Ball State vs. Buffalo prediction and game preview. Projecting who will win between the Cardinals and Bulls in Saturday’s MAC contest.
Ball State vs. Buffalo Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 15 – 3:30 p.m. ET
Where: UB Stadium, Buffalo, NY.
TV Broadcast: ESPN3
Ball State’s strong start in non-conference play hasn’t transferred over as back-to-back losses by a combined 10 points have made for a frustrating beginning to MAC action. The issues have come on both sides of the ball at separate times, with the defense failing the Cardinals against Northern Illinois and the offense sputtering in last week’s loss at Central Michigan.
Buffalo’s offense has been a problem all year. The 1-4 Bulls have one of the worst units in the country – No. 127 in total offense out 128 – and haven’t gone over 400 total yards against an FBS opponent. They’ll try to avoid a third straight blowout loss on the season as these teams meet for the first time since 2011.
What to Know About Ball State
The Cardinals won three of their first four games, then let previously winless Northern Illinois rack up 653 yards of offense in a 31-24 defeat on Oct. 1, despite forcing three turnovers. They defended better last week against Central Michigan, but they finished with a season-low 340 yards offensively as Riley Neal’s two interceptions canceled out James Gilbert’s 141-yard, two-touchdown effort on the ground.
The biggest bright spot over Ball State’s last two games has been Gilbert, who had 119 yards and three touchdowns against NIU. His eight touchdowns lead the MAC and his 20.5 attempts per game are second in the conference. Gilbert should exceed that mark against a Buffalo defense that ranks 125th in FBS in rush defense allowing 271.2 rush yards per game.
What to Know About Buffalo
The Bulls’ rushing defense has been bad, but their offense has been even worse. They rank second-to-last in the FBS in total yards per game with 293.6 and in scoring with an average of 15.2 points. Buffalo has the fewest plays of at least 10 yards in the nation with 46 and finished with 67 total yards in a 35-3 loss to Boston College on Oct. 1, its fewest in 18 years.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Tyree Jackson has been given the keys to the offense as he tries to get it done through the air and on the ground, ranking second on the team in rushing. Jackson has seven total touchdowns, but he’s going to need some help from running back Jordan Johnson, who’s averaging just 3.6 yards per carry, to take advantage of a Ball State defense that has been prone to giving up yards on the ground.
Offense: Ball State – Gilbert has helped make up for Neal’s inconsistency.
Defense: Ball State – The Bulls’ very poor run defense is the difference even though Buffalo is allowing fewer total yards per game.
Special Teams: Ball State – Buffalo has punted plenty, and it’s giving up the second-most yards per return in the MAC.
Coaching: Even – Mike Neu is in his first season with Ball State and Lance Leipold is in his second year trying to turn around Buffalo.
Intangibles: Even – These schools haven’t met in five years despite playing in the same conference.
Matchup To Watch
Gilbert vs. Buffalo’s run defense
Ball State will likely go to Gilbert early and often to see if the Bulls’ inability to stop the run is as bad as it’s looked on film. If he gets going, it could turn into a laugher quickly.
Spread: Ball State -10
Ball State vs. Buffalo Prediction
Gilbert runs for 170 yards and three touchdowns, the Bulls are held to fewer than 200 yards of offense and Ball State covers the spread easily.
Ball State vs. Buffalo final score prediction: Ball State 38, Buffalo 7