The University at Buffalo football team visits 14th-ranked Western Michigan at 3:30 p.m. Saturday in Kalamazoo, Mich. The Broncos are 10-0 and likely are headed to the Cotton Bowl on New Year’s Day if they can win their final two regular-season games and then the Mid-American Conference championship game.
Here’s an update on Western Michigan via three questions with Alan Gerould, senior writer for BroncoBlitz on Rivals.com. His work can be found here: https://westernmichigan.rivals.com/
1. What has been P.J. Fleck's secret to success in recruiting? What advantages does WMU have over some other schools in recruiting?
There are many things on both counts. Let’s start with P.J. You can't coach/teach personality, passion, enthusiasm, sincerity, all traits that P.J. has more of, pound for pound, than any person I have ever met. It wasn't that long ago that he was playing in the NFL and then coaching NFL wide receivers. Today's high school kid can relate to him and the parents love him. The other thing is his stated commitment to recruit within a six-hour radius of Kalamazoo, which of course includes Detroit, Chicago, Indy, Cleveland, etc. I think this has been an important part of his recruiting success. You can focus your resources better in a specific region. In addition, Western Michigan University has been categorized by Washington Monthly as both a top-100 national university and a Best Bang for the Buck school. They have superior engineering, business and aviation schools and just opened a medical school. Plus Kalamazoo is a "cool" city.
2. Is there any way to contain the WMU rushing attack? Eastern Michigan and Ball State contained it a bit, according to the final stats, true? Did they do something better than other teams?
The only way to contain the Bronco running attack is to put 11 guys in the box. It all starts up front. Western Michigan's O-line was recently ranked as the fourth best unit in the nation by Pro Football Focus, behind only Auburn, LSU, Alabama so that helps. The other thing is the strong passing attack. With WMU it is pick your poison. If we get one on one with Corey Davis, or good matchups with Michael Henry or Carrington Thompson, we are going up top. But the run sets up the pass and vice versa. Finally, the Broncos are deep at the position. Coach Fleck says that he learned from Coach Jim Tressel when he was a graduate assistant at Ohio State that you can never have enough running backs. We have the last two MAC Freshmen of the Year in Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan, with Davon Tucker and Fabian Johnson (who gained 121 last week) itching to get on the field.
3. How about the regular-season finale vs. Toledo? How tough a game do you expect that to be?
It will be our best test of the year against the best team on our schedule (I thought that to be Northwestern at the beginning of the year, but I have since amended my thoughts). They really want revenge against WMU for knocking them out of the top 25 and out of a MAC championship berth the day after Thanksgiving last year. They are loaded with talent, Logan Woodside and Kareem Hunt, to name two. I thought this game would come down to a field goal when I did my preseason preview. P.J. will have them sky high for this game. He will figure a way to spin the fact that they are getting no respect from the playoff committee and that they will have to play their best game ever to get a chance to play in the MAC Championship let alone the Cotton Bowl. I still think it's a close game, but the Broncos have something special going this season, and it will take more than rockets to shoot them down. I predicted at the beginning of the year that the Broncos would go undefeated in the regular season. To do that they must win their last two games, Buffalo and Toledo. I think they win both . . . over the Bulls, 44-10 . . . over the Rockets,