MAC Championship Game – Western Michigan vs. Ohio (Detroit)
Kickoff: Friday, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m. ET
Where: Ford Field
TV Channel: ESPN2
The Western Michigan Broncos are on the verge of being the standard-bearer for the Group of Five schools and gaining access to the Cotton Bowl. They are riding a 14-game winning streak heading into the MAC Championship game, and have carried the MAC’s banner all season long. They have a high-powered offense, which has been a big reason for their success under head coach P.J. Fleck. They have a potent trio of weapons in quarterback Zach Terrell, who is third in the country in passing efficiency, tailback Jarvion Franklin, and wide receiver Corey Davis, who could be a first-round draft pick this spring after becoming the FBS career leader in receiving yards last week.
The University of Ohio Bobcats are a team looking to prove people wrong and are looking to end a 0-3 mark in the MAC championship game. Veteran head coach Frank Solich has done one of his best jobs this season in leading the Bobcats to the East Division title. He had to get through a tricky injury situation down the stretch at quarterback, which he handled with aplomb. He also did an outstanding job in rotating his tailbacks, Dorian Brown and Maleek Irons, effectively. However, it has been the Bobcats defense that has been the calling card. They have allowed the fewest yards per play in the conference this season, and may just be the kryptonite needed against the vaunted Broncos offense.
Here are three things to watch in this game:
1. Western Michigan’s Offense Can Explode At Any Time
The MAC Conference has been known for offensive fireworks during conference play, and there is no doubt the trend will continue here. As stated, Western Michigan sports one of the best groups of skill position players, not only in the Group of Five but in all NCAA football. Quarterback Zach Terrell has a 30-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio on the season, which if it holds after this game, may break the NCAA all-time record. He has also hit the 3,000-yard passing mark for the third year in a row. Wide receiver Corey Davis holds a host of WMU, MAC and FBS career records. Tailback Jarvion Franklin is 20th in the country in rushing. The scary part is that is not all. Backup tailback Jamauri Bogan is also a weapon that can be unleashed. Last week, he ran for 198 yards against a good Toledo team last week.
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2. Ohio Looking To Break Through
Ohio enters the MAC championship game with an 8-4 record, and their division in the MAC was considered one of the worst in the country. The Bobcats aren’t as flashy as Western Michigan, as they are more “ground and pound”. They rely heavily on their stingy defense to win games in possibly the most offensively-fueled league in the country. The Bobcats are a three-touchdown underdog for Friday, but at the same time, it also means the team has little to lose. Frank Solich and his staff have been around this black before and may have the moxie to pull off the upset. Defensive end Tarell Basham and cornerback Javon Hagan will lead the charge for the Bobcats defense. It will be interesting to see what they do with their backs against the wall, trying to break the MAC hex, and win a championship.
3. Whispers In P.J. Fleck’s Wind
In the case of Western Michigan, it is not a whisper, but the sound of tropical force winds that cannot be ignored. The Broncos are sitting at No