Western Michigan @ Toledo Preview: A Bronco Redemption Attempt

3 weeks ago, Western went into Dekalb, Illinois with a 4-2 record, 2-0 in the MAC, and seemed unstoppable.  They led the Huskies 15-13 at halftime.  What would happen the next 6 quarters could only be described as an utter nightmare.  The Broncos would go on to completely disappear the 2nd half of the NIU game, and then go on to lose to an unproven Eastern Michigan team, while only managing 10 points.

After a ugly win against Ball State (550 yards of total offense given up), the Broncos now sit at 5-4, 3-2 in conference, and on the outside looking in at not only the MAC West, but a possible bowl game.  They haven't looked like the power team they were to start the year, where the only time they looked bad was the 3rd quarter of the Michigan game; a game many can argue was so strange, that quarter is forgettable.

Now enter November 8th.  Western heads to Toledo to face a Rocket team that has been on fire lately, minus their defensive performance last week against that Huskie team.  With a win, Western would move into 2nd place in the MAC West, and would need an Eastern Michigan loss and 2 NIU losses to win the MAC West (if they win out @ Miami and vs Akron).  That task, while highly improbable, is not out of the question.

Let's look at the upcoming game, and what the Broncos have to do to win:

Bronco Offense vs Rocket Defense:  Overall, this is a huge advantage for Western, especially after seeing what NIU did to Toledo last week on national TV.  Carder should have a field day with his many, many options, including Jordan White, Robert "I catch with one-hand and throw with it too" Arnheim, and Chleb Ravenell.

The key is to establish a good run game, something the Broncos have struggled to do all season.  With an additional 3 days to prepare for this game, I feel like the line will be a lot better than they have, and the weekend off to "bond" should help going forward.

Rocket Offense vs Bronco Defense:  This is what scares me.  The Bronco defense has been bad lately, giving up 550+ yards in 2 of their last 3 games.  Again, hopefully the time off helps.  Western has been VERY vulnerable to the run, and that is VERY scary against such a high-powered offense.

The Austin Dantin/Terrance Owens QB-by-committee offense Toledo runs changes based on the QB of the day/night.  Dantin is the accurate, short passes QB who seems to be the leading man most nights.  Owens is the deep threat who has had his moments.  If they both are on, Toledo becomes super scary.

The Rocket run game will have a plethora of good running backs, led by Adonis Thomas, with David Fluellen as a great #2.  Don't forget the QB draws and anything involving Eric Page.

Speaking of Page, the offense runs through him, and he does it all.  He runs.  He catches.  He returns kicks.  Hell, he even throws a pass now and then.  Shut down Eric Page, and you have done the impossible.  Slow down Eric Page, and you have a shot at winning.

Overall, unless the Bronco D comes out and plays insane, we will have a shoot-out.

Special Teams

The Rockets probably own the advantage in that they have a short kicker in Ryan Casano and a long kicker in Jeremiah Detmer.  The Broncos only have John Potter, who is shaky from 40+ yards, and has never made a 50+ yard field goal.

Also, the Rockets have Eric Page.  The Broncos do have a good return man in Dervon Wallace, but he's not Eric Page.

Where the Broncos will have the advantage is probably punting, where the Broncos have a great punter and punt coverage.

Prediction

I want the Broncos to win so bad, and get lucky with the remaining games, and get to Detroit for the first time in Bill Cubit's tenure.  I would love a win over Toledo, and to become bowl eligible with two winable games left.  I just cannot do that given the defensive woes lately.  Toledo is just too good to stop.  Toledo 45, WMU 38

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