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Western Michigan In the College Football Playoffs? It Could Happen!

This week's Western Wednesday feature looks at the possibility that WMU could break the CFP system and have a shot at the National Championship.

Behind Corey Davis, all is possible
Behind Corey Davis, all is possible
Brian Losness-USA TODAY Sports
Brown and Gold: So two months ago, Tom Fornelli posted this gem about 5 teams that could make the CFP, and lo and behold WMU made it!

Ben Roush: He lays out a solid plan, but could it work?  I mean, how would the season really play out towards the end?  We've seen Boise State look equally solid, but never got the true recognition they deserved

Justin Coffin: Fornelli sort of gives WMU an edge due to its schedule. And when you look at it, it's an absolute uphill climb. If WMU beats OSU and MSU, that would be unprecedented in modern football by a group of 5 team in a regular season.

So what we are talking about is some straight Average Joes Gym type odds. With the 2013 season being akin to that first game against Bernice, the beaver tranquilizer behemoth, and her Girl Scout minions.

Ben: It's more than just unprecedented, it would be the greatest non-conference run for a group of 5 team in the history of the sport. OSU and MSU are insane enough, but we'd also still have to go through Georgia Southern, a squad that went undefeated in its conference during its FIRST DAMN SEASON in the FBS. A 2-2 start is far more likely for the Broncos, but if we can't dream what the hell are we doing here?

BnG: I think most would agree a 2-2 start would be lovely, but let's assume that God favors the Broncos this year for some reason, and they - at the very least - beat Michigan State at home.  It's a home game against a team that has some turnover at a lot of positions, including losing a ton on defense and their DC Pat Narduzzi, one of the best in the game at any level.  It's definitely more likely to happen than the OSU game, and one where the stars could align just right to happen.

/drinks kool aid.

How much steam does the hype train have at that point?

The concern is that, unlike last year, the Broncos don't have a couple of bye weeks thrown into their non conference schedule.

Justin: Wouldn't it be more of a hype Boat? Anyway, beating MSU will take a Herculean effort. All the more impressive is can the team avoid dropping its next game 8 days later to Georgia Southern - a damn good football team.

BnG: Very true.  They blew by the Sun Belt, winning the league with an undefeated record in their first year at the D-I level, and knocked off Florida the year before that in The Swamp.  Sneaky trap game for the Broncos, but that extra day could be huge for scouting/rest.

Justin: The concern is that, unlike last year, the Broncos don't have a couple of bye weeks thrown into their non conference schedule. They go four weeks in a row with MSU and OSU being the bookends. Starting 2-0 would give the Broncos one of the more impressive starts in the entire country

Ben: After beating the Spartans and with OSU on the horizon, you'd expect a lot of teams to potentially have an emotional let-down the next week, but I don't think a PJ Fleck team has any emotional lows at this point
No way this squad looks past Georgia Southern

BnG: OK, so if they are good enough to beat MSU, we're in agreement that Fleck keeps this team rolling and they down Georgia Southern (in a hard fought game probably).  2-0 and heading back home to face Murray State.  Any worries at that point?  I mean, the Broncos handled the Racers last year handily

Justin: ESPECIALLY after being handled by Air Force's triple option - which Ga. Southern runs. That game is so tellig of this coaching staff's ability to adjust and plan.

Oh, no concerns about the Racers this year. That would be a monumental letdown. Game is closer than it should be since Broncos could be looking past Murray State to the Buckeyes

Lost in all this is the conference schedule opens at home with Central. This could be the greatest season ever, or an absolute meltdown...

BnG: I don't see that.  Last year, the team had just won their first non-conference game in the PJ Fleck era and had Frank Beamer (who upset OSU last year I might add) next up.

We'll get to Central, but first let's look at Ohio State, arguably the toughest game on the schedule with it being both the National Champions and a road game at the Horseshoe.  We'll take two tangents here:  win and loss.  What would it take for the Broncos to win, as implausible as it seems?

Ben: Literally a perfect game from the Broncos, and some help from the Buckeyes with a few turnovers. We all know Ohio State returns a platoon of NFL-ready starters. Beating OSU will take trick-plays, blocked punts, and a Jarvion Franklin mega-game. It's just crazy enough to work?

Justin: Well, I don't see WMU racking up a ton of yards on the ground in that game, WMU has to get favorable field position through special teams, not turn the ball over, and get some takeaways, and that's, difficult.
Winning that game will take some help from OSU...Special teams is the key. Can't do like Celiscar did on the opening kick at Va Tech

BnG: Obviously, WMU would have some notoriety as well, meaning Ohio State would not be overlooking this team.

