No. 14 WMU needs one more victory for unbeaten season
One game separates Western Michigan from an undefeated regular season and it’s against a team that will have plenty of motivation in its own right.
The 14th-ranked Broncos face Toledo on Friday with a division title at stake. Yes, it’s true: After all the fanfare WMU has received for its remarkable run this year, the Broncos aren’t even assured a spot in the Mid-American Conference title game. They still have another test to pass.
“We have to be at our best. Toledo’s a phenomenal football team, with a really, really talented coach,” Broncos coach P.J. Fleck said. “It’s like looking in the mirror on offense, defense and special teams. It’s amazing how similar we both really are.”
The winner of Friday’s game will face Ohio in the MAC title game next week.
WMU (11-0, 7-0, No. 21 CFP) beat Northwestern by one in its season opener and has won every game since by double digits. Along with Alabama, the Broncos are one of two FBS teams that are still undefeated. With every victory, the stakes grow for WMU, which has a legitimate chance to play in a major bowl if it can maintain its unblemished record.
Last weekend, ESPN “CollegeGameday” paid WMU a visit for its 38-0 win over Buffalo .
“Probably one of the most historic days our community and our city and our university have ever seen,” Fleck said. “We embraced it, we had a lot of fun with it, our players learned a lot, and then they also finished off the week with a win.”
Toledo (9-2, 6-1) comes into this week’s game having won three in a row. The big question for any team hoping to upset WMU is how to contain the Broncos’ electrifying tandem of quarterback Zach Terrell and Corey Davis.
“They’re going to do what they do. They’re well coached on offense, they’re going to get the football to their playmakers,” Toledo coach Jason Candle said. “You’ve got to do a good job of trying to limit Corey’s touches if you can, and I think the most important thing, where it can get lost, is the yards after the catch.”
Here are a few things to know when WMU hosts Toledo:
Toledo has been one of the MAC’s most consistent teams in recent years — the Rockets will finish above .500 in league play for a seventh straight season. But they haven’t been able to break through and win a league title in that span. Northern Illinois represented the MAC West in the conference championship game for the past six years, with Toledo always seeming to fall just short.
The Rockets would have won the division outright if they’d been able to beat WMU last year, but a 35-30 loss to the Broncos created a four-way tie for first place and sent NIU to the MAC title game again. Toledo hasn’t been to the league championship game since winning the title in 2004. WMU hasn’t won a MAC championship since 1988 and hasn’t played in the title game since 2000.
Davis comes into Friday’s game with 4,987 yards receiving in his career, 18 shy of the FBS record. Trevor Insley of Nevada had 5,005 from 1996-99.
Toledo’s Kareem Hunt has 1,155 yards rushing this season and is approaching a record of his own. He has 4,625 yards rushing in his career, second in school history behind Chester Taylor’s 4,849.
“He’s had a tremendous career, and he’s having another great season,” Candle said. “When you’re able to build everything around him and that good offensive line, that opens up some things in the passing game.”
Terrell has completed 71 percent of his passes this season, throwing for 2,890 yards with 27 touchdowns and only one interception. Toledo’s Logan Woodside has been tremendous as well, completing 70 percent of his passes for 3,653 yards with 40 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
WMU has a turnover margin of plus-15. The Broncos have only five giveaways all season.