The 2-0 Broncos of Western Michigan are looking to complete part two of their 3-team State-of-Illinois sweep this season by playing the Fighting Illini in Champaign on Saturday afternoon.
After an exhilarating week one win over Northwestern (their first opponent in Illinois), coach P.J. Fleck’s WMU Broncos started their home slate with a bloodbath against the North Carolina Central Eagles in week two: Final score 70-21. The Broncos offense was monstrous against NCC, clearing 600 yards on their way to four passing and five rushing touchdowns. The 10th touchdown came on a punt return late in the first half.
When including week one, the WMU offense has been ridiculous: The Broncos have gained over 1000 yards through their first two games en route to the program’s first 2-0 start since 1994.
Zach Terrell has been excellent so far, completing over 70% of his passes without throwing an interception. But for as good as Terrell has been, WMU’s running game has been matching him stride-for-stride. Jamauri Bogan has back-to-back 100 yard games, scoring in each contest, and last week’s win saw three rushers (Bogan, LeVante Bellamy, and Jarvion Franklin) rush for more than 90 yards each.
The trend looks to continue for the Broncos as Illinois allowed over 450 yards of offense in a 25 point loss to North Carolina this past Saturday.
The Fighting Illini are a toss-up at this point – they dominated Murray State in week one, as expected, but they faded badly in the second half against the Tar Heels. The consensus is that new head coach Lovie Smith will turn the program around, but it will take some time.
Despite the lopsided final score, Illinois’ defense wasn’t all bad. North Carolina runs a fast-paced, quick-hitting offense and the Illini defense managed 11 tackles in the backfield during the game. Defensive tackle Carroll Phillips managed to record a sack and 3.5 tackles for loss on the game, giving him a Big Ten leading 6.5 through the first two weeks of the season. On the other hand, the Illini were susceptible to big plays, allowing touchdowns on five separate drives that lasted six or fewer plays.
With all of that in mind, the WMU offense could be too much for Lovie and his team to handle.
Western Michigan enters as small favorites (3.5 points) on the road. Look for the Broncos to continue to power through Illinois this week. Illinois saw their first non-conference sellout since 1987, but it would be a surprise if the crowd came out in full force again this week.
Tune in at 4:00 ET on Saturday. The game can be seen (as all MAC games are) online through ESPN3 as well as nationally on ESPN News channel.