It’s a historic time college football fans. You have questions about the Western Michigan Broncos, one of the nation’s ten best teams. We have the answers
Undefeated and nationally-ranked WMU will host the Buffalo Bulls on Saturday afternoon with College GameDay in town.
A win, and the Broncos improve to 11-0, continuing to muddy the college football playoff picture for those intent on keeping the NCAA’s postseason tournament a Power Five exclusive.
A loss, and the vast majority of you will forget the Mid-American Conference exists for the rest of the season.
For today’s roundtable we feature a pair of Western Michigan writers, Justin Coffin and Brandon Fitzsimons. Also joining us is James Jimenez, who covers WMU rival Central Michigan and myself, Keith M. Scheessele, who would bring marshmallows if either school was burning to the ground.
We are putting our rivalries to the side today so that we can discuss what will happen the rest of the way for the only undefeated team not named Alabama.
In the latest College Football Playoff rankings released on November 15th, undefeated Western Michigan was slotted at #21, up approximately zero spots from the previous week. Are the Broncos getting screwed?
JC: Depends on what you think of as screwed. Should they be ranked ahead of Boise State? Absolutely. Should they be in the top 15? Probably not, which isn't to say that every team currently in the top 15 deserves to be there either. The committee has a stupid impossible job to do, and shouldn't be ranking outside of the top 10 or 15 anyway, as the logic used to rank teams beyond that tends to fall apart and become lazy.
BF: Yes they did. With WMU's schedule, I get that they don't have many "flashy wins.” However, they went on the road, won two games against Big Ten teams (including an absolute decimation of Illinois' offense), and have yet to drop a game. Sure, Boise has that Washington State win, but they also played the Cougars at home. And won by 3 (the amount of points commonly given in betting lines for home-field advantage). The fact the Broncos aren't Top 15 with an undefeated record given the amount of losses that some teams in front of them have (looking at you, Tennessee), is also alarming for not just the Broncos, but for all G5 schools going forward.
JJ: Let me be the first to say as a CMU fan that yes indeed the Broncos are being held back by the Committee and their ever-unattainable wisdom. I can't believe I'm saying this, but I miss the old BCS system. At least with the computers, there was no real interference or eye test or any convolution like that; it just took the data and crunched it. It says a lot when the AP Poll, comprised of journalists that watch the games and still primarily use the same scoring systems as they did in the BCS era have WMU seven spots ahead of where the Committee does. I can understand concern about scheduling or whatever, but do we really believe three three-loss Power Five teams are better than Western? Anyway, WMU fits the checklist. Good wins? Check. Point of margin? Check. Chance at a conference championship? Check. I'm ready to take up a pitchfork if need be.
KS: Yes. They’re undefeated. There’s only one other undefeated team and they’re number one in the country. It’s that simple. If you think it’s not that simple, you’re overthinking it. That’s the biggest problem in college football. There’s too many people who think they know who is good and who is not. I’m not going to breakdown wins and losses or talk margin of victory. Everyone is just afraid that Western Michigan might be as good as I know they are. If they were to get a shot at the CFP and actually win a game against a traditional P5 power, the chaos that would ensue would be suffocating. That would be too much to bear for those dopes that grew up watching their favorite SEC or Big Ten team on their daddy’s knee. The system would begin to collapse in on itself. I would laugh. You would cry.
What does WMU have to do last three games of the season to climb those rankings? Does it matter?
JC: WMU has to win, and win BIG. The focus is especially on the Toledo game in Kalamazoo, since beating Ohio or Miami isn't going to bring any sort of wow factor to the table. Does it matter, though? Not if Boise State wins the conference championship. If the committee believes Boise State the stronger team now when it's currently on the outside looking in at the MWC championship, it's absolutely going to think the same if it wins the whole thing. Thanks for nothing, UNLV.
BF: Obliterate everything in their path. A couple weeks ago, Justin mentioned the "Condoleezza Rice Protocol.” That's gonna have to happen each game from here out. As to the second part of the question "does it matter?” It does. I think the Broncos, with a strong showing and a conference championship should get better looks from the committee. Plus, Boise State still has to get to and win the Mountain West Championship Game, and Wyoming could very well still end up being the blocker that prevents that.
JJ: WMU will have to (somehow) improve on their +26 PPG margin in the next two games against Toledo and Buffalo, with the potential for a MAC Championship Game. That's going to be rough for the Toledo game, as the Rockets are a sneaky good team. Wins over 2-8 Buffalo and whoever comes out of a dilapidated MAC East won't be regarded as quality wins. The Broncos are kind of boned as it stands in that regard. Will it matter is the more important question here. I've been saying for the last month that even if WMU is undefeated at the end of the year, the Committee will find a way to jam Boise State into that New Year's Six bowl because they have more name-brand appeal and are seen as coming from a stronger conference. I still stand by that prediction; the poll release on Tuesday only confirmed that.
KS: The Broncos have to engage in a more extreme form of bad sportsmanship than you have ever seen in your life as a football fan. 49-0 with a minute left in the MAC Championship Game? Go for it. Points, points, points. The Committee actively encourages, nay, DEMANDS, that teams destroy opponents beyond recognition. 49-0 is a joke of course. That game would need to be more in the 66-0 range. I don’t think it matters, because as I said earlier, fear will be the prevailing factor. College football can not handle a G5 team in the playoff. They will do everything they can to prevent that from happening.
So how does the season end for WMU?
