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2022 MAC Football Week 4 Game Preview: Western Michigan Broncos at San José State Spartans

The Broncos look for a reprieve on the West Coast after a tough loss against Pittsburgh last week.

San Jose State v Auburn Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images

Western Michigan plays the late #MACtion game in Week 4 of the 2022 season, emulating Eastern Michigan’s trip to Tempe last week to beat Arizona State. A win against San José State wouldn’t be as impressive, but a road win is still a win.

Last week, Western Michigan lost to Pitt 34-13, and it was worse than the 21-point spread suggests. The Broncos did a decent job of holding Pitt to field goals which allowed them to hang around, but the offense never got into gear. There were no answers for the Broncos on Saturday in Kalamazoo, but San José State is a different test.

The Spartans are coming off a bye week and have only played two games. Portland State was their Week 1 opponent and they needed a late touchdown to get past a team predicted to finish in the bottom half of the Big Sky. They won 21-17, but Portland State had a chance to win on a Hail Mary on the last play.

The next week, the Spartans took a half-time lead into the locker room at Auburn. Auburn is always weird, but this season especially. It’s unclear what kind of team Auburn has this season and what the result against the Spartans says about either team. Major questions are swirling around Auburn’s head coach and his future in The Plains.

The Broncos hosted last year's game and cruised to a win 23-3. SJSU quarterback Nick Starkel went down in the third quarter with an injury and wouldn’t return until November. This season, the Broncos and Spartans are more evenly matched and hungry for a win.


  • Time and Date: Saturday, September 24, 2022, at 10:30 pm Eastern time
  • Network: CBS Sports Network (A valid subscription is required.)
  • Location: CEFCU Stadium in San Jose, California
  • Spread/Total: The Spartans are a 6.5-point favorite with an over/under spread of 49 points per OddsShark.
  • All-time series: Western Michigan leads the all-time series 1-0.

The Western Michigan Broncos through Week 3:

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at Western Michigan Kimberly Moss-USA TODAY Sports

One-quarter of the season is in the books and it’s still hard to draw conclusions about the quality of most teams. Michigan State entered the season ranked in the top 15 and is unranked after Washington scored 22 points on them in a quarter and a half. Pitt split their opening games against Power Five teams optimistic about their ability to move up in their conferences and demoralized WMU with a third-string quarterback.

The WMU stats in a vacuum are not good. The Broncos were physically outmatched twice and won a back-and-forth game against Ball State. With that context, the offense has been adequate.

The ups and downs that come with a redshirt freshman quarterback can be frustrating at times, but Salopek has played well. His receivers were a question mark coming into the season but they’ve been a dependable group. Salopek needs a strong, or at least effective, running game at this point in his career and he did not have that against Pitt.

This game should be better than the last for the WMU passing game. The west coast Spartans have had trouble generating negative plays on the ground and have only one sack between the two games so far.

Running backs Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson rush for 5.1 and 4.0 yards per rush respectively and expect to see them get going in this game. The Broncos are always looking to establish the run, and after being held 2.2 yards per rush as a unit against Pitt, they will make a point of it.

The defense has been stung by explosive plays, provided their opponent is starting their first-string quarterback. Michigan State had explosive plays on all five scoring drives and Ball State wasn’t quite that good, but two of their touchdown drives averaged over ten yards per play. Pitt was much more controlled, but they were trying desperately to not throw the ball.

The Bronco defense has had trouble generating the negative play themselves, defensive linemen Braden Fiske being an exception. Fiske has been everywhere making stops in the backfield, stripping ball carriers and jumping on the ball. The pressure hasn’t consistently sped up the opponent's quarterbacks, which has left the secondary in some tough spots.

DaShon Bussell hasn’t played since the Michigan State game and it leaves a huge hole at the cornerback spot. It’s the second year that he’s earned a starting spot and been sidelined due to injury.

The defense will be relieved to be playing a G5 opponent, but they can’t be too comfortable. San José State uses a mobile quarterback and gives him the green light to take off.

The San José State Spartans through Week 3:

NCAA Football: San Jose State at Auburn John Reed-USA TODAY Sports

Which Spartan team is going to show up Saturday night? The group that needed their two-minute offense to score a touchdown to take the lead against FCS Portland State, or the team that kept it within eight points of Auburn?

In either case, Spartan running back Kairee Robinson had a tough two games. In 21 total rushes, he has 59 yards and a touchdown to his name. Quarterback, and Hawaii transfer, Chevan Cordeiro has been the more dangerous runner so far with 17 rushes for 107 yards and two touchdowns after sacks have been removed. He has been sacked ten times in two games. The Bronco defense needs to maintain that this week.

They're a team built on a passing offense anyway, so an effective running game is nice but not necessary. Robinson has almost matched his rushing yardage on six catches out of the backfield. They're completing 56 percent of their passes as an offense and not getting the push they need to convert short-yardage plays.

Cordeiro struggled in his first start with the Spartans and completed only 50 percent of his passes. He was much better against Auburn and was able to complete 60 percent of his passes to a good receiver group. So far this season the Spartans have four receivers averaging over 10 yards per catch.

One of them is a graduate transfer from Nevada, Elijah Cooks. He’s a six-foot-four target on the outside that can clean up when he’s got a mismatch. Against Portland State, he had 123 yards on six catches. The Vikings couldn’t match up with his height and it showed. Charles Ross and Justin Lockhart are both listed at six-foot-two and as a unit create size issues for defenses.

The defense more than makes up for their lack of push with a ball-hawking secondary. Safety Tre Jenkins, cornerbacks Kenyon Reed and Chase Williams and linebacker Jordan Cobbs have one interception each. Their offensive success is a result of extra possessions and great field position.

Their defense also benefits from the ninth-best field position in the nation. That recipe is a classic. Score on short fields and force opponents to go a long way.

The defense has been the strength of the Spartans and had two very good performances. Neither result was particularly encouraging for the team but allowing twenty points a game gives the offense a chance to win. The Broncos are going to run the ball and take advantage of the front seven until they cannot. It’s likely that Salopek will be asked to convert some 3rd and longs to keep drives alive when the running game falls behind the chains.


I think the Bronco offense rebounds but turns the ball over too much. It’s been a regular feature of the games this season and this SJSU defense wants the ball.

The Bronco defense can keep the Spartan offense in check most of the time, but the big and tall receivers get loose too often.

Western Michigan 24
San José State 28