College Football is (almost) finally back! Ben Roush of Hustle Belt joined us to help celebrate and analyze the MSU-WMU showdown. We traded questions about the two teams and my responses can be found here. Let's begin...
1. Let's start with the man in charge, head coach PJ Fleck. He was able to engineer an incredible turnaround in year two and it looks like he can take the program even further this season. What has he meant to the program?
PJ Fleck has brought about a completely rejuvenated Western Michigan. Things were beginning to go a bit stale in the last couple seasons of former coach Bill Cubit (yup, that Bill Cubit), and Fleck has been the exact 180 of that. His recruiting has been off the charts (even with his terrible first season) and fan interest is booming. He's got a lot more to prove out on the field, but he definitely has the Broncos pointed in the right direction.
2. What do you expect the atmosphere to be like in Kalamazoo Friday night? It's not every day that an in-state power with playoff aspirations comes to town for a game under the lights.
It's going to be electric on Friday. Bronco fans are excited enough for the season as is, and like you said, introduce a top-10 opponent and people are going to go nuts. I'm very curious as to what the crowd split will be. I definitely expect a lot of Spartans. I'm sure a lot of Broncos don't expect to win, but they'll be out in force for a game like this.
3. The Broncos sport an impressive group of offensive skill players with Zach Terrell, Jarvion Franklin and Corey Davis making up a great set of "triplets". How critical are they to this seasons success?
It's pretty special to have all three of those guys at the same time. And I think they'll be able to feed off each others' successes. If somebody loads up the box to stop Franklin, Corey Davis will make you pay over the top. If Terrell hits a few passes in quick succession on a drive, Franklin will be able to grab a few long-distance runs as the defense adjusts. If they can replicate last year's output - and there's really no reason to assume otherwise - those three will win the Broncos a lot of football games.
4. Defensively, the team did well against lower tier opponents but struggled against teams like Air Force, Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech. What needs to change for that group to take a step forward?
Our d-line is undersized, and Fleck determining a work-around for that is going to be critical. We are returning a lot of our d-linemen though, and they're lightning fast. Hopefully those factors are an improvement in the aggregate for stopping the run. In terms of pass defense, this season we lost two defensive backs who made NFL rosters. Long story short, it won't be easy to get over the hump defensively against teams like Northern Illinois and this unit will certainly have a trial-by-fire on Friday.
5. Is there anyone aside from the triplets MSU fans should look out for on either side of the ball?
In The Only Podcast, I mentioned Daniel Braverman, and I want to bring him up again. He had the 5th most receiving yards in the MAC last year (Davis was 1st). Really quick dude who will make guys miss out of the slot. He might even run a jet-sweep our two. On defense, Ronald Zamort is a fantastic senior corner who started the past two years. (His first start was against MSU back in 2013, funny enough.) He racked up 4 picks last year, including one against Virginia Tech. Definitely Western's lock-down guy.
6. As the law clearly states, you must give us your keys to the game and make a prediction.
Western can not turn the ball over. As an underdog, that's kind of obvious. The Broncos will need every possession they can to stay in this. Also, the Broncos can't get disheartened if the running game isn't producing. In other words, WMU success relies on Zach Terrell's consistency. For the Spartans, all you have to do is keep grinding. I think Western will keep it close for longer than people expect, but with superior size, MSU will be able to break off some big plays later on. Final score?
MSU 31 - WMU 34. Sorry, my Bronco heart got the better of me there. Let's go with MSU 38 - WMU 21.
Thanks again to Ben Roush for answering our questions!