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Talkin’ sMACk: Western Michigan vs. Central Michigan

WMU managed to keep the Victory Cannon in Kalamazoo last year despite a furious rally. Will it go back with them this season?

Michigan MAC Trophy & Victory Cannon Trophy

It’s conference football season once again, as CMU and WMU meet for the infamous “Western Weekend” game, this time in Mt. Pleasant. Last year, the Broncos held off a furious comeback attempt by the Chippewas to retain the Victory Cannon for the second year in a row.

What do our resident CMU and WMU writers have to say about it? Here’s our Slack chat, lightly edited:

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brownandgold (Brown and Gold, WMU team manager and general editor at HB)

This Saturday is the 9th meeting for the Victory Cannon, and the 87th meeting all-time between Western and Central. WMU holds the all-time series lead, but since WWII (when MAC schedules started to look less laughable) , it's been pretty even. Honestly, the Victory Cannon looks pretty cozy in Kalamazoo. What makes you think that your Chips will steal it from our Broncos?

avkingjames (James H. Jimenez, assistant site manager at HB)

We're certainly hoping that home advantage will be a little more of a blessing this time around. From estimates I've been given, paid reserved parking pretty much sold out within a couple days, which means lots of people will be there. The Chips showed last season on the road that they made the adjustments necessary to compete in the second half, despite losing. I think a stout CMU defense will play the Broncos extremely well. If Cooper Rush can lead a balanced offense (that's the key here,) then they've got a chance.

brownandgold

You know who CMU reminds me of? The Bill Cubit WMU teams. You know, the ones that only slung the ball across the field and had a non-existent run game? They did OK, but never won anything against good teams. That can't be a good sign for you guys

coffin_fever (Justin Coffin, WMU writer and general editor at HB)

I second that. CMU has to run the ball better in order sustain drives. They punted the first six drives of the Virginia game, and it was mostly due to failure on first down. I understand the "second half team" mentality with the Chips, but another 28-0 start against this WMU offense would be insurmountable. Fast start is key for both teams as WMU hasn't trailed in a game for the last 12 quarters and change

grantcmu (Grant McPherson, CMU writer at HB)

Although CMU struggles to run the ball, Cooper Rush seems to have no problem throwing the ball around. I agree that a fast start is something that CMU has struggled at, but this second half team mentality has worked for the first few games, and it looks like it will continue. I would like to see CMU go down the field on their first drive and score any form of points. Coach Bonamego will have to find a way to get the team fired up for the entire game, not just the second half.

coffin_fever

What about defensively? Is it really just injuries that took this defense from "for real" to "gave up 49 points to Virginia?" 421 yards through the air against Virginia should have Zach Terrell and Corey Davis salivating.

avkingjames

Injuries and offensive struggles certainly helped contribute to the loss against Virginia, I'll say that. But Tony Annese is expected back this week to help lead the Chippewas on D. I also say if you're gonna lay an egg in the secondary, might as well get out of the way early and definitely before the conference schedule.

Josh Cox has shown himself to be a very productive shutdown corner while Amari Coleman has been an ace at undercutting routes and intercepting the ball. I think the secondary will hold up just fine.

As for the line and the box, it's going to be a handful. But the key will be to handle every quarter as if it's the third quarter. CMU has been extremely effective in minimizing opponents in the 3Q more than any other whilst giving the offense ample opportunities. If they can find a way to tap into that mentality over the rest of the game, WMU is in for a long day.

brownandgold

I have a hard time seeing WMU struggle to run the ball. Their line has been superb all season, and Jamauri Bogan has had four 100-yard games in as many tries, and that includes two games against Big Ten teams and a game against Georgia Southern (who has the nation's 9th best run defense). Additionally, if CMU is one-dimensional on offense, I could see the secondary getting some interceptions and giving Rush hell all day. Plus, I don't think the CMU secondary has seen a player like Corey Davis all year, and if they double cover him, Michael Henry and Carrington Thompson have shown to be good enough 2nd/3rd options to cause issues in their own right.

So let's wrap this up. One final thought on the game and a prediction. To help you out, the forecast for Saturday night is wet. Very wet. Thunderstorms in the evening, rain overnight. 90% chance of rain. That can't be good for CMU

avkingjames

HELL YEAH LET'S GOOOOOOO

THROUGH RAIN, THROUGH HAIL THROUGH FLEETING SNOW

WE ALWAYS EXPECT TO DEFEAT THE BRONCOS

coffin_fever

Well, for the third year in a row, you'll fail to meet those expectations. CMU is good at defending the run, but this isn't just any rushing attack for WMU. This is a relentless group of backs and an impressive offensive line. And even if the Chips can stop the run, there's still one of the best receivers in NCAA history to worry about. WMU wins and covers the spread.

avkingjames

Isn’t the spread less than a touchdown? Besides that, surely CMU looks to come out with a good amount of energy after dropping a game they shouldn't have last weekend. The rushing game was able to get something positive going late against Virginia and when the running and passing game were on the same page in that game, good things happen. I expect that to carry over. I think CMU pushes the spread.

brownandgold

If you can't find energy for a rivalry game, you have no business playing. Both teams will come out with energy, but I think the wet conditions only exasperate CMU's line issues. Cooper Rush can't throw all day in a storm, and WMU has the run game to not only pick up yards, but keep the ball out Rush's hands. It'll be a close one, but I too think WMU gets their 5th win over CMU in their last 6 tries. 31-24

avkingjames

I'm calling it a little closer, though I really hate trying to predict a score. 21-17 WMU. Central plays close than you think, but problems might develop if WMU runs away at the start. If it's within 7 at the half, CMU definitely could make a rally and possibly steal the game.

grantcmu

I agree with you. CMU will play close but won't be able to do enough to win this game. If CMU can go into halftime with the close score, it's in the Chips favor. WMU wins 24-17, Cooper Rush will have a tough day once again.

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You heard it here first: even the CMU writers aren’t that sure the Chips can get a win on Western Weekend. Up next at 11: cats and dogs sleeping in the same bed!