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2018 Week 7 MAC Preview: Western Michigan Broncos @ Bowling Green Falcons

Broncos aiming for fifth-straight victory over struggling Falcons.

Syracuse v Western Michigan Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

It’s not Super Bowl XXXIII. There won’t be John Elway, Terrell Davis, or Chris Chandler. Instead, this Broncos-Falcons matchup features the likes of Jon Wassink, LeVante Bellamy, and Jarret Doege.

Saturday’s matchup between Western Michigan and Bowling Green will be all about two high-powered offenses when the interdivisional opponents collide at Doyt-Perry Stadium.

After a lackluster 0-2 start, Western Michigan is arguably the hottest team in the MAC. The Broncos are currently galloping into the Falcons’ house with 4-straight victories, averaging 42.25 points during those contents. However, the schedule has weakened during the Broncos’ win streak, after the team’s defense suffered major lapses versus Syracuse (55-42) and at Michigan (49-3). The team’s most outstanding win is a toss-up between a 3-point victory against Eastern Michigan and a 1-point victory at Miami (OH) — both programs are 2-4.

One man responsible for Western Michigan’s offensive emergence on this streak is junior quarterback Jon Wassink. Last season, we never witnessed Wassink’s true potential after he went down with a season-ending collarbone injury. The pro-style quarterback has been nothing short of stellar during the last four games, averaging 298.5 passing yards per game with a 69.4 completion percentage.

He’s also added 11 passing touchdowns and just one interception during the span, particularly excelling at Miami (OH). In a 40-39 win, Wassink threw for career-highs in yards (439) and touchdowns (5). Western Michigan’s offense could be described as mediocre-at-best during the tail end of last year, but the Broncos’ finally have a formidable unit for the first time since Tim Lester took over.

Add the MAC’s leading rusher LeVante Bellamy to the mix, and it’s easy to see why the Falcons’ defense should be concerned on Saturday. Bellamy averages 6.7 yards per carry and has already exploded for three carries of 40 yards or greater this season. His counterpart, Jamauri Bogan, isn’t too shabby either. He’s had a few rough outings this year, but when the senior has also bursted for game-changing carries of 59 and 71 yards this season.

Bowling Green’s defense hasn’t had an answer to the run game yet this season. The Falcons rank dead last in the FBS, yielding 332.3 yards per contest. The unit has already allowed a nation-high of 27 rushing touchdowns, showing no signs of improvement from week to week. Countering Bellamy, Bogan, and Western Michigan’s decent offensive line anchored by John Keenoy will be a difficult task for the Falcons.

So, Bowling Green must try to win this game in shootout form.

Offense never seems to be Bowling Green’s issue. Last week at Toledo, the Falcons proved they can score the ball, and the team has jumped out to several hot starts this season against overmatched opponents — e.g. 10-0 lead over Oregon, 14-10 lead over Maryland. In a 52-36 loss at the Glass Bowl, Mike Jinks’ team accumulated 481 yards of total offense thanks to the arrival of running back Andrew Clair.

Clair, a rising star at the end of last season, suffered a bit of a sophomore slump. But after 118 rushing yards, 75 receiving yards, and three total touchdowns last Saturday, it’s safe to say Clair is back to being one of the most dangerous skill position players in the conference.

With Jarret Doege firing for three touchdowns and nearly 300 yards, the Falcons were able to drop 36 points on Toledo’s defense. However, Bowling Green just continues to look helpless on defense.

Luckily for the Falcons, Western Michigan’s defense has suffered at times this year too. Syracuse scored 55 on the Broncos, Michigan scored 49, and Miami (OH) managed to post 39. Defense hasn’t been the Broncos’ strong suit, but the team’s talented offense and serviceable schedule has allowed the team to reach plenty of success.

Pitted up against a 1-5 Bowling Green team with the country’s worst rushing defense, this should be an extremely winnable game for the Broncos.

Game Notes

  • Time and Date: Saturday, October 13 — 3:00 p.m. ET
  • Venue: Doyt-Perry Stadium — Bowling Green, OH
  • Network: ESPN+
  • Spread: Western Michigan (-14.5)
  • ESPN FPI Predictor: Western Michigan has 84.9% chance to win
  • All-time series: Bowling Green leads 32-18-3

The 2015 Falcons, MAC champions, claimed themselves as victors in the last meeting, which occurred in Kalamazoo. Western Michigan won each of the four prior matchups before 2015, but it’s been mostly orange and brown during this longtime series, which debuted in 1954.

Last time the game used Doyt-Perry Stadium as the setting, Western Michigan won 41-7 in 2010.

Prediction

Western Michigan wins. With a high-powered Broncos offense, expect Bowling Green to lose with a similar-looking score from last week. The Falcons’ offense is talented, but they won’t be able to go punch for punch with Wassink, Bellamy, and the rest of Lester’s offense.

Western Michigan’s defense is slightly better too, and the team proved they’re capable of halting opponents’ offenses against Georgia State and Eastern Michigan. The Broncos have the better all-around team, and expect another 100+ game from Bellamy and Bogan — or perhaps even both.

Also, don’t sleep on Jayden Reed and D’Wayne Eskridge. For the first time since Corey Davis departed the program, Western Michigan has found star receivers. Reed has three games of 100+ yards this year, including one with a program-record of four touchdown receptions. Eskridge has games of 240 yards and 141 yards under his belt.

Bowling Green’s defense should beware of everything Western Michigan’s going to throw at them.

Prediction: Western Michigan 48, Bowling Green 28