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Fighting the Falcons for a MAC East title

Buffalo, Bowling Green meet on Black Friday with East title on the line

Sports Editor

Published: Sunday, November 24, 2013

Updated: Sunday, November 24, 2013 14:11

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Courtesy of BGSU Athletics

Bowling Green sophomore wide receiver Ryan Burbrink has 26 catches for 425 yards and a touchdown this season. He’ll pose a deep threat for Bulls corners Najja Johnson and Cortney Lester.

Buffalo football is in unfamiliar territory.

For the first time since 2008, the Bulls are one win away from the Mid-American Conference Championship game.

There may not be an official ‘playoff’ system in college football, but Friday night’s matchup at Ralph Wilson Stadium is essentially a MAC semifinal.

The Bulls (8-3, 6-1 MAC) face Bowling Green (8-3, 6-1 MAC) for the right to challenge No. 16 Northern Illinois (11-0, 7-0 MAC) for the title.

Each team’s lone conference loss came to Toledo (7-4, 5-2 MAC).

As opposed to Buffalo’s key contributors, who are thoroughly experienced, many of Bowling Green’s dangerous players are getting minutes for the first time in their college careers.

Sophomore quarterback Matt Johnson has thrown for 2,308 yards and 14 touchdowns this season. He had only 28 pass attempts last season, but has thrown for over 200 yards in nine of 11 games this year and ranks second in the MAC in passing.

Travis Greene, another sophomore, leads Bowling Green’s ground attack. Greene has recorded 1,167 yards and seven touchdowns after having only one carry last season. He’s averaging 6.1 yards per carry and has gone for over 110 yards in six of his last eight games.

Johnson’s favorite target is senior wide receiver Shaun Joplin. Joplin leads the Falcons in receptions (39) and yards (635) and has two touchdowns.

The Falcons are the only team in the MAC that’s allowed fewer points than Buffalo in conference play. Bowling Green’s ‘D’ has allowed 74 points against conference opponents, compared to Buffalo’s 99. The Falcons’ 14.4 points per game allowed is sixth best in the nation.

The Bulls have made a habit of blowing out teams in conference play and the same goes for the Falcons. Buffalo is tied for first in the MAC with a plus 164-point differential in conference, while Bowling Green is third at plus 145. All six of the Falcons’ MAC wins are by at least 19 points, including three consecutive victories of at least 40 points.

Buffalo has won eight of its last nine, with seven of its victories by at least 20 points.

Senior linebacker Khalil Mack is 2.5 tackles for loss from the NCAA’s all-time record, after earning the forced fumble record last week.

Senior running back Branden Oliver is just 20 yards from surpassing the program record for rushing yards in a season – breaking his own record of 1,395 from 2011. He is also eight yards from scrimmage from being the first player in school history to record two 1,500-yard seasons and is two touchdowns shy of the single-season rushing touchdown record.

Sophomore quarterback Joe Licata has already thrown for the second-most touchdowns in program history (21) and is just four shy of Drew Willy’s record of 25. His favorite target, senior wide receiver Alex Neutz, has tied a career-high in touchdowns (11) and is two from tying Naaman Roosevelt for the school record in a single season. Neutz already owns Buffalo’s all-time receiving touchdown record.

The Bulls are 5-0 in home games this season, and even though they face Bowling Green at Ralph Wilson Stadium, it is technically a home game. Kickoff is set for 1:30 p.m. on Friday and the game will air on ESPNU.

Predictions

Bowling Green at Buffalo (+1)

@aaroncmansfield (9-2): Buffalo – Buffalo has home field and experience. Oliver, Neutz and Mack have fought for a shot at the title for four years. They’ll get it.

@owenobri (8-3): Bowling Green –Buffalo’s lack of playing in a close game since Stony Brook scares me. This will be the Falcons’ ‘coming out party’ as a top MAC program.

@jgags15 (8-3): Bowling Green –The Bulls are 0-1 against competent MAC opponents this year. After Friday, they’ll be 0-2.

@bentarhan (7-4): Bowling Green –For the first time in conference play this season, the Bulls are facing a defense better than their own. I’m hoping for a snow bowl.

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