stats speak for themselves, the Redhawks boast the second best offensive and defensive unit in the conference, scoring ten points more on average than they allow. The Bulls come to Oxford in a very different situation, as they have ranked in the bottom half of the conference on both sides of the football (7th Offense, 9th Defense)
Buffalo will be looking to bounce back from back to back conference losses against Toledo and Ohio University, but will face a Miami team on a roll, bouncing back from their sole loss to beat Akron and Ohio in consecutive weeks. The RedHawks have been strong at home, boasting a 3-1 record at Yager Stadium in 2023, and will aim to continue the formidable run on Wednesday night.
Players To Watch:
Devin Grant (Soph. S)
The Bull’s defense has been a weakness for Buffalo and is one of the main reasons they are not in the hunt for the Championship game, but Grant has been a bright spot. The sophomore safety has been a ballhawk in 2023, leading the MAC in interceptions with five so far, to go along with 39 tackles which ranks second on the Bulls defense. The Redhawks pass game has slowed down in recent weeks without Brett Gabbert, so look for Grant to try to make plays on downs where the Redhawks may be forced to pass. Aveon Smith has done a great job preventing picks in his limited action so far (0 INT's in 40 attempts), but if Buffalo can slow down the run game and force Chuck Martin to pass the ball, Grant will no doubt be watching like a hawk.
Darrell Harding/Marlyn Johnson (Senior WR’s)
It didn’t seem fair to pick just one of the Bulls experienced receiving duo, so it would be wise to keep an eye out for both players on offense tomorrow night. Harding (362 yards) leads a receiving core that has five players with over 200 yards this season, with Johnson following closely behind with 335 yards so far. Both guys have seen their production dip in recent weeks as the Bulls form has taken a dive, but they both have shown flashes of dominance this season, especially Johnson (7 rec. 105 yds 2 TD’s vs. Fordham). Buffalo’s rushing attack has been largely ineffective so far (9th in MAC) so the pass game will be key for the Bulls at Yager Stadium. Quarterback Cole Snyder has been really struggling in recent weeks, failing to put up more than 200 yards in the air since October 7th against Central Michigan. If Buffalo continues to struggle on the ground and in the air, then the Redhawks strong defense will be dominant against another MAC opponent, so look to Snyder to go to his experienced receiving duo to try and get something going through the air attack.
Rashad Amos (RS Soph. RB)
Miami’s lead back may seem like a cop-out of a pick after his huge game last week against Akron. Against the Zips, Amos was nothing short of spectacular, putting up 118 yards and two scores in just 15 touches. The sophomore has seen his touches skyrocket in recent weeks as Miami Head Coach Chuck Martin has turned to the run game in the absence of the Redhawks star Quarterback. Amos has seen double-digit touches in every outing since September 23rd against Delaware St. including 21 touches vs Ohio and 18 against Bowling Green. Expect to see the same level, if not more, reliance on the run game against a Buffalo rush defense that has ranked 11th in the MAC this season.
Raion Strader (Fr. CB)
Miami’s defense has been spectacular in 2023, and playmakers Matt Salopek, Ty Wise and Brian Ugwu have deservedly received praise for their dominance. However the often unsung heroes of this unit has been the secondary. Yasyn McKee and Jacquez Warren have been incredibly productive upperclassmen, and McKee has made headlines for his clutch interceptions against Cincinnati and Akron. But Raion Strader has often gone unnoticed this season so far, and it’s a mystery as to why. The true freshman has been quietly outstanding for the RedHawks, breaking up the second most passes in the MAC with 12, and adding 44 tackles, good enough for 5th on the team. With this Buffalo team likely going to the air more often than not against the Redhawks dominant rush defense, look for Strader to continue his strong season.
Miami University RedHawks vs Buffalo Bulls
Yager Stadium, Oxford OH, 7p.m.
Where to Watch: ESPN2
Forecast: Clear Skies, ~45℉
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