Western Michigan vs. Northern Illinois prediction and game preview. The Broncos look to remain unbeaten when they host the struggling Huskies.
Western Michigan vs. Northern Illinois Game Preview
When: Saturday, Oct. 8 – 6:30 p.m. ET
Where: Waldo Stadium, Kalamazoo, Mich.
TV Broadcast: CBS Sports Network
There’s a changing of the guard happening in the MAC West, with Western Michigan on its way to surpassing Northern Illinois. Coach P.J. Fleck’s Broncos are riding at 5-0 with a pair of wins over Big Ten teams under their belts, and their possibly just one more victory away from cracking the AP Top 25. Last week’s 49-10 thrashing of Central Michigan, which has a win at Oklahoma State to its credit, was as impressive as it gets. The Broncos are now the only team remaining in FBS that hasn’t committed a single turnover.
Western Michigan hasn’t appeared in the MAC title game since 2000, but it is poised to do so this season as NIU’s six-year reign atop the West Division appears to be coming to an end. The Huskies are just 1-4 after last week’s 31-24 victory over Ball State, bouncing back from a loss to FCS foe Western Illinois. Redshirt senior Anthony Maddie, a transfer from Western Michigan, started at quarterback.
What to Know About Western Michigan
Fleck is one of the hottest coaching names in the country and for good reason. He’s put together the MAC’s top recruiting classes the last few years and, after going 1-11 in his first year during the transition phase, has gone 8-5 the last two seasons. Fleck has transformed the Broncos into the MAC’s best team in a short time, and Western Michigan is going to have a tough time keeping him in Kalamazoo.
What’s been most impressive is how Western Michigan is getting it done on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Zach Terrell is completing 69.7 percent of his passes with 12 touchdowns. Half of them have gone to Corey Davis, who is a legitimate candidate to be a first-round NFL draft pick.
The Broncos also have the stingiest defense in the MAC allowing 319.2 yards and 18.6 points per game. They’ve outscored opponents 224-93.
What to Know About Northern Illinois
Quarterback Ryan Graham’s family took in Davis in high school and are his legal guardians. Graham and Davis consider each other brothers. Only one might play in this game, though.
Graham took over as the starter when Drew Hare was injured for the season. But after struggling through two-plus games with a 56.9 completion percentage and three interceptions, coach Rod Carey inserted Maddie, who started his career at Western Michigan before transferring.
Maddie finished with 298 yards and two touchdowns passing last week against Ball State and also added 160 yards on the ground, including a 75-yard touchdown run. He’ll get another shot to deliver the Huskies a win this week.
Offense: Western Michigan – These offenses are two of the best in the conference statistically, but Terrell and Davis put the Broncos over the top here.
Defense: Western Michigan – NIU is allowing 6.1 yards per play, second-worst in the 12-team MAC.
Special Teams: Western Michigan – The Broncos are tied for first in the conference with three punt returns of 20-plus yards and tied for second in kickoff returns over at least 30.
Coaching: Western Michigan – Fleck is better than most coaches in the country.
Intangibles: Northern Illinois – The Huskies have won the last seven meetings. That’s about all they have going for them in this one.
Matchup To Watch
Maddie vs. Western Michigan’s defense
Maddie’s effort against Ball State was nice, but he’s yet to face a defense like this. If he can navigate through Western Michigan’s front while carrying the ball and find space in the passing game, this could be closer than most expect.
Spread: Western Michigan -19.5
Western Michigan vs. Northern Illinois Prediction
Terrell and Davis hook up for two touchdowns, the Western Michigan defense stifles Maddie and the Broncos handle the Huskies easily under the lights.
Western Michigan vs. Northern Illinois final score prediction: Western Michigan 42, Northern Illinois 21