The time has finally come. The Western Michigan Broncos (12-0) will take on the Ohio Bobcats (8-4) at Ford Field for the MAC Championship. One game that will truly test the undefeated season of the Broncos.
To put it simply, Western Michigan has certainly rowed PJ Fleck’s boat this season. The Broncos have put their faith into the captain of the ship, Zach Terrell, and it has certainly payed off. One of the most composed quarterbacks in the nation this season, and his numbers justify that. Terrell has thrown a mere one interception in 12 games and boasts the best completion percentage in the country, at 71.1%. Terrell has also added 3,086 passing yards, 30 passing touchdowns and an impressive 84.5 quarterback rating. Ohio head coach Frank Solich put it perfectly, “So far, no one disrupts him.” Terrell is a very tough quarterback to rattle, and he has proved that by leading his squad to an undefeated record thus far. Terrell is just one of the offensive studs that Ohio will have to worry about on Friday night.
A duo that causes worry for Ohio, is a duo that has torched them in the past. Wide receiver Corey Davis and running back Jarvion Franklin have dismembered the Ohio defense in their two previous matchups. In 2014 and 2015, Davis and Franklin combined for a whopping 511 all-purpose yards and seven touchdowns against the Bobcats. Two games in which the Broncos beat the Bobcats by 20 or more.
Davis and Franklin have only improved since those last two wins against Ohio. Davis currently leads the nation with 17 receiving touchdowns, and is one touchdown away from being the first receiver in NCAA history to have 300 career receptions, 5,000 career yards, and 50 career receiving touchdowns. Meanwhile, Franklin currently leads the MAC with 12 rushing touchdowns, and sits in third in rushing yards with 1,266. An offense that will definitely haunt defensive players, and give nightmares to defensive coordinators.
Ohio’s run defense has definitely been remarkable this year. The Bobcats have been the fifth best run defense in the country, allowing 105.1 rush yards per game. Unfair to mention the Ohio run defense without naming the Bobcats star defensive lineman Tarell Basham. The senior from Virginia, leads the MAC with 10 sacks and just accepted his invitation to the Senior Bowl. Basham will have to be at his best as he goes up against the running back duo of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan. A tandem that ran all over the Toledo Rockets just a week ago.
The Ohio offense has been mediocre all year long. Freshman quarterback Quinton Maxwell has not put up the most impressive stats but, he has led his team to victories. In seven games, Maxwell has posted 1252 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Except, Maxwell has not faced the Western Michigan defense yet. The Broncos have allowed only 19.2 points per game and have forced 23 turnovers. A defensive back that has contributed to these forced turnovers is Darius Phillips. The junior defensive back has four interceptions, three of which have been returned for touchdowns, and also leads the nation in interception return yards with 263. Phillips has exhibited outstanding coverage this season by knocking down nine passes thrown his way. Maxwell will definitely be aware when Phillips is on the field come Friday night.
The fact of the matter is, the Western Michigan offense is tough to stop. If Ohio stacks the box to prevent the run, Terrell is going deep to Davis. If Ohio decides to double cover Davis and sit in zone, Franklin and Bogan will make them pay on the ground. Even if the Bobcats take both of those options away, Terrell is poised enough to make a smart play with the ball or take off with his feet. Additionally, Western Michigan’s offensive line is incredible. Terrell has been sacked just 12 times in 12 games. Ohio better do their homework, because they have signed themselves up for the toughest game of their season.
Western Michigan have all the pieces, they just need to keep rowing the boat. They have proved what type of team they can be for 12 games, now people want to see if they can shine in primetime. If Western Michigan can row the boat against Ohio, PJ Fleck will be looking at his first MAC Championship Title.