TOLEDO ROCKETS AT BUFFALO BULLS (-8.5, 54)
As mentioned, this is a matchup of two teams that love to run the football. The Rockets rank 14th in the nation, averaging 246.6 yards per game on the ground, while Buffalo is just behind at 226.5 per contest, good for 17th in the country. And both teams rank in the top 17 when it comes to percentage of run plays called.
But sometimes it takes the Bulls a little while to get rumbling. Buffalo ranks 127th in the country when it comes to first quarter scoring, at just 2.9 per contest. In fact, the Bulls have scored just three points at home in the first quarter this season.
Not that the Rockets do much better on the road. Toledo manages just 3.5 first quarter points per game when on the road this season. With the commitment to the run game by both teams and the propensity for slow starts, we like the first quarter in this one to be a low-scoring one.
Pick: Under 12.5 First Quarter Total
FIRST HALF BET
While Buffalo struggles to get rolling, once the Bulls start rumbling, they are hard to stop. And they usually start rumbling in the second quarter. While Buffalo ranks 127th in first quarter points per game, they are the 10th best team in the country when it comes to second quarter scoring.
They do that thanks to their dynamic-duo at running back in Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks. Patterson, a sophomore out of Maryland, has rushed for 1,136 yards at a rate of 5.1 yards per carry and notched seven touchdowns. While Marks, another sophomore, has 783 yards at a clip of 4.3 yards per carry with six scores.
With Toledo giving up 5.4 yards per carry, we like the Bulls to exceed their reasonable first half team total.
Pick: Buffalo Over 15.5 First Half Team Total
FULL GAME TOTAL
Now, where these teams drastically differ is on the defensive side of the ball. Buffalo’s defense ranks in the top 10 when it comes to total yards allowed and fifth against the run, allowing just 88.7 yards per contest. They also lead the MAC in scoring defense allowing just 23.1 points per game.
It could be even tougher for the Rockets to score if star running back Bryant Koback is out. Koback, who has 1,066 yards and 12 total touchdowns, only had two carries last time out and his status is up in the air. While Toledo has a more than capable backup in Shakif Seymour, if the Bulls can stifle the run game a lot of pressure will be on backup quarterback Eli Peters. The junior is completing just 59 percent of his passes this season.
But Buffalo is also on their second quarterback of the season as Kyle Vantrease has had to step in for injured starter Matt Myers. Vantrease is completing just 58 percent of his throws for the season.
So, to recount. We’ve got two run heavy teams, who love playing the time of possession game, with backup quarterbacks. While the Toledo defense is not good, it should do just enough to keep this one under the number.
Pick: Under 54
FULL GAME SIDE
Everyone knows how this game will be decided, as this game features the most talented running backs in the conference. So, with homefield advantage and a big edge in defense, Buffalo is a good bet to come out victorious in this one. But cover the 8.5-points? Considering the bruising-style of this game and the fact both teams will try and milk the clock as much as possible, that could be asking a lot. Add in Buffalo’s inconsistent play this season (the Bulls led Kent State 24-6 in the fourth before a crushing 30-27 defeat as 6-point faves last week) and this is number is just too high. Back the road dog here.
Pick: Toledo +8.5