The Western Michigan Broncos will travel to Mt. Pleasant to play the Central Michigan Chippewas in the 94th meeting between these two rival programs. The winner of the game takes home the Victory Cannon trophy, and this matchup is the 15th time the trophy itself it will be on the line. Western Michigan has won it eight times and Central Michigan six.
This year, the stakes aren’t quite as high as they have been in previous seasons, but that doesn’t matter in a game like this. Both teams enter with losing records in the midst of disappointing seasons, which only adds to the importance of this game.
Western Michigan is in desperate need of success this season.
With three weeks left, there was a chance that wins against a 2-7 NIU team, a 3-6 Chippewa squad, and an upset of a Toledo team that should be resting starters gets the Broncos to a bowl game. A touchdown by the Huskies on their final drive ended that dream last week and the only goal the Broncos have left is to beat Central— the ever-present target, regardless of anything.
Central Michigan, meanwhile, can still get to a bowl game, sitting at 4-6 so far this season.
Their season started with MAC Championship Game aspirations but early season injuries and setbacks in their first two MAC games dashed those hopes. The Chippewas have gone 3-1 since, and winnable games vs. a down WMU squad and a perpetually gritty Eastern Michigan Eagles remaining on the schedule. Sweeping the pair and getting a bowl game in a probably warm location is a suitable consolation prize for this season.
The Broncos would love nothing more than to take that away from the Chippewas, as any rival would.
- Time and Date: Wednesday, November 16th at 8:00 pm ET
- Network: ESPNU (A valid subscription is required.)
- Location: Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant, Michigan
- All-time series: The Western Michigan Broncos hold a 51-40-2 series lead over the Central Michigan Chippewas. Central Michigan is looking to get its first home win in the rivalry since 2010.
- Odds: Central Michigan is favored by 11-points and the game has an over/under spread of 49.5 points, per OddsShark.
The Western Michigan Broncos through Week 11:
Treyson Bourguet continues to run the offense and settle in. The Broncos are making progress and scored 21 last week against Northern Illinois. That’s the most in a game since Bourguet took over. It should be noted that a pair of touchdowns (inclulding one defensive) were taken off the board due to penalties.
When Western Michigan has the ball, they are going to need to be more creative than they have in the past. The Central Michigan defense looks like it will match up well with playmakers in the front seven against a struggling offensive line. The Broncos surrender sacks on more than 10 percent of their dropbacks and are 92nd in the nation in line yards.
The only way that the Broncos survive and score points is to keep the Central Michigan defensive front off balance. CMU creates havoc with their front and in the defensive backfield, so it will also be important for Bourguet and running back Sean Tyler to be smart with the football and take care of it.
In the last game, more targets went to younger players than in previous weeks. Corey Crooms is still the top target, but freshman Nate Anderson was second on the team with six catches. Sophomore Anthony Sambucci caught a touchdown pass on his one catch but was targeted a handful of times. Absent are the transfers brought in, Jehlani Galloway and AJ Abbott. Clearly, the Broncos are focused on building a core to progress into next season and beyond.
On defense, the Broncos will need to contain the run and force passing situations on third down. It’s been the reason for their success the last three weeks, but this is the most balanced offense that they’ve seen since their mid-season renaissance. The Chippewas haven’t struggled to run the ball this season but it hasn’t been as cut and dry as last season.
A year ago running back Lew Nichols led the nation in rushing yards, and this season he’s tenth in the MAC with a 3.4 yards per rush average.
Wednesday is not the night that the running attack can snap back into it if the Broncos want to be competitive.
Western Michigan will need to prepare for two very different quarterbacks. The starter from a season ago, Daniel Richardson, has been in and out all season. He hasn’t made too many mistakes with the football with only five interceptions, but he hasn’t been effective either. He averages fewer than 6.5 yards per pass and is completing around 56% of his passes. The Broncos need to force him to be the one to beat them if CMU is going to win.
The problem the Broncos are going to have is a running quarterback named Bert Emanuel Jr. He got into the game against Buffalo last week and showed what he can do while he ran for 293 yards. Luckily for the Broncos, they know he’s an option that needs to be respected. Buffalo was caught pretty flat-footed and it showed.
Western Michigan will have their work cut out for them against a CMU team that has played better on paper, but the game isn’t played on paper.
The Central Michigan Chippewas through Week 11:
Freshman quarterback Bert Emanuel Jr has recently appeared in two games this season. He has attempted three passes but his game is really not about his arm. In the second half of the Buffalo game a week ago he ran the ball 24 times for 293 yards and three touchdowns during the comeback effort. He scored on runs of 75-yards, 87-yards, and one yard.
The 87-yarder was a thing of beauty:
A STAR IS BORN ⭐️— The Transfer Portal CFB (@TPortalCFB) November 10, 2022
Bert Emanuel Jr. is HIM!!!
At six-foot-three and 210 pounds, he’s tough to bring down or even push out of bounds. Just ask every Buffalo defender in the play above.
The Chippewas found a new, huge weapon to use in the rivalry game and into the future. He’s only been asked to throw the ball four times with one completed pass and one sack. It’s an area of his game that wasn’t needed much against Buffalo, and may not be needed against WMU. The Broncos knew Northern Illinois was going to run the ball and couldn’t stop them with their third running back on the depth chart getting the carries.
Western Michigan does have an aggressive defensive front and likes to pressure its opponents with negative plays in the running game. Central would do well to make sure the runs get upfield quickly and keep the negative plays to a minimum.
The Broncos have limited the big play but allowed first downs. When the field is compressed, they do a good job of forcing their opponents into field goals. Central Michigan’s kicker is not turning redzone stalls into three points, mainly due to lack of opportunities, but it shouldn’t be up to him.
The Broncos gave up big play after big play earlier in the season, which continued a trend from the previous season. Once MAC play started, they’ve done a good job of keeping opponents in front of them and tackling well. Central Michigan should test the secondary with some deep shots. They’re better at hitting them than their last three opponents and can use them to take the game over early.
Central Michigan should use its talent across the defensive line to contain the Broncos. If linemen Thomas Incoom, John Wesley Whiteside and LaQuan Johnson Jr. can create pressure without blitzes and keep the linebackers free against the run, the Broncos won’t be able to move the ball. The three linemen listed combine for 28.5 tackles for loss and 13.5 sacks, with most of those numbers from the seemingly unblockable Incoom.
The offensive line for the Broncos has been a source of frustration and the Chippewas should be disciplined enough to make sure they can turn up the pressure. Havoc plays should be abundant for CMU.
If the front can commit the minimum to the pass rush and be effective, the defensive backs and linebackers can make Bourguet’s night very difficult. The biggest weapon the offense has is Corey Crooms and they force the ball to him a little too often. With potentially no time and no clean throwing lanes, nothing will come easily for the Broncos.
Central Michigan should hold the upper hand when they’re on defense and as long as they play disciplined football, they should maintain it.
The Western Michigan offense is going to struggle to generate points on its own. Their best-case scenario is a low-scoring affair. It would not be surprising to see Tim Lester and company dump out the playbook and run a gadget play at every opportunity.
If Central Michigan can play a clean game, take care of the football and minimize penalties in what is sure to be an emotional game, they will take care of business.
Western Michigan 14
Central Michigan 31