There are plenty of mysterious questions in our world. Why do we love? What fuels humanity's endless curiosity? Will we find an intelligent life form not of this world? And, of course, how in God's name did Idaho end up in the Sun Belt? This final question is what makes college football a strange and beautiful (or some may call frustrating) place. Let's take a look at the Western Michigan Broncos' challenger this Saturday as the Broncos head out west (kickoff 5pm Eastern in Moscow, Idaho).
In week one, the Idaho Vandals avoided a loss to Florida [as the game was nullified because of severe weather, but shhhhh] and last week the Vandals more than proved their gusto in a one touchdown loss to conference foe Louisiana-Monroe.
Idaho fell behind and tied it up twice in the game, first coming back from a 21-7 first quarter deficit and then rallying again in the fourth quarter after trailing 31-21 at the end of the third. But unfortunately for the Vandals, Louisiana-Monroe pulled off a perfect two-minute drive, scoring the game winning touchdown with just 9 seconds left. So we know Idaho isn't going to just roll over - they are tough mentally.
The good thing I take away from the Idaho performance is that the Broncos should be able to score a lot, as the Vandals gave up 534 yards to the Louisiana-Monroe. I think Jarvion Franklin will get a chance to put up some nice numbers like he did against Purdue (163 yards rushing, three touchdowns). Freshmen aren't always the most consistent producers, but there's really no reason to believe that we should see any regression with this guy. Boy am I excited by Franklin, by the way! Seeing a hardcore runner at Western would be SO MUCH FUN. He could be the cornerstone of the Bronco offense for a while. But I may be getting ahead of myself and am certainly digressing.
Zach Terrell should be able to get the passing game going as well. As the Broncos week one game against Purdue progressed, we saw Terrell get comfortable and the passing game started to really develop. And with receiving talent like Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis, the Broncos could really torch Idaho. Hopefully it won't take a quarter to get into that rhythm this Saturday.
My primary concern is our defense. Despite some sporadic success against Purdue, especially early on, the Broncos couldn't make enough stops to make the difference. And Idaho put up 324 yards through the air against Louisiana-Monroe so it's clear that they can gun it. WMU head coach P.J. Fleck this week talked about being able to blitz effectively in order to disrupt the Vandal offense, both through the air and on the ground. If the Broncos can figure out a way to do this, the team should come out of the potato state with a victory.
Players to keep an eye out for:
WMU corner Donald Celiscar should be back in the lineup. Celiscar suffered a head injury against Purdue while delivering a hit and having him back would be a huge help to the Broncos control of Idaho's passing attack.
Idaho quarterback Matt Linehan. Like I said, this Idaho offensive is potent and this redshirt freshman from Michigan is a large reason for that. Coach Fleck has been impressed with his talent and the Idaho receiving corps is solid.
I think this will be another close game for the Broncos. I was pleasantly surprised with Western's offense against Purdue, and it seems likely we're in for another shoot-out in Idaho. Despite my personal disapproval of the "moral victory" premise, I do think the Broncos gained some confidence in their game with Purdue. With that, hopefully the defense makes some plays and the offense continues to be successful.
Final score: WMU 42 - Idaho 38.