Justin: Yeah, not exactly a huge underdog at that point.

BnG: Let's assume the Broncos lose since a win seems highly implausible versus the Michigan State game (personnel losses, location, and team considered).   But let's run with the "win" tangent.  A perfect game by Terrell, Jarvion plows for 3 TDs, and Cardale starts and throws a pair of INTs.  4-0 heading into MAC play.  Now, everyone in the nation knows who Western Michigan is after knocking off the top two teams in the Big Ten from last year, including the National Champs in their own house.  Take a moment and let that set in


Ben: To be completely honest, that kind of just made me chuckle. I bleed brown and gold, but beating both those teams is just, like, whaaaaaat.

Justin: It's fun to dream. This is starting to sound like a season played out on the NCAA football video games

Ben: Exactly

BnG: Miss you, NCAA Football by EA Sports.

Justin: So in this dream scenario...does WMU crack the top 10 at this point? Or do they get the Marshall treatment and have the whole nation plunge into, "The Big Ten sucks" again?

BnG: No way.  Marshall never played anyone.  But if WMU wasn't getting voter love after the MSU and GSU game, they'd for sure be getting tons of votes after beating OSU.

Top 10 though?  Oof, tough to gauge.  Voters hate the mid-majors but wins over those three teams are extremely hard to ignore

Justin: Exactly, which is why I'm wondering if the wins would be  viewed by the voters as more indicative of great play by WMU or poor play by the P5 squads and GSU. I mean, I know which way I'd see it!

Ben: Let's move ahead here with the premise that we beat Ohio State. Because I feel the only way WMU could ever get to the CFP is by going undefeated. Just a win over MSU could be interpreted as a fluke, and no one would care about a 8-0 MAC record.

Does this new coach in Mt. Pleasant have a chance to beat the Broncos?

Justin: A chance? It's MACtion so, I mean, of course there's a chance. Does it happen? No.

BnG: No way.  They lose Titus Davis and Rawls, neither of whom were able to beat even the half-competent Bronco teams (let's ignore 2013, even though they almost lost that game too).   WMU also comes off a bye week, so............

WMU won't have the luxury of dropping a game to anyone in the MAC and retaining its CFP hopes. The voters will not provide a parachute either.

Justin: The combination of being prepared, being at home, having way more firepower than the Chippewas, and that CMU plays NIU the week before...yeah, add it to the W column

Ben: BOOM. Chippewas knocked off, down to Athens next. The Broncos handled the Bobcats pretty damn well at last year's homecoming game in Kalamazoo. Again, it's the MAC so who knows, but I'm thinking Franklin/Terrell tear 'em apart again

BnG: I'll say this:  If WMU can handle Georgia Southern, they can handle Ohio.  Lots of rushing either way.  I don't trust the Bobcats to beat anyone through the air.

Justin: I agree here too. Even if the Bobcats have their QB situation figured out at that point in the season, there won't be much going through the air.

Should be a good defensive team again, though.

BnG: I like the Broncos' defensive box better.

I'm actually more worried about the team Chuck Martin is fielding, which is the next game, and the last weekend game of the season.  Miami is getting better, and if Martin can get his air attack figured out, that could be a slight trap game at 6-0

Justin: Yeah. Very important game against a well-coached team. Have to wonder if at that point the media buzz could be wearing on the young Broncos. NIU has had its runs, but the high profile wins we are talking about WMU having at this point make it almost non comparable. WMU won't have the luxury of dropping a game to anyone in the MAC and retaining its CFP hopes. The voters will not provide a parachute either.

Are we afraid of the Eagles in game 8?

BnG: LOLOLOLOLOL.....ahem.  Short turnaround, but no.  EMU also has to play just a few days before the game

Justin: Ouch. Poor Eagles

Ball State took quite the effort to down last season. More of the same? Or will they be missing Jahwan Edwards too much?

Ben: We're so deep into this season now that predictions are particularly cloudy, but for me Ball State is another potential trip-up. Edwards or not, this won't be an automatic game

BnG: Lembo is too good of a coach to not have his team ready this year.  Luckily, this game is at home

Ben (who lives in Minnesota): And on ESPN! I can watch it, yaaaay!

