At the halfway point of P.J. Fleck’s first season at the helm of the WMU Football Team, the Broncos find themselves winless as the welcome the Buffalo Bulls to Waldo Stadium for Homecoming weekend. Western Michigan is hosting its 90th Homecoming game and look to make it three consecutive Homecoming wins. The Bulls are 3-2 overall and are looking to start 2-0 in Mid-American Conference play for the first time since joining the league in 1999 after thrashing EMU last weekend 42-14. WMU holds a 5-1 all-time record against Buffalo and a perfect 4-0 mark at Waldo Stadium. Buffalo won last year’s matchup 29-24 in Buffalo.
1. If he plays, TVT MUST be better – Fifth-year senior Tyler VanTubbergen is still listed as questionable for Saturday’s game and its likely redshirt freshman Zach Terrell could make the start. However, if TVT does play he should be on a short leash. His 10 INTs lead the MAC, while his 45% completion rate is lowest among qualified QBs. These numbers are unacceptable and it might just be time to see what the Broncos have in Terrell. Terrell was 10 of 13 for 184 yards and an INT on his first pass attempt after replacing TVT in the third quarter last week against Toledo.
2. Stay away from Mack – The Broncos have faced some talented defensive players but none as fearsome as Buffalo linebacker Khali Mack. Mack ranks 3rd all-time in MAC history for career sacks and is 7th in career tackles for loss. He is a defensive playmaker that will have to be accounted for and if possible, double teamed on every play.
3. Get the lead early – One of the Broncos’ many problems has been their inability to score early. With just three points scored in the first quarter all season, WMU has faced early deficits and have had to abandon its game plan. Buffalo is sporting a three game winning streak and would like nothing more than to extend it to four and ruining the Broncos’ Homecoming plans while dropping P.J. Fleck’s record to 0-7.
4. Stop the run – The Broncos’ defense is allowing over 271 yards per game on the ground, mostly due to teams taking the air out of the ball with such big leads towards the end of the game. But don’t get confused, the opposition is establishing the run early and the Broncos can’t stop it. The Broncos have allowed 100 yard rushers in back-to-back games including 220 yards last week to David Fluellen.
5. Protect the ball – WMU is last in the MAC in turnover differential at -8. A lot of that goes back to the inaccuracy of TVT, but the defense has been just as poor at forcing turnovers. To beat this upstart, confident Buffalo team, WMU must win the turnover battle.
Prediction: Buffalo 27 WMU 20