With a win, the Broncos will head to Detroit for the first time since 2016 and appear in their fourth MAC title game. If NIU pulls the upset, the Broncos can still make it to the MAC Championship game with a CMU loss.
When: Tuesday, November 26th at 7 p.m. (EST)
Where: Huskie Stadium — DeKalb, IL
Weather: Mid-40s and rain
Odds: WMU is a 7-point favorite and has a 75.8% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
This will be the 45 meeting between the two schools, who have meet every year since 1997 (when NIU rejoined the MAC). Western holds on to a 25-19 series lead.
The rivalry between the Broncos and Huskies began all the way back in 1950 and has been fraught with streaks. WMU won the first seven meetings and 14 of the first 15 before the Huskies won five straight from 1983-1988.
Western would claim the next six games, winning every game in the 90s. NIU would counter with another five game win streak from 2001-2005 before losing the next three years. But, from 2009-2015, NIU would claim seven straight wins, narrowing the gap between the teams.
Largest margin of victory:
NIU: 42-7 (35 points), 2005
WMU: 37-6 (31 points), 1976
Longest win streak:
NIU: 7 games (2009-2015)
WMU: 7 games (twice; 1950-1974 and 1976-1982)
WMU - 1 (28-21, 2018)
Points per game: 36
Points allowed: 27
Total yards: 467.2 (250 passing, 217.2 rushing)
Yards allowed: 429.5 (240.4 passing, 189.1 rushing)
WMU has one of the most balanced offenses in the NCAA, passing for 2750 yards and rushing for 2389 yards.
Running back LeVante Bellamy is one of the nation’s best. He leads the country with 21 rushing touchdowns and his 1284 yards rank second in the MAC and tenth overall. NIU will most likely have a hard time bringing him down this week.
When the Broncos don’t give Bellamy the ball, quarterback Jon Wassink has been just as effective. He’s completing over 60% of his passes and has 2719 yards and 19 touchdowns to just seven interceptions. He also has three rushing TDs and an additional 267 yards on the ground.
Wassink’s main targets have been tight end Giovanni Ricci and wideouts Skyy Moore and Keith Mixon Junior. Ricci and Mixon Jr. each have 45 receptions but Ricci has 611 yards and eight TDs to Mixon’s 477 yards and two scores. Moore has hauled in 38 catches for 608 yards and three touchdowns.
Defensively, linebacker Treshaun Hayward leads the team with 127 total tackles and 10.5 TFL. He’s also second on the team with five sacks and has also forced and recovered a fumble.
Points per game: 23.4
Points allowed: 29.5
Total yards: 368.5 (228.9 passing, 139.6 rushing)
Yards allowed: 390 (210.7 passing, 179.3 rushing)
It looks like Ross Bowers will once again be out with concussion-like symptoms, meaning he’ll miss Senior Day and that Marcus Childers will helm the NIU offense.
Childers is 42/71 throwing the ball for 388 yards and five touchdowns to three interceptions. He also has 312 rushing yards and added five rushing scores.
Tre Harbison will look to add yards on the ground as well. The junior eclipsed the 1000-yard mark last week and is the first Huskie to have back-to-back 1000-yard seasons since Jordan Lynch did it in 2012 and 2013. He has now tallied 1011 yards and eight touchdowns.
The other bright spot for the Huskie offense this season has been the tight ends - Mitchell Brinkman and Daniel Crawford. The duo have near identical stats;
Brinkman: 33 catches, 438 yards, and two scores
Crawford: 35 catches, 432 yards, and two scores
Cole Tucker has also played well, leading NIU with 38 catches for 531 yards.
The banged up Huskie defense is led by safety Mykelti Williams, who has 82 tackles, four TFL, a forced fumble, and a pass break up.
NIU has played 11 games this year and I still have no idea what I’m going to see week-to-week. Against CMU and EMU, the Huskies fell flat and were dominated from start to finish. But against Toledo, Ohio, and Akron, NIU looked like a tough opponent that could hang with any MAC team.
So, honestly, NIU could either hang with Western and win this game by 3 points or lose by 30+.
But, with both Wassink and Bellamy having great years, I don’t see the Huskie defense holding the Broncos.
Western gets to Detroit and meets up with the RedHawks.
WMU Broncos - 38
NIU Huskies - 17