Western Michigan Broncos
Head Coach: P.J. Fleck
2014 record: 8-5 overall, 6-2 MAC West
2014 Postseason results: Lost to Air Force 38-24 in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
2015 returning starters: 9 offense, 7 defense
Odds to win 2016 College Football Championship game: 7000/1
Odds to win 2015 MAC Championship Game: +525
Regular season wins: under 7 -150 /over 7 +120
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Last year, the Western Michigan Broncos went 8-5 including 6-2 in the MAC West. The Broncos entered the regular season finale against Northern Illinois on a six game winning streak However, they would lose to the Huskies 31-21. Western Michigan would have to settle for a berth in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl in Boise, where they lost to Air Force 38-24. Western Michigan is 0-6 in bowl games all time with four appearances since 2006.
With sixteen starters back, expectations are high for coach P.J. Fleck and the Broncos. The goal is to compete with Northern Illinois and Toledo for the MAC West. Or at the very least, win a bowl game for the first time in program history.
Last year, WMU averaged 438 yards per game on offense, including 267 passing and 171 rushing yards. The Broncos averaged 34 points a game. Western Michigan was in the top 40 nationally in total and passing offense, as well as scoring. Nine starters are back for coordinator Kirk Ciarrocco.
Junior quarterback Zach Terrell completed 67.9% of his passes for 3,443 yards with 26 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He also rushed for 264 yards on 78 carries with 3 touchdowns. Tom Flacco, younger brother of Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe, is the back-up.
Sophomore running back Jarvion Franklin had a very impressive freshman campaign. He rushed for 1,551 yards on 306 carries with 24 touchdowns, and also made 15 catches for 168 yards and a touchdown. He was the MAC offensive player of the year. Back-up Dareyon Chance has graduated after rushing for 321 yards and a touchdown last season. A pair of talented freshmen Jamauri Bogan and Davon Tucker will compete for the back-up carries. Terrell will continue to get a lot of carries as well.
Junior receiver Corey Davis is back after making 78 catches for 1,408 yards and 15 touchdowns. Daniel Braverman is also a junior after making 86 catches for 997 yards and 6 touchdowns, and also rushing for 58 yards with a touchdown. Sophomore Darius Phillips will play both receiver and cornerback in 2015. He had 32 catches for 479 yards and 2 touchdowns. Kendrick Roberts and tight end Eric Boyden will also get some targets after combining for 25 catches.
Three starters are back on the offensive line. Guards Taylor Morton and Ray Kristof are back as well as left tackle Willie Beavers. True freshman John Keenoy will start at center. Right tackle Chukwuma Okorafor has star potential.
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Last year, Western Michigan allowed 371 yards per game on defense, including 154 rushing and 218 passing yards. The Broncos allowed 25 points per game. WMU was in the top 50 nationally in all four categories. Seven starters are back for coordinator Ed Pinkham.
Three starters are back on the defensive line, but nose tackle Richard Ash must be replaced. Ends Jarrell McKinney and Nathan Braster are back along with tackle Cleveland Smith. Smith had 5.5 sacks last year. David Curle will likely replace Ash.
Middle linebacker Grant DePalma is back after making 102 tackles last year. Robert Spillane is also back on the weak side. Austin Lewis will start on the strong side.
Cornerback Ronald Zamort was All-MAC last year with 17 pass break-ups and 4 interceptions. Phillips will start at the other corner and is the fastest player on the team. Safety Rontavious Atkins is back and will be joined by Asantay Brown at the other safety.
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Kicker Andre Haldeman is a reliable weapon having made 30/37 field goals over the last two seasons. Punter J. Schroeder is also back after averaging 42.8 yards per punt last season. Phillips led the MAC in kickoff return average at 26 yards per return and returned one for a touchdown. Braverman averaged a paltry 1.7 yards per punt return but will be given the job again in 2015. Phillips could also return punts.
The non-conference schedule includes home games against Michigan State and Murray State, along with road games at Georgia Southern and Ohio State. October includes home games against Central Michigan and Miami-(OH), and road games at Ohio and Eastern Michigan. November is very tough with road games against Ball State and Bowling Green, and road games at Northern Illinois and Toledo to close out the season.
The schedule is very difficult for Western Michigan. Michigan State and Ohio State are both top ten teams nationally in the pre-season rankings. Georgia Southern is one of the favorites to win the Sun Belt. Not only that in conference, WMU closes against arguably the three best teams in the MAC. Even with sixteen starters back, I can’t see more than six wins for this team. Six win MAC teams usually don’t get bowl berths but with two added bowls in 2015 we will see.
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