BnG: Obviously, any loss in the MAC ends all discussion of CFP or New Year's Eve/Day games, so we have to assume a win, but holy cow the end of the year is tough.  Ball State, Bowling Green, then trips to NIU and Toledo?
If you want "quality wins" down the stretch to help build the resume, the Broncos have quite the schedule to do so

Justin: NIU could realistically only have one loss going into that Wednesday night game. THAT would be a quality win and also not your traditional viewer total for the midweek MACtion games

So how do they get it done? Haven't beaten those two teams in YEARS. Maybe, make extra points and don't turn the ball over 6 times?

BnG: That helps.  The Broncos had NIU last year but gave the game away.   BG will be even more powerful this year (and could be a 10-win team this year easily), and Toledo are just insane on offense as well behind Kareem Hunt.  I think you start with a solid defense and go from there

Ben: Woof. Okay, we polish off the season with tough defensive performances and are heading to Detroit. Who do we face from the East. A rematch with Miami maybe?

Justin: Well, I know of a few writers that will be screaming UMASS...

BnG: Bowling Green won the East without ever beating a MAC West team last year, so they could be in there too

Justin: I like BGSU out of the East as well.

BnG: I'll throw out three names:  Bowling Green, Buffalo, and UMass.  I think the Minutemen could do it, but I'm going with the Falcons

Either way, the Broncos have to win and not pull a Ball State.  So 13-0, likely a Top 5 team, but do they make it in the CFP?

I'd say yes pending three things (1) NIU or Toledo (or both) finish with a great record, (2) Ohio State or Michigan State finishes 12-1 and (3) WMU doesn't stumble and barely win the middle of their schedule.  They have to dominate that portion.  If those three things happen, I see the Broncos as high as the 3-seed, but who gets bumped?  Who else makes it?

Justin: If they beat MSU and MSU beats Oregon, and Oregon wins the PAC-12, that'd be a huge favor
Because then WMU could state it's case over two P5 champions more than likely

Ben: The SEC champ will obviously go, because SEC, then Oregon, then I don't know. Maybe a Big 12 team has a really strong season and gets in?

Justin: like TCU

So like, dream scenario, SEC Champ, Big 12 Champ, WMU, Pac-12/ACC Champ? (Probably Pac-12)
There's no way that's the committee's dream scenario


Justin:  ....said every TCU fan ever

it would be the greatest non-conference run for a group of 5 team in the history of the sport [if WMU goes undefeated.]

BnG: I have a hard time seeing the Baylor/TCU winner not making the playoffs as well as the SEC Champion.  I think WMU gets shafted and gets the 4 seed, as Oregon sits out while the Big Ten Champ sneaks in.  Either way, the committee is going to piss someone off either in the PAC 12 or Big Ten.  Forget the ACC, as they shouldn't put anyone in actual contention this year (how else do you explain 13-0 Florida State as the 3-seed last year?).  We won't predict whether the Broncos win or not (they won't), but to make it would be huge.

If they were 13-0 and got left out over a 12-1 Ohio State team though, you would see hellfire from the mid-majors.

But let's go back to the "Loss" tangent from the Ohio State game.  Everything else holds true.  Does WMU get the New Year's Eve/Day bid?  And where?

Ben: Just one point of clarification, I would not feel shafted at all if we got a #4 seed, I 'd be just so happy I wouldn't care

I'd say a 12-1 WMU team gets to fun New Year's bowl. I guess some of that would depend on how MSU finishes the year

BnG: Don't forget, the top Group of 5 team gets the bid, so would a 12-1 WMU team with wins over NIU, Toledo, and MSU get in over Boise State (assuming they too had 1 loss)?

Ben: Possible? They were an 11-2 team last year though who knocked off Arizona in their bowl game. I have no idea anything about their roster though...

Justin: Looking at Boise's schedule, if they were to drop a game it would be a far worse loss than WMU at OSU

So WMU has a strong case, but history is on the side of the other Broncos

BnG: If MSU is still 10-2 or something like that and NIU and BG or Toledo are 10 win teams, you can't keep WMU out, no matter what Boise State does in my opinion.   I like the Peach Bowl as a landing spot, since the Rose and Sugar Bowls will both have obligations to their respective conferences (especially given how things have played out thus far), though an Oregon/MSU rematch might draw some WMU looks in Pasadena against the Ducks.  Ultimately, we'd see something like ACC#2 (Clemson or Georgia Tech probably) vs the Broncos in Atlanta.