Western Michigan tries to cap an undefeated season with a win over Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl. Here are some storylines and predictions for the Broncos ahead of that matchup with the Badgers.
Two teams entered bowl season with a 13-0 record.
Don’t do it. Stop.
No. 1 Alabama …
I said don’t.
Please stop. Please. Just …
No, I’m not comparing the pesky Broncos from tiny Kalamazoo to the Crimson Tide juggernaut. But the fact remains that Western Michigan has had a remarkable season while completing an even more impressive turnaround since P.J. Fleck took over as coach.
Its reward is a trip to the prestigious Cotton Bowl to face Wisconsin, which cares not for fairy tale stories about once-forgotten teams from the MAC. Here are some storylines and predictions for the Broncos as they prepare to take on the Badgers.
From 11 losses to 13 wins
Fleck set out to change the culture at Western Michigan, and he had to make that message stick through a 1-11 campaign in his first season in 2013. His Row the Boat mantra garnered plenty of national attention as the Broncos improved to 8-5 in each of the next two seasons – including the program’s first-ever bowl victory in the Bahamas Bowl last year – up to this year’s undefeated regular season, MAC championship and Cotton Bowl appearance.
Fleck, who is only 35, has gotten plenty of personal attention, too, because of his motivational tactics and quick turnaround in Kalamazoo. But other programs are going to have to wait because …
Fleck still is coaching Western Michigan
There were plenty of rumors that Fleck was leaving for another job, but it appears every position he’d potentially consider has been filled. That could be because Fleck said he wanted to wait until after the MAC title game to speak with other schools, and most programs moved quickly to find replacements for dismissed coaches.
There’s a good chance Western Michigan has Fleck for at least another year, but it’s a given that bigger programs will come calling again next year.
Corey Davis is the real deal
There was a point in high school when Davis couldn’t keep his grades up and was on the verge of being homeless. But Fleck took a chance on the talented kid from suburban Chicago, and now he’s in the mix to be a first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Davis broke former Nevada standout Trevor Insley’s FBS career receiving yards record in the Broncos’ win over Toledo in the regular-season finale and now stands at 5,212. He’s gone over 1,400 yards each of the last three seasons and this year scored 18 touchdowns, giving him 51 in his career to set the MAC record.
Davis will face a tough test in the Cotton Bowl, though, as Wisconsin will send a secondary featuring Leo Musso, Sojourn Shelton, D’Cota Dixon and Derrick Tindal at him. All had at least three interceptions this season.
Can Zach Terrell pull a Trace McSorley?
Wisconsin didn’t allow a 300-yard passer in any of its first 12 games and tied for third in the nation with 21 interceptions. But that didn’t bother McSorley, who passed for 384 yards and four touchdowns while leading Penn State to a 38-31 win over the Badgers in the Big Ten championship game.
Western Michigan hopes Terrell can have a similar effort, especially considering that Wisconsin gave up the second-fewest rushing yards per game in the nation and will be prepared for the Broncos’ running back tandem of Jarvion Franklin and Jamauri Bogan.
Terrell certainly will be prepared. He’s second in the country in completion percentage at 70.8 and tossed 32 touchdown passes against only three interceptions. That makes for a 180.56 passer rating that ranks fourth in the nation.
Keion Adams will help contain Corey Clement
Western Michigan’s explosive, star-studded offense has overshadowed its talent on the defensive side of the ball. The Broncos led the MAC in total defense with plenty of help from Adams, who led the conference with 17 tackles for loss.
The senior defensive lineman also added 7.5 sacks. Adams will be counted on to help bottle up Clement, who has 1,304 rushing yards after going for at least 100 in his last five games.