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Week 6 Preview: Western Michigan Broncos vs. Buffalo Bulls

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A substantial conference test for the defending MAC champions

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Southern California Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The turnaround for the Western Michigan Broncos rolls into its fourth straight game.

After dropping back-to-back games on the road to then No. 4 ranked Southern Cal and in-state Big Ten opponent Michigan State, the Broncos enter their first conference road game Saturday on a three-game winning streak.

WMU takes on MAC East foe Buffalo Bulls for the ninth time in program history when the latter debuted in the conference in 1999.

The Bulls, having won three straight as well, including a 27-13 drubbing at Kent State last week and sneaking past Lane Kiffin and Florida Atlantic by a three-point margin at UB Stadium on Sept. 23.

UB opened the season at Minnesota, facing P.J. Fleck for the second straight year, losing 17-7 and later dropping to Army by four points. When Fleck was still with Western Michigan, the team rolled through UB by 38 points in what would be the second-to-last game of the season.

A win for the Bulls would give them double the conference wins from 2016, in which they finished 1-7 in league play, failing to gain bowl eligibility for the third straight year.


When Western Michigan Has The Ball

What the Broncos were able to do offensively against Ball State last week in the 55-3 win was imposing. Six different players recorded a touchdown and the unit overall racked up 414 total yards. The team even scored in the opening 30 seconds of each half.

Redshirt sophomore quarterback Jon Wassink continues to mark as quarterback of the future, putting up a career-high 240 yards and three touchdowns on 14-of-20 passing.

After making his first career start in week one at the Los Angeles Coliseum, Wassink has totaled 11 touchdowns, including four on the ground. He ranks fourth in the conference with a 136.2 passer rating.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan State Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

What’s made this group so intimidating is the running attack, which has shored WMU’s offensive numbers. Toledo is the only MAC team to have two running backs rush for 100 yards in a single game, but WMU could very well meet that mark in the near future.

Junior running back Jamauri Bogan was named to the Pro Football Focus MAC Offensive Team of the Week on Sept. 6 and has averaged over five yards a carry this season. Senior Jarvion Franklin is the current all-time leader for WMU in touchdowns wth 44 and sophomore LeVante Bellamy returns in full health from an ACL injury suffered last year.

The Bronco offense has averaged over 37 points and 368 yards a game, thanks in part to the efforts of this thtree-headed running game.

Darius Phillips already has two kickoff returned for touchdowns, upping his career total to four. He was named the MAC Special Teams Player of the Week following the USC and Michigan State game.


When Buffalo Has The Ball

Emmanuel Reed is the one name to know for the Bulls.

Having three straight 100-yard rushing performances this season, the sophomore is on pace to be the first running back in program history to rush for 100 yards or more in each of his first three starts.

Reed did not start against Colgate, the first of three wins for Buffalo. He’s also the reigning Mid-American Conference East Division Offensive Player of the Week, after going for 144 yards and three touchdowns at Kent State.

NCAA Football: Buffalo at Minnesota Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

As a team, Buffalo is averaging 53 carries a game over the last three games. The record for most carries in a game by an FBS program is 62 in 2003.

UB has scored 51 points in the first quarter of game this season, in comparison to the 10 points in 2016. The Bulls have also scored on their opening possession in three of the last four games.

Junior Drew Anderson made his first career start at quarterback against the Golden Flashes, replacing Tyree Jackson who left the FAU game due to injury. Anderson finished 11-of-18 for 142 yards and a touchdown in the win.


Game Information

Where: UB Stadium in Buffalo, New York.

When: 3:30 p.m. on Sat., Oct. 7

TV/streaming: ESPN3, the WatchESPN app and the ESPN App. Check you r local cable or sattelite provider for more information.

Spread: Western Michigan (-6.5)

Notes: The Broncos are ranked No. 1 in the country in Special Teams Efficiency, scoring three touchdowns and totaling 437 kickoff return yards, according to ESPN.com.


Prediction

These are two teams nearing the peak of its offensive abilities.

It’s almost a guarantee that the combined score will be over 50 points, being how running the ball has boded so well for each program while having a trusted starting quarterback.

This will come down to whosever defense doesn’t crack, with Buffalo leading the MAC in pass defense, allowing 156.4 yards per game, and only allowed two passing touchdowns. WMU leads the MAC with a +5 turnover margin and rank second in the conference in sacks with 13.

Reed is a good ball carrier, but he’s only one person, so the fact that the Broncos boast three quality options, it’ll be the difference in WMU getting its fourth straight win this season.

Score: Western Michigan 35, Buffalo 23