Northern Illinois - Western Michigan preview: How the West was won

Saturday marks the first of three major showdowns in the West division, when Western Michigan comes to Northern Illinois.

While taking shots at each other from afar is fun, getting together and hashing out our differences is even better. So bmiraski and Brown and Gold  decided to go mano a mano in a chat for this one.

No punches were thrown in the process.

bmiraski: Alright, well, let's get this out of the way for the degenerate gamblers who read Hustle Belt. The over/under on this game is 68.5 and I can see no way this ends in an under.

Brown and Gold: The only way this game ends as an under is if Western plays good defense, or NIU comes out and absolutely surprises everyone with a "Haha, we got you in the first half of the season. We actually DO have a defense" defensive performance.

BM: I don't think the latter is going to happen. Stopping Kent State is not exactly an achievement.

Even the first part will be difficult. Northern Illinois has one of the best offenses in the country. It is much better than Connecticut's, where you all gave up 31 points.

How did you manage to give up that much anyway?

BG: UConn found their quarterback finally, and used him. Did you see his YouTube video

We also held Central to only 14 points, and we beat them. I mean, don't get me wrong, stopping Chandler Harnish won't be easy, but this Bronco team is on a mission. They want to get even with NIU after last year's near-upset.

BM: Yes, the Central Michigan game will forever be a weird shaped mole on the back of the Huskies. There is just no explanation for it. Do you think there is enough motivation on defense for Western to get that revenge? I am not sure that 28 points is a possibility this time around.

BG: The entire team is pumped for this game. I think the defense is the heart of this Bronco team, and the offense is just the pretty boy face that everyone loves to look at. Gosh its so beautiful, except that run game. Don't, I repeat, DON'T look at it.

BM: Well, they might look like the prom king after bowling through the Northern Illinois line. The Broncos defense has been pretty good this year, if you ignore the Michigan disaster in the rain. They are 47th in defensive yardage allowed in the country, which is at least better than Kansas.

Then again, everyone is better than Kansas.

And yes, the Huskies managed to still lose to them.

BG: The first half of the Michigan game, barring the pick-six, was a good half played by Western in my mind.

I don't know what happened to NIU. That Kansas team is awful. Central is awful. NIU was a power. Was Jerry Kill really that important to the team?

BM: I am not sure it has anything to do with Jerry Kill. He obviously hasn't had any miracle cure for the problems at Minnesota.

BG: Minnesota is scary bad, just hideous.

BM: But the Northern defensive problems probably have more to do with graduation than anything else. When you are returning Sean Progar, Tommy Davis and a few guys named Mo, that isn't really something to be excited about.

They probably lost 80 percent of their defensive production from the dominating team that scared the MAC in 2010.

BG: Ouch. That does hurt. They need a huge turnaround this week against possibly the most dynamic offenses in the MAC. Sure Temple has Bernard Pierce, and Toledo has Eric Page, but Western has options behind Jordan White.

If the offensive line can keep the running game going from here on out, I have no doubt in my mind Western can be the most scary offense in the MAC, and even will go as far to say the most scary offense in all of Michigan. Yeah, I went there.

BM: Wow, that is high praise...Having an Alex Carder doesn't hurt either. But to be the best offense in the MAC, you have to be better than Northern Illinois, which I guess is why they play the games.

Only Temple runs better than the Huskies, but they don't throw as well, and Harnish is right up there with the best passers in the conference.

BG: Harnish is the offense. He throws and is a close second in rushing yards. What else do they do?

If it isn't Harnish, it can't be good.

I really want to see how NIU does against a team that isn't a powerhouse like Wisconsin, but can play defense and offense unlike Central Michigan and Kent State.

BM: Ok, well, then you have to bring him down. So who on the defense is going to get that sack?

BG: Drew Nowak loves to eat middle linemen, and is a great run stopper. Outside? Paul Hazel. He is very athletic, and is small for a DE, but mean as anyone out there.

BM: It is going to take more than "mean" to get through the Northern Illinois offensive line though. OK, let's make a couple of predictions. If you had to pick one guy to have a monster game, offense or defense, who would it be?

I am going with Ron Newcomb, who is probably pretty well known to Huskies fans, but probably would be under the radar for the rest of the conference. He isn't the "big name" but he has seven tackles for loss this year and is second on the team in sacks. My bet is that the defensive surge begins with him this game, and stops your "best in show" offense.

BG: I want to go with a defensive player so bad, but I just can't. The defense is a bend-but-don't-break system. They don't get the big plays, but don't give them up either. I have to go offense. And in making the "safe" pick, I have to go with Jordan White.

Yeah, call me a wimp, but hear me out. He is a 6th year senior. If anyone is driving this team behind the scenes, its this guy. He is a great wide receiver, and makes plays to keep the offense on the field, demoralizing defenses.

BM: Well, it won't take much from him to demoralize the Northern Illinois defense. Big plays have been just part of the downfall of the Huskies this year.

BG: I'm not going to lie, through all this "tough guy" talk about this Bronco team, I'm really scared of the Huskies on Saturday. Every time a week goes by, I feel like it's letdown time. And until Saturday is over, I can't feel safe. We get Eastern next week, and I can finally breathe because, well, its Eastern.

BM: Then I guess it is time to make your pick. Who are you going with?

BG: As I said last week, Western is perfect against the payable spread this year at 5-0. This week the line is 2 in favor for the Broncos. Well, I think Western squeaks by that with a 38-34 victory in DeKalb.

BM: Hard to argue with you there... I am going with Western Michigan too, 45-42.

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