Bulls, Bobcats battle for MAC East control

Two of the MAC’s top teams will take to the turf Tuesday in a game that has big East division ramifications.

For both Ohio (6-2, 3-1) and Buffalo (6-2, 4-0), a fast start could be the key to determining the winner of the prime-time matchup.

Bobcats quarterback Tyler Tettleton and the Ohio offense have scored on the first possession in six of the past seven outings. Tettleton, a redshirt senior, has thrown for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns over the Bobcats’ past three games. Senior receiver Donte Foster has been Tettleton’s primary target, amassing 383 yards and four touchdowns over the same three-game span.

On the other side, Buffalo is also dominating the first quarter. The Bulls have outscored its opponents 51-3 in the first quarter throughout the team’s six-game winning streak. In eight outings this season, the Bulls have scored 32 touchdowns, a tally that matches the team’s season total a year ago.

Buffalo has leaned on running back Branden Oliver to find success on offense. The senior has 74 carries for 401 yards and five touchdowns in the team’s past two games.

The Bulls might also have the best defensive player on the field Tuesday. Applying pressure to Tettleton will be one of the nation’s premier pass-rushers, Khalil Mack, who leads the MAC in tackles for loss and ranks second in the league in sacks. Mack captains a Bulls defense that is second in the conference in third-down defense, while the Ohio offense ranks No. 1 in the MAC with a 49 percent third-down conversion rate. Buffalo’s opportunistic defense is second in FBS in turnover margin, having converted 15 forced turnovers into a total of 89 points.

Ohio has its own standout defensive linemen in Tarell Basham and Ty Branz. The Bobcats defense has tallied 28 total sacks this season, 20 of which were accumulated over the past four games.

Buffalo’s 6-2 record that is the team’s best start since 1986. The Bulls’ only losses of the year were on the road at Ohio State and Baylor to begin the season.

Tuesday night will mark the 20th meeting between the two teams, with the Bobcats owning a 12-7 all-time series edge. An Ohio win would move the Bobcats into a first-place tie with the Bulls in the MAC East.

Last season, Ohio rallied from a 14-point first quarter deficit to edge Buffalo in Athens 38-31 en route to 9-4 record and an AdvoCare V100 Independence Bowl victory. Buffalo finished 2012 with a record of 4-8.