JC: I said at the beginning of the season that WMU would start 10-1, lose to Toledo, go to the MAC Championship Game anyway. That scenario is unlikely as ever, but I still think WMU loses this game to the Rockets. Fitz is going to call me a damned pessimist, but I think big play ability out of Toledo's wide receivers is going to be too much for the Bronco secondary, and WMU will have to play its bowl game in front of 1500 people somewhere in Alabama over the holidays. But hey, it beats playing in Boise!
BF: I want to say with a Cotton Bowl berth and win. Maybe even a loss. But if the Cotton Bowl isn't there, it's tough to say. I can guarantee that a 13-0 Western Michigan team will not be playing in a bowl sponsored by Dollar General, for obvious reasons (I mean, come on. That bowl screams poverty). The Miami Beach Bowl might be a good choice, or maybe even the Poinsettia Bowl. Either way, I like the Broncos' odds to win a "lesser" bowl if it comes to that. The Cotton Bowl would be gravy just on its merits.
JJ: The conference badly needs WMU to get into the Cotton Bowl. (Yes, I'm willing to admit that there is no way for WMU to get to the Playoff; that has been proven.) I still have a naive optimism that the Broncos will get there and put up a valiant fight against whoever they play. The more likely scenario will be a visit to lovely Mobile, Alabama to participate as the MAC Champion in the newly-minted Dollar General Bowl (RIP #GoDaddyBowl.)
KS: Western goes undefeated in the next three. They do not get into the CFP, they do not go to the Cotton Bowl. I can only hope for the WMU faithful that they go to a bowl game in a city that is pleasant to visit. Win that, make t-shirts that read “2016 National Champions” and know that they are a select few of us educated fans who will always appreciate how good you actually were.
What does College GameDay coming to Kalamazoo mean for WMU?
JC: College GameDay going to Kalamazoo means a lot in terms of injecting excitement into the program, and capitalizing on what's been built there over the last four years. It is not, however, an acknowledgement of their success or belonging in the national picture. It's more of an affirmation that the G5 serves to produce a novelty product every couple of years. ESPN clearly recognizes that something special is happening with the WMU program, but I doubt highly it believes its getting a first look at a future power. That said, everything about this feels surreal and awesome and I don't know what to do with my hands.
BF: It really looks like a great community event. Growing up, I wish I could've gone to GameDay, but never had the chance due to locations. Just once they went to Notre Dame, and I think I was busy that day. Now? Tons of young and old fans can live the experience in their backyard. Students will go to the middle of campus and see it, and be mesmerized (I hope). It truly is a spectacle that should create a whole new generation of Western Michigan fans.
JJ: I would imagine that it means a lot to the Kalamazoo community. I have friends that attend WMU that normally don't go to games that are suddenly very excited to go on Saturday because of the ESPN appearance. If you're not on the boat by now as a WMU fan, maybe this is the event that brings them on board. It's a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to represent your alma mater on TV and I'm sure people will come out in droves. Though, I do have to say there will be a decided (additional) chill whenever the NY6 Bowl or the Playoff is mentioned and WMU is not. There will still be Walmart Wolverines that whoop and holler though. That's unavoidable.
KS: I’m realistic about what this means. As these guys already said, it is not acknowledging WMU as a real player on the national level, but any exposure like this is good exposure for Western Michigan and the rest of the Mid-American Conference. That said my greatest hope is that some fans, particularly Western Michigan students, are able to box up that ugly Michigan or Michigan State gear and start supporting the school to which they pay thousands of dollars.
What happens when the season is over? Is P.J. Fleck jumping ship to a P5 progam?
JC: There's a better than 40% chance P.J. Fleck sticks around Kalamazoo for an extra year, but doing so would be a huge risk if he expects to continue rising at this pace. There are going to be some excellent jobs opening up, and while I think Fleck truly believes he can elevate WMU beyond the normal constraints of a G5 school, the risk of staying might be far too high. I think he goes, but I'd imagine Fleck would prefer not to be known as "former Purdue Head Coach P.J. Fleck."
BF: I think he stays for two more years. Next year might be a little rough with trips to USC and Michigan State early on while the Broncos break in a new QB and WR group, but the depth on this team should be the strength and if the Bronco defense keeps improving, who knows what heights Fleck could take this team. Look, if Houston can pony up a 2 year/$4,000,000 contract for Herman, WMU could do the same and keep building on something that the MAC needs to improve its reputation as a decent G5 conference.
JJ: Personally, I want to see him take the first Amtrak out of Waldo Stadium as soon as the season ends. I might be a little biased in that opinion, though. Anyway, Fleck will definitely be on the radar for at least a couple Power Five teams with vacancies this carousel season. Fleck got offers last season but turned them down, which I imagine would be rather hard to do. I understand WMU is trying to keep him, but when you try to out-money a school that has money, that never ends well. I would say it's a 55/45 leave to stay ratio.
KS: Gone, and you’d leave too. Money will be too much. It’s the reality of being a MAC fan. If the Broncos lose against Buffalo, Toledo, or in the MAC Championship, the only question is if he’s out before the bowl game. If you’re a Broncos fan and you think differently, you’re too close to the trees.
Well, that's that. We tried our best to figure out what's what over in Kalamazoo.
The greatest season in Western Michigan Broncos history continues tomorrow when WMU welcomes the Buffalo Bulls to Waldo Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for 3:30pm ET. RTB!