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The Only Questions: Q&A with The Hustle Belt

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It’s week two and The Broncos have it out for our Spartans

Michigan State is 1-0 after beating the Bowling Green Falcons by 25 points in the heart of East Lansing. Most of us probably spent the week celebrating the victory and getting ready for Western Michigan.

Since Michigan State is playing back to back MAC schools to start the year we thought we’d stay consistent and get the official scouting report from James Snyder, of the Hustle Belt.

Many of you will remember him from last week when he broke down the Bowling Green and Sparty game for us. For those of you who don’t then you are in for a real treat!

The Broncos had an amazing 2016 season, finishing 13-0 (8-0 MAC) while also receiving an invitation to the 2017 Cotton Bowl where they came up short against a very good Wisconsin squad. The loss stings but doesn't do anything to distort what the 2016 WMU football team accomplished. They won their first MAC championship since 1988 and experienced their first major bowl game in school history. That being said fourth year Head Coach P.J. Fleck has since moved on and became the new Head Coach for Minnesota. How will Western fare this year following a hard fought loss to No. 4 USC? What does their record look like at seasons end and will they be bowl eligible once again?

The most fun thing about Western Michigan football is that every week is absolutely different from the last. I expect that head coach Tim Lester will focus on the first 56 minutes of the game and ignore the final score. He leads a disciplined squad that will have a short memory for the two recent losses. That being said, I think the loss to USC shows the level of talent the Broncos have, especially in our resilient defense.

I've been a fan of the Broncos for years, so I really want to say they end up 13-1. More realistically, Western Michigan will probably lose two or three winnable games down the stretch. USC may be the toughest test on the schedule, but that means nothing to the Mid-American Conference. I wouldn't be surprised to see the Broncos finish 10-3 (6-2 MAC), a berth to the MAC Championship Game, and a solid bowl bid.

On January 13th, 2017 Western Michigan University hired new Head Coach Tim Lester. What can you tell us about him and how he plans to keep his program moving in the right direction?

Tim Lester is exactly the coach Western Michigan wants and needs right now. He's a Western Michigan alumnus, where he was a Bronco legend at quarterback. Lester coached for 17 years, including six years as head coach. He is currently 40-24 over several levels of football.

As a person, Lester is easy-going in press conferences, but intense with his team. He has the youthful side that comes with energy and empathy with his players. Fortunately for the Bronco fans, Lester isn't trying to shoehorn in new gimmicks like the previous head coach. Lester is a proud alumnus, and it shows. Every time he talks about the University he lights up. The players notice it, and it's contagious.

He has taken a stance of building on the foundation Fleck built, as opposed to starting again from scratch. Lester keeps the program going by relying on the community for support. Selling out is the last thing on his mind. You can see him leading community events, selling old game jerseys to pay for new ones. I think that's what will make him good as a coach. Western Michigan can be made or destroyed by how well Kalamazoo buys into the football program. That's Lester's goal. A full Waldo Stadium is a very tough place to play indeed. Remember 2015, with the sold out crowd against the Spartans? That was fun!

Despite their week one loss Western Michigan did lead the Trojans in team rushing yards (263 yards). They were led by sophomore rusher LeVante Bellamy and Jamauri Bogan. These two combined for 24 carries, 179 yards, and a touchdown. Will the Broncos keep it on the ground against MSU? If so what are the chances they have a big day?

I can almost guarantee a solid rushing attack from the Broncos. Jamauri Bogan and LeVante Bellamy are actually only two parts to a three-headed monster at running back. Jarvion Franklin is the third member. Bellamy, Bogan, and Franklin work in shifts at running back, each working to tear apart the interior of the defenses. Each has their own intangible set of skills that suit them better for different defenses. Last week, Bellamy and Bogan were key. This week, who knows? Franklin may well be better suited. I do not think any one back in particular will have a big day, but the unit as a whole absolutely will.

Now the Broncos have a fantastic running game, but a lot of the credit is due to the offensive line. They move everything in their way, no matter the opponent. They also make a secure pocket, even against a tricky USC defense. Based on the stats from last week, the Broncos are probably concerned about the poor passing performance. I can see them trying new looks against the Michigan State defense, but why fix what isn't broken? They will run a lot, and the results may just surprise you.

In their first outing redshirt freshman Jon Wassink was in at quarterback. He completed 11 passes for 67 yards and one interception. He also caught a touchdown pass and ran another in. What can Spartan fans expect to see from him on Saturday?

Jon Wassink did not exactly have the performance any of us expected from him; that's for certain. In both high school and scrimmages he looked to have a strong, accurate arm. Against USC, he did not look nearly as confident. Several of his passes were dropped or off-target. Quarterback is a mental game, and this is a new week. I see him settling in a bit more with higher-percentage passing and less trickery. I would love for him to get a passing touchdown to add to his rushing and receiving touchdowns.

This Saturday, I expect Wassink to try more passes only if the passing game is working and needed. Again, if rushing is working for the Broncos, why pass? I hope to see at least 150 yards and a touchdown or two passing. Make no mistake, though. If the Spartans bring pressure, he can also burn them on draw plays.

What are three things the Broncos can do to help ensure they walk away with a win this weekend?

First, completely reset from last week. This is a new team, in a new stadium, with new players. There is no room for pregame jitters, carelessness, or looking at Michigan State's record last year. For Western Michigan to be successful, they just have to play this game as if it's just another opponent. Last week was great (for the most part), but arrogance will also lead to demise.

Second, run the ball well. The Broncos have a solid ground game that eats clock and gets results. Don't change what works. Sure, they should work in other plays to keep the Spartans honest, but the Broncos need to stick with what they do best.

Lastly, do not leave points on the board. Tim Lester did a great job last week on getting touchdowns when he could, and try for field goals when he cannot. This week, kicker Josh Grant has to make field goals when he is out there. The Bronco offense has to score when they get the ball. On defense, the Broncos have to hold the Spartan offense out of the end zone.

Last year Western Michigan's best player was Corey Davis, he was taken fifth overall in this years NFL Draft. Who do you think replaces him this year? Why?

I was hoping for a more clear answer, but last week did not clarify this much for me. First of all, huge congratulations are due to Corey Davis on all of his accomplishments. Secondly, the problem isn't simply who is next up. Our three most productive receivers graduated.

The next few receivers did see game time, but mostly it was garbage time or giving the starters a brief water break.This year, it will probably be D'Wayne Eskridge and Anton Curtis. Eskridge has elusive breakaway speed, like he showed against Northwestern last year. He's quick when he can get the ball. Anton Curtis led the Broncos in receiving last week with 30 yards. Because of where he lines up, he gets more targets. Honestly, I am just as anxious as you to find the next great receivers.

Prediction time: Final score? Who wins? Why?

I'm definitely pulling for a Bronco victory, but I'm cautiously optimistic. It's going to be a close game regardless. Bowing Green lost to the Spartans by only 25 points, and the Broncos have a much more deadly arsenal than Bowling Green. On the other hand, the Spartans don't quit. They play tough regardless of the score or opponent. In the end, the Broncos' rushing attack will be too much for the Spartans to handle.

My prediction: Western Michigan 38, Michigan State 32

Once again let’s give a big thanks to James and everyone over at the Hustle Belt!