Tomorrow night the Western Michigan Broncos and the Northern Illinois Huskies take the field at 8:00PM Eastern on ESPN2. These two division rivals are sitting at 5-1 in conference play so faltering at this point in the season is not an option. Keeping the dream alive of getting to Detroit for a MAC title is on the line here. With so much at stake for the Broncos and Huskies, two Hustle Belt writers from these fanbases discuss this huge game. Let's here from Dave Drury (representing NIU) and Ben Roush (for the Broncos).
Dave: This game goes a long way in determining the winner of the MAC West. Last week's loss must have you guys pretty nervous right now.
Ben: You're right, last week did not feel great at all. We didn't do enough to stop the Falcons defensively (although the D did do a nice job only allowing 14 points in the 2nd half). But of more concern was the fact that Terrell looked very shaky. He wasn't helped by a few dropped balls, but he was also missing on a lot of passes. I don't think Terrell makes these mistakes two weeks in a row here. Expect him back to his normal self.
What about the situation at QB for your squad? You think the freshman sensation that is Ryan Graham continues onward? Freshman can get pretty inconsistent sometimes...
Dave: True. And, even though he played well against Toledo and Buffalo, I'm still not 100% on him...but I wasn't on Hare either. However, luckily for him, NIU has a QB friendly system and a solid running game to help him gain confidence. Last week though Graham only completed passes to TWO receivers...he needs to spread it around more against a Bronco team that's pretty good defensively. Also, this Huskie defense has come to play this year. With 17 interceptions this season, Terrell could be in for a long day. Shawun Lurry will make sure of that!
Ben: Your secondary has been incredibly impressive in nabbing interceptions, no doubt. But like you said, Western's defense is pretty solid. While NIU is giving up 227.8 yds/game through the air, WMU is doing just a little bit better at 225.9 yds/game. This one might come down to the run game. How do you think the Huskies do against the three-headed running back monster that is Jamauri Bogan, Jarvion Franklin, and LeVante Bellamy?
Dave: Well opponents are only gaining about 153 yards per game against our run defense so I think we'll do well there. We played another three-headed monster when we beat Toledo. NIU held them in check (for the most part) and we were away for that game. At home...the Huskies shine. I'll be interested to see how you guys handle Joel Bouagnon, Jordan Huff, and the rest of the Huskie running backs.
Ben: Yeah, I'm a bit scared of your rushers. We didn't exactly thrive with Bowling Green's Travis Greene last week. Fleck will have something up his sleeve though. We beat Central, and they beat you guys, so hopefully the transitive property of football means something on Wednesday night. This isn't the first time he's done it, but how do you feel about former Huskie great P.J. Fleck riding into town in different colors? I'm always curious about how fan bases process those emotions.
Dave: You know, P.J. was actually one of my favorite Huskies when he played here. Some (ok, most) NIU fans dislike him now and feel like he's a traitor. I don't. I hope every Huskie alum does well, including him. That being said, I want him to lose every time he plays NIU.
Ben: That's pretty much a perfect response. I think P.J. wants this one bad. I'm predicting a high scoring affair in this one. If Terrell can start hitting Braverman in open space he can do some serious damage. That'll build up Terrell's confidence as the game goes on, probably opens up Davis for some some deep threats, then the deep ball opens up the running game. I think it's time for P.J. to win in DeKalb again, but not before we have to surrender a lot of points to the Huskie offense. In other words: JESUS I WANT TO BEAT YOU GUYS, WE HAVEN'T DONE IT SINCE 2008. Sorry, I just get worked up sometimes.
Dave: That's quite alright, we all do when it comes to #MACtion. But you might need to wait a little bit longer for that win. Graham has a few deep threats of his own in Kenny Golladay and Juwan Brescacin and Huskie Stadium isn't a place you can just waltz out of with an easy win. I think this well be a good game, a close game, and will make me drink (a lot). And I'd never bet against NIU at home. The Huskies' playmakers will do just enough to squeak out a win.
That's Hustle Belt's spin. What does the MAC universe thinks? Who wins this one?