In 2001, the Ohio State Buckeyes finished the season 8-4 and with a loss to South Carolina in the bowl game, in coach Jim Tressel’s first year. Mike Doss, an All-American safety decided to return for his senior season, saying he wanted to win a national championship. Even us Buckeye fans laughed and laughed. Then, in 2002, Ohio State became the first team to go 14-0 and won the national championship. I bring this up for two reasons. Mentioning a major program tends to excite the MAC fan bases, and Western Michigan is a particularly excitable bunch.
However, there is a second, and much more important reason to bring this up. There is a tendency for second year coaches to have amazing seasons, and this Broncos team could do exactly that. Like the 2002 Buckeyes, the previous coach loaded the team with talent. A decent chunk of this roster experienced the awesomeness of the 2016 season, and knows they can compete with anyone. This Syracuse game could be the perfect opportunity to get the ball rolling.
- When: Friday, August 31st, 6 P.M EST.
- Where: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Michigan
- Watch: CBS Sports Network
- Listen: Bronco Radio Network, 96.5 FM
- Line: Syracuse -5.5 per Vegas Insider
- Stream: CBS Sports HQ
When the Broncos have the ball
Look for quarterback Jon Wassink to be comfortable against the Syracuse defense. They aren’t particularly adept at rushing the passer, and the linebackers are all new. Also, his injury last year might actually be a blessing this season. He was starting to play well when it happened. Nothing beats game experience. However, he was able to get some last season, but was also given the time to process what was going on. Another boost is the Western Michigan coaching staff is very familiar with the Orange, with quite a few having coached there. Also, the Broncos are at home, and he has Jamauri Bogan behind him. In addition, Drake Harris, a 6’4 Michigan transfer, will be a solid target in times of trouble.
Look for Western Michigan to matriculate the ball down the field. Short passes will help open up the rushing attack, and the Broncos will have some success. Then, a big play by LeVante Bellamy or D’Wayne Eskridge could open things up. Look for either to get matched up with an inexperienced linebacker in Lester’s system, and then it’s off to the races. The Syracuse Orange defense wont get completely gouged, but they will give up some points.
When the Orange have the ball
It will be a similar story for the Orange offense. QB Eric Dungey will do a good job moving the ball in short bursts. A very good Western Michigan defensive backfield should keep the big plays at bay, as Justin Tranquill and company bring a lot of experience and talent. The Orange will score, but not every time, and not quickly.
It will be a plodding game where there are not a lot of top ten moments, but it there should be some pretty good football played. Syracuse has had a tendency to peter out at the end of the season recently, but I expect them to finish stronger this year, but start slower. Western Michigan is poised to make a run. They are at home, and the coaching staff is familiar with the foe. For all of these reasons, I expect a Broncos win, 35-24. Just like their win against Northwestern in 2016, I think it will be a confidence booster that could lead to big things on the season.