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Western Michigan

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The fairytale is over for Western Michigan with another season on the horizon. The Broncos did the unthinkable last year, going 13-0 before falling in a close game to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. With a new coach and quarterback, plenty of drop off is expected. New coach Tim Lester doesn’t have a ton of high-end experience, coming over after a year as Purdue’s quarterbacks coach, although was the Syracuse offensive coordinator before that.

The main question for the offense will undoubtedly be at quarterback where Tom Flacco (brother of Joe Flacco) left the program toward the end of July. Sophomore Jon Wassink should have the leg up, but he’s competing with four other new faces for the job. No one took the spot in the spring with Flacco having the most experience. Either way, this team is going to pound the ground as much as possible between Jarvion Franklin (1,353 yards, 12 TDs), Jamauri Bogan (923 yards, 8 TDs) and LeVante Bellamy. The Broncos are stacked in the backfield, but that may be the only area where that’s the case. Outside of Chukwuma Okorafor, the offensive line will be completely new. It’s the same at receiver with Corey Davis gone. D’Wayne Eskridge (17 receptions, 121 yards) is the top returning wide out with freshman Luke Sanders hoping to make an impact. It’s likely this offense won’t be scoring 40-plus points per game again.

That said, the Broncos will still be a solid team because the defense still has enough talent to be relevant in the conference after allowing less than 20 points per game last year. Linebacker is loaded with seniors, namely Robert Spillane, who had 111 tackles last season. Darius Phillips leads the secondary, although safety is somewhat inexperienced with two sophomores expected to start. The line is also a bit fresh with senior tackle Andre Turner the main guy returning as he’s played in every game since joining the team. Some pieces are gone, but the stability at linebacker should hold this group together.

Going undefeated in the regular season won’t happen again, although that’s maybe more so due to schedule as instead of trips to Northwestern and Illinois, WMU has to travel to USC and MSU in the first two games. From there, things open up for some favorable contests that could see the Broncos win their first four MAC games. And while they close the season with road trips to Northern Illinois and Toledo, they still get probably the easiest cross-division schedule with Kent State, Buffalo and Akron.

Due to schedule, the Broncos should compete for another MAC title, but with that trip to Toledo, it won’t be easy to repeat, especially with a new quarterback. They still have the second-best odds at +270 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook) to win the conference behind the Rockets. This team should be headed for at least eight wins again (over/under is 8.5), but that may end up being the max with a new and unknown quarterback at the helm.


2017 Western Michigan Broncos Football Schedule

Sept. 2 at USC
Sept. 9 at Michigan State
Sept. 16 vs. Idaho
Sept. 23 vs. Wagner

Sept. 30 vs. Ball State
Oct. 7 at Buffalo
Oct. 14 vs. Akron

Oct. 21 at Eastern Michigan
Nov. 1 vs. Central Michigan
Nov. 8 vs. Kent State
Nov. 15 at Northern Illinois
Nov. 24 at Toledo

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