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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, Nov. 10, 3:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: UB Stadium (29,013) -- Buffalo, New York. Television: None. Home Record: WMU 3-2, Buffalo 2-3. Away Record: WMU 1-4, Buffalo 0-4. Neutral Record: WMU 0-0, Buffalo 0-0. Conference Record: WMU 2-4, Buffalo 1-4. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 5-0.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos continue their late season push for the postseason with a trip to UB Stadium for Mid-American Conference action with the Buffalo Bulls this weekend.
WMU improved to 4-6 its last time out with a 42-31 victory over Central Michigan on the road. The Broncos have to win both of their final two games to finish the regular season with the six wins necessary for bowl eligibility. Bill Cubit has led the program to at least five wins in each of his previous seven seasons as the team's head coach.
Buffalo is a much better team than its 2-7 record indicates. Four of the Bulls' losses have been by one touchdown or less. Coach Jeff Quinn's team finally edged an FBS opponent and snapped a six-game losing slide its last time out with a 27-24 win over Miami-Ohio at UB Stadium. The Bulls edged the RedHawks as Patrick Clarke drilled a 47-yard field goal as time expired, which earned him MAC East Special Teams Player of the Week.
This will be just the sixth meeting in history between these MAC foes. WMU has won all five previous encounters, including in 2009 when it escaped the last meeting with a 34-31 victory in an overtime thriller.
The WMU offense has been effective overall this season and ranks in the middle of the conference with averages of 30.5 ppg (sixth) and 445.2 ypg (fifth). The Broncos managed to rack up 512 yards of total offense against CMU their last time out.
Tyler Van Tubbergen has been sporadic as the team's quarterback since taking over the job for the injured Alex Carder earlier in the season. Van Tubbergen set a new career-high with 362 yards on 32-of-51 passing his last time out. He also produced five total TDs and threw just one interception. Van Tubbergen has thrown at least one scoring pass and one interception in every game he has started to arrive at totals of 15 touchdowns and 11 interceptions on the season.
Carder is steadily progressing towards a return. The senior was considered one of the best passers in the league coming into the season. He is questionable for Saturday. Freshman Jaime Wilson has been one of the MAC's busiest receivers this season with 60 catches. He is also among the conference leaders in yards (718) and touchdowns (six), despite struggling over the past few weeks with a groin injury. He and Josh Schaffer (21 catches, 564 yards, three TDs), who is recovering with a toe injury, are both questionable to play on Saturday. With Wilson and Schaffer limited, senior Eric Monette has stepped up to fill the void. Monette has recorded 19 receptions for 338 yards and three TDs in his past two games.
Dareyon Chance (153 carries, 830 yards, four TDs) has provided a 100-yard rushing performance in four different games after tallying 111 yards and three TDs on 19 carries in last week's win over CMU. Brian Fields offers a change of pace in the backfield and has amassed 359 rushing yards and two scores on 69 attempts.
The WMU defense was torched for 31 points and 506 yards of total offense by CMU its last time out. The Broncos still have the fifth best total defense (392.9) in the MAC, but they need to apply more pressure on opposing QBs after recording just one total sack in the past three games.
Johnnie Simon is the heart and soul of the defense with a team-high 88 tackles and one interception. Justin Currie, Terry Easmon, and Desmond Bozeman are all vital role players and each have 63 tackles or more. Although not lately, the unit has shown the ability to pressure opposing passers, with Bozeman (four sacks), Deauntay Legrier (4.5 sacks) and Paul Hazel (four sacks) all charging off the line. Lewis Toler is a playmaker in the secondary with three interceptions and seven pass breakups.
Buffalo's offense has struggled this season due to injuries and turnover issues, but it managed to escape last week's bout with Miami-Ohio victorious despite being without starting QB Alex Zordich. Joe Licata filled in to go 13- of-24 for 127 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Zordich's return this week is questionable as he recovers from a rib injury.
Buffalo is ranked only sixth in the MAC in rushing (193.2 ypg), but it has not had its star tailback Branden Oliver healthy all season. The junior tailback earned the East Division Offensive Player of the Week award for gaining 199 yards and rushing for a score. He also reeled in a touchdown reception.
Freshman running back Devin Campbell carried the load when Oliver was sidelined and could be subbed in if the offense needs a spark. The rookie halfback became the first true freshman with two 100-rushing yard performances in school history by terrorizing Ohio (160 yards) and Pittsburgh (104 yards). He took over the kick returning duties last week while Oliver played the a bigger role in the run game.
Alex Neutz is clearly the favorite target when a Buffalo QB drops back in the pocket. Neutz increased his season totals to 41 receptions, 709 yards, and nine touchdowns (First in MAC) last week versus Miami. Devon Hughes is second to Neutz in each of those categories with 22 catches, 221 yards, and one touchdown.
Buffalo's defense is limiting opponents to 379.3 yards per game, which is the third lowest average in the MAC. However, the Bulls are surrendering 30.9 ppg, which ranks 85th among the 120 teams in the FBS.
Khalil Mack has been a force up front for Buffalo thus far with 14 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks, which lead the team and rank second and seventh on the conference leaderboard, respectively. Mack has also tallied a team-leading 65 total tackles. Colby Way (4.5 sacks) has also been impressive in the pass rush.
Although WMU has much more to play for, Buffalo has been more consistent all season in terms of production. The Bulls are very good at defending against the pass, which could be problematic for Van Tubbergen. Oliver should continue to thrive as the Bulls play for pride.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Buffalo 30, Western Michigan 28
11/07 11:17:24 ET
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