Western hosted one of the big kids in Michigan State last weekend and while a loss is a loss, the Broncos did come away from the Friday night affair with their honor intact. The same can't quite be said for Western's next opponent, the Georgia Southern Eagles, who dropped their season opener to West Virginia by a 44-0 margin. This scoreline shouldn't put the Bronco faithful at complete ease though - Western shouldn't take this opponent easy. And I don't think they will.
What might worry Western fans
Georgia Southern runs an offensive scheme that has been problematic to WMU in recent history. Namely, the triple option that Air Force ran last year in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl and that threw the Western defense some problems. Georgia Southern has become famous for this style of play. You may have heard of their upset victory at Florida in 2013 - a game that the Eagles won as an FCS school while never having to complete a pass (and only attempting three of them).
Defending the run is a bit more concerning considering Bronco starting linebacker Grant DePalma is questionable for this Saturday's game after an injury against Michigan State. We've got to hope that the Air Force game last year provided a lot of insight into dealing with the Eagles.
Also on the injury front, WMU running back Jarvion Franklin left the MSU game with concussion-like symptoms. He's probable to play this weekend, but it's not clear how any injury will factor into the Western offensive strategy.
What will make Western fans excited
The Bronco passing attack looked quite good against a top 10 team. Zach Terrell went 33-50, throwing for 365 yards and hitting two touchdowns. He also through two picks, but his first half interception was only the result of a deflected ball. And we know Corey Davis hasn't missed a step in the off-season after witnessing his circus catch on Friday. (Take a look at it here.) I think Terrell and company will keep the offense humming along nicely against the Eagles.
Georgia Southern's passing attack is pretty much an exact 180 from where Western's is right now. Staring QB Kevin Ellison was suspended against West Virginia and will also be out this weekend. In his stead, QB Favian Upshaw had just about the roughest outing out one can have. He was 2-for-13 for 29 yards and four interceptions. Remember how I said Western might be vulnerable to the Georgia Southern rushing game? Well that might be the Eagles only option.
The Eagles could also be limited in their special teams options. Western's Darius Phillips look absolutely amazing returning kicks last week, bringing one down to the MSU 30 and then taking one to the house. So don't be surprised at all if Georgia Southern tries to kick around him. In fact, don't be surprised if that happens all year.
How will this one shake out?
In the end, I think the Western offensive attack will be too much for the Eagles. Terrell and the passing attack will really want to put up the types of numbers they did last week and come away with the win. And the Bronco rushing attack will be better against Georgia Southern than the huge d-line of Michigan State. This will be an extremely close game though. Georgia Southern has a proud football tradition, and they won't be blown out at home, particularly with an offense that Western will be challenged by.
However, as fellow Hustle Belt WMU writer Justin Coffin pointed out to me: our coaches did a great job with second half adjustments against MSU. That means, with this third year of experience, I think it's obvious that coach Fleck and his staff are improving greatly. A road win against a tough mid-major is exactly what Fleck needs - and he should get it.
Game time: Saturday, September 12, 6:00pm EDT
Location: Paulson Stadium, Statesboro, Georgia
Radio: The Bronco Radio Network and the Georgia Southern Radio Network
Line: WMU (-4.5) as of 2:45pm EDT via ESPN