When Western Michigan takes on Purdue next Tuesday, it will mark the 5th time the Broncos have been to a bowl game, and the first time WMU has been to a Detroit bowl. They will take on a 6-6 Purdue team that has been about as average as you can get. However, that doesn't mean they aren't dangerous.
This will be WMU's 3rd Big Ten opponent of the year, and the first time not at the Big Ten's team's house. If anything, Western might have the home-field advantage with the large number of students and alumni in the metro Detroit area. If Western wants to win, they'll certainly have to play a more complete game, something they've struggled with all year.
As for Purdue, I didn't know much about them. So I did a little investigating. I snooped around Hammer and Rails, SB Nation's Purdue blog, and eventually asked around for some help. They sent me Travis Miller. Turns out he was looking for me too, and wanted some questions answered. To see my answers to his questions during our enlightening session, just click here. Here is what he had to say to me.
Me: You guys are 6-6, and have been literally about as average as average goes this year, going -.3 ppg this year. How do you explain such an average year?
H&R: We've been terribly inconsistent on both sides of the ball and the coaches staff has made decisions that are questionable at best. The Rice game, which should have been an easy win, was an exercise in how not to coach a football game or take advantage of another team's weaknesses. The final five minutes were about as frustrating as possible. Then later on, we sold out to stop the run against Ohio State since that is all they can do, and we were successful. I really can't figure this team out at all.
A dual-quarterback system almost never works, but we have been committed to it since day 1. Neither quarterback has exactly been that great, either. We don't play to our own strengths and we often fail to exploit a team's weaknesses. It's quite maddening. The Rice game was definitely one we let get away and against Iowa our defensive gameplan seemed to be, "don't cover Marvin McNutt or Marcus Coker and let them run until they get tired.
Me: Purdue hasn't given up a 300 yard passer since Logan Kilgore of Middle Tennessee State in Week 1. Do you think that will continue against the pass happy offense of Western?
H&R: I don't think so. Part of the reason for that is that our run defense isn't that good most of the time. Even then, we've let receivers like Micheal Floyd and McNutt have huge days against us. with WMU's pass to set up the pass offense, we're going to need to be ready. It is pretty much sheer luck we haven't given up 300 yards to a passer since then.
H&R: Both. TerBush has started every game this year, and he generally does well on the first drive. Marve comes in midway through the second quarter, then we tend to go with whoever is playing better. TerBush is about as much of a game manager as you can imagine. He doesn't have loads of talent, but he doesn't make huge mistakes, either. Marve is a bigger risk-taker and has the better arm, but with that comes the chances of interceptions. Marve won the OSU game with great throws in overtime, but had a huge interception at Penn State that gave them a critical three points before halftime.
Me: You guys look like you love to run the ball, but your top running back is out for the game. How much do you think this hurts your chances for the game?
H&R: I think we'll be fine because freshman Akeem Hunt came in after Bolden got hurt and finished with 100 yards on 10 carries against Indiana. Hunt has a lot of talent for a true freshman, and No. 2 rusher Akeem Shavers had a pretty solid season in his first year out of JuCo. We also run Reggie Pegram, Jared Crank, and Raheem Mostert quite effectively out of the backfield. Most people really like what Hunt as shown at times this year as a freshman, and we wouldn't be surprised if he had a big day as he auditioned for the starting job next year.
Me: Alright, so the last time you were in a bowl game, it was here, against our rival Central Michigan. You won on a last second field goal in what would be Joe Tiller's last bowl game. What is your prediction for this game?
H&R: I think we're going to see another shootout. I don't trust our coaching staff to prepare well against a very dynamic passing attack. I do think we will be able to run the ball and maybe even work on our passing game a little. TerBush knows that we have three quarterbacks coming in next year, plus another coming off of a redshirt and the proposed starter for this season coming off of injury. If he wants to keep starting as a senior he needs a big game.
I want to thank Travis and everyone over there at Hammer and Rails. One final note before I leave you: Jordan White, an All-American (one of two active MAC players to have that title with Toledo's Eric Page), is just 110 yards from breaking the MAC career receiving record and 125 yards from the MAC single season record. Also, if he makes either the AP or Sporting News All-American team(s), White would become WMU's first consensus All-American.