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WMU vs Nicholls Preview: The Waldo's Maiden Voyage

P.J. Fleck and the 2013 Western Michigan Broncos open their home schedule this weekend with a visit from familiar FCS foe Nicholls State.

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

I've needed a few days to let everyone digest what has become known only as, "The Fleck Video".  I need not say more, if you haven't seen it, you aren't trying to.  What was included in that video, will be the start of new "traditions" at Waldo Stadium, which underwent a major field renovation this summer.   Gone is the green field and golden walls.  Now, black walls and a brown/green field don the surface of the 3rd oldest football stadium in the MAC.

The opponent for the home opener, Nicholls (State).  It will be the 3rd time in 4 years that the Colonels make the trip from Louisiana to Kalamazoo.  In the past two meetings (2010 and 2011), the Broncos dominated with 49-14 and 38-7 wins.  Both games, Alex Carder was throwing to Jordan White (10 catches, 197 yds, 2 TDs), with an slight emphasis on running in the 2nd game.

Now, after a 1-year hiatus from the "rivalry", the Broncos again have Nicholls on the schedule (apparently, they've dropped the "State" from their name).

Tyler Van Tubbergen, who's status was unknown most of the week, will start Saturday's game.  The top WMU wide receiver, Corey Davis, will make his Waldo debut and the Bronco run game will look to gain more than 11 measily yards against a defense that isn't considered one of the best in the nation.

As for the Colonels, they look to continue a high-powered, fast attack led by "do-it-all" man Kalen Henderson.  Henderson stepped up after starting QB Beaux Herbert went down after a shot to the head (and subsequent ejection for the Oregon defender) last Saturday.  Henderson went 21-for-40 for 214 yards, rushed for 46 yards on 16 carries, and had 2 punts for 69 yards, both downed inside the 20.  Yeah, he can do it all.  Flex-man Marcus Washington was the primary target, getting 11 catches for 92 yards.  Washington also ran for 40 yards on 13 carries.

However, Nicholls also gave up 772 yards last weekend (albeit against a VERY powerful, fast Oregon offense).  They committed 9 penalties and lost a pair of fumbles.  But they played the pass decently (only 272 yards given up vs 500 on the ground), and stopped Oregon on 4th down 2 out of 3 times.

What Bronco fans will be looking for (other than those new "traditions"), will be three things.  (1) Can WMU get a running game going?  (2)  Can they convert on 3rd down?  (3)  Can the defense continue to show improvement like they did last week?  If this is a close game, those 3 things probably wont be on display, and Bronco fans will not be happy.

Prediction:  WMU 42, Nicholls 14