No Time for Bull-, EMU Opens MAC Play vs. Buffalo
Eastern Michigan looks for first 1-0 start in MAC play since 2016.
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Week 4 Football Preview: Eastern Michigan vs. Buffalo
Saturday, Sept. 24 (Noon, CBS Sports Network)
Eastern Michigan’s off to a very promising start. For the sixth time since 2016, EMU has begun the season with a 2-1 record, and the fourth time it’s done so by beating a Power 5 team along the way.
But the season’s still too young to end there.
For as big of an opponent Arizona State was, Eastern Michigan must prepare to open up MAC play against Buffalo — a program that’s won the MAC East in 2018 and 2020, and one that’s hungry for its first win of the year.
Back in 2018, EMU head coach Chris Creighton knew his team was in for a tough bout against the Bulls after it had just taken down Purdue on the road.
“I've said this before, and absolutely there's no disrespect towards the teams that we've beaten in those big moments, but… when we beat Purdue I said this is going to be a tougher win, going to Buffalo, than Purdue,” Creighton said Monday during the team’s press conference. “Buffalo was going to be ready, they're going to be hungry, it's a conference game, all of those things.”
I’m sure Creighton and his team are hungry for that first MAC win of the year, too.
In the Creighton era, EMU is 1-7 in MAC openers. The last time EMU started its MAC season off 1-0 was in 2016 when the Eagles beat Bowling Green 28-25 on the road. If we’re talking about home MAC openers over the last eight years, then EMU’s record is only improved by just one game: 2-6 in such games.
In the three games that EMU played after beating Power 5 teams, EMU is 1-2. In 2017 after beating Rutgers (and after a bye week), EMU lost to Ohio at home 27-20 in double overtime. In 2018 after the Purdue win, EMU went on the road to lose to Buffalo 35-28. And in 2019, EMU played Central Connecticut to the wire and won 34-29.
“We're capable of playing really good football, but I would also say it has exposed our lack of maturation of a program and we've not been able to handle, you know, some success after some of those monumental wins,” Creighton said. “That's where we're at as a program, or that's where we've been, and that's the challenge we find ourselves in here right now.”
Last 5 vs. Buffalo
2011: EMU 30, Buffalo 17 (home)
2013: Buffalo 42, EMU 14 (away)
2014: EMU 37, Buffalo 27 (home)
2018: Buffalo 35, EMU 28 (away)
2019: Buffalo 43, EMU 14 (home)
EMU beat Buffalo in the two schools’ first meeting in 2001 (24-20) to begin the series with five straight wins. However, since 2013, Buffalo has won the last three of four matchups.
The last time these two schools met was in 2019 when the Bulls came to Ypsilanti as 1-point favorites but ran all over the Eagles with a 29-point victory and out-gained EMU on offense 460-210.
That was years ago though.
Former Buffalo head coach Lance Leipold had the Bulls torching schools on the ground and it's hardly surprising, in hindsight, that EMU was just another casualty in its way.
Leipold, who won six Division III national titles before his call-up to UB in 2015, left for Kansas before the 2021 season, and the new coach is in his sophomore season as a head coach at any level.
A very irregular time for any school to go through too. Maurice Linguist was named the new UB head coach last May and led the team to a 4-8 record (2-6 MAC).
In his first full offseason to build the roster, Linguist grabbed transfers at just about every position possible from the portal to try and give his squad a proper face-lift.
Performance-wise, at 0-3, obviously Buffalo isn’t looking like it wants to. But schematically, is the team playing the way it wants to look? Is there even enough information to properly gauge that?
Creighton certainly thinks there's enough tape on the new-looking team to study.
“We've got three games now, so we really don't spend much time at all anymore on the previous year once you get to three games, Creighton said. “Three games gives you a sample, and those three games: Coastal Carolina is a little bit of its own animal especially when you talk about their offense, and then they had Holy Cross and Maryland. It's not watching six games in the middle of the season or anything like that, there's enough for us to get a beat on their personnel and know what they like to do offensive and defensively.”
On the Bulls
Head coach Maurice Linguist, 2nd year (4-11 record)
Week 1: Maryland 31, Buffalo 10 (at Maryland)
Week 2: Holy Cross 37, Buffalo 31 (at Buffalo)
Week 3: Coastal Carolina 38, Buffalo 26 (at Coastal Carolina)
For as much as Linguist was lauded for his potential as a first-time head coach, he hasn’t exactly put winning results on the field just yet. It is Buffalo though, and comparing Linguist’s resume to Leipold’s is simply not fair. Even if Linguist would’ve walked into a non-transfer-portal-era situation where he could inherit more of Buffalo’s best leftover talent, it’d still be hard to keep the wins rolling at Buffalo.
Still, it’s only a matter of time until everything clicks for Buffalo.
Said Creighton: “I promise you Buffalo is not looking at that as ‘Man, these guys are really good.’ Buffalo is like, ‘Thank God we're in conference play, and let's go!’ I think we're going to be in a good, healthy mindset but you better be.”
#1 WR Justin Marshall: 17 rec., 256 yards, 3 TD
#2 RB Ron Cook Jr.: 34 att., 108 yards (3.2 avg.)
#3 WR Quian Williams: 19 rec., 195 yards, 2 TD
#15 QB Cole Snyder: 70/177 passing (59.8%), 5 TD, 2 INT; 30 rush att., 41 yards (1.4 avg.)
#18 Jamari Gassett: 12 rec., 69 yards
#27 RB Mike Washington: 35 att., 147 yards (4.2 avg.), 1 TD
Quian Williams will return to Ypsilanti for his first game at Rynearson Stadium since he transferred to Buffalo in 2021. Williams was a talented receiver for EMU in 2019 and 2020, and it’s no wonder he’s one of the leading receivers for Buffalo again. Justin Marshall, Louisville transfer, adds size (6’3) and talent on the other side of the field for Cole Snyder, Rutgers transfer, to throw to. Snyder’s not an elite athlete, but his dual-threat ability and his decision-making in the read-option game make him tough to defend. The Buffalo run game is not up the level that it enjoyed back when Jaret Patteson was toted the rock.
Said Creighton: “We've got to defend the whole field. Not only do they have Q (Quian Williams), but they've got a transfer, longer wide receiver from Louisville, lot of speed in the slot, running backs that are talented and run really hard. They're big up front. It's, again, another game where they're not going to be one-dimensional and trigger man can be a part of that game both in the run and in the pass.”
#3 S Keyshawn Cobb: 14 tackles (9 solo), 1 PBU
#8 LB James Patterson: 29 tackles (17 solo, 3 TFL), 1 QB hurry, 1 fumble recovery
#10 S Marcus Fuqua: 12 tackles (11 solo), 1 INT, 1 PBU
#52 LB Shaun Dolac: 26 tackles (18 solo, 1 sack), 1 PBU, 1 forced fumble
#53 DE CJ Bazile: 12 tackles (3 solo), 1 QB hurry
#95 DT Daymond Williams: 5 tackles (3 TFL, 1 sack)
Defensively, Buffalo’s off to a really rough start. It’s allowed at least 30 points in each of its three games, and has allowed 7.8 yards per play, the MAC’s lowest mark so far. There are still a lot of moving parts in Buffalo’s coaching staff figuring out answers for both the long and short terms, but one holdover from the Leipold era has been James Patterson, twin brother of former RB Jaret Patterson. The defensive-playing brother has been a leader for the team for a long time now, and he’s leading the team in tackles for his third year in a row.
Said Creighton: “Defensively, we've watched the whole games and we watched cut-ups, we're in the middle of all of that right now. They are, they just, there are lots of different movements and coverages, pressure, twitchy, run really hard, play physical — no physical in terms of like big, not moveable kind of thing, but when they're bringing it they're bringing it. They're explosive is what I would say. Getting in and out of man and zone, playing in both even and odd fronts, again another big puzzle that we're going to have to figure out here pretty soon and how we're going to attack them.”
Week 4 MACtion Schedule & Picks Against the Spread
I didn’t start doing weekly picks against the spread until last week. It’s something I haven’t really done before, and I’ve decided to give it a try this year. So far, the results are exactly what you’d expect!
My record ATS: 4-7
Last week’s wins: Miami +22.5 vs. Cincinnati, Ball State -20.5 vs. Murray State, Pitt -11 at Western Michigan, and Tennessee -47 vs. Akron.
Last week’s losses: Not worth reading, IMO.
I’ve never claimed to be an expert at this, and we’ll see how this goes throughout the year. It doesn’t matter, I’ll never say that my picks are advice for you, but if you would’ve put your money on the games I got right and none of the games I got wrong, then maybe you could say this is helpful advice?
Whatever. Let’s ignore the records and go undefeated today.
Saturday, Sept. 24
Kent State at Georgia (Noon, ESPN+)
ATS pick: Georgia -44. No betting advice here, but some life advice for Kent State: stop doing these games.
Central Michigan at Penn State (Noon, Big Ten Network)
ATS pick: Penn State -24.5. CMU’s offense is having a moment and I doubt Penn State’s going to give CMU much room to figure things out on the fly. Penn State’s been winning big so far, and it’s trying to impress the CFP Committee as much as possible with another big win over a MAC team that’s, well, usually better than what we’ve seen so far.
Bowling Green at Mississippi State (Noon, SEC Network)
ATS pick: Mississippi State -29. Conventional wisdom this week said that Bowling Green could cover 29 of Mississippi State, which is where they get ya.
Fordham at Ohio (2 p.m., ESPN+)
ATS pick: Fordham +17.5. Fordham’s 3-0 with two quality road wins (48-31 at Wagner), at Monmouth (52-49), and home to Albany (48-45). I could be talked into Fordham outright if Ohio doesn’t show up playing its A-game.
Toledo at San Diego State (3:30 p.m., FS1)
ATS pick: Toledo -2. This is probably a trap. I feel like this is a classic “if Toledo just has some explosive plays on offense, then it’ll simply out-score Opponent X by 20 points” game. I keep taking Toledo in these games and I don’t know why.
Akron at Liberty (6 p.m., ESPN+)
ATS pick: Akron +24.5. Why not?
Ball State at Georgia Southern (6 p.m. ESPN+)
ATS pick: Georgia Southern -9.5. I don’t know if Ball State’s going to reach its potential on offense yet. I feel like there have been enough squandered opportunities to not feel confident in Ball State at Georgia Southern, which recently took down Nebraska. Plus, Georgia Southern QB Kyle Vantrease is a Buffalo transfer. You don’t think he wants to destroy Ball State’s defense?
Northern Illinois at Kentucky (7 p.m., ESPN2)
ATS pick: Kentucky -24.5. Kentucky’s one of those SEC teams that’s in the hunt for “definitive, third-best team in the league” and Vanderbilt already set the market at “you have to beat NIU better than 38-28, at home.” If NIU’s defense doesn’t wake up, Kentucky’s offense will probably light things up offensively.
Miami at Northwestern (7:30 p.m., BTN)
ATS pick: Miami +6.5. Northwestern’s newfound tempo rate on offense is very odd, and I think part of Northwestern trying to run tempo on offense without all of the talent you need to do it well is that you’ll end up losing games like this. Or at least come close.
Western Michigan at San Jose State (10:30 p.m., CBS Sports Network)
ATS pick: WMU +3. I’m putting my chip on Western’s defense to keep things tight, and maybe just maybe Lester’s got a game plan that his offense can run with some efficiency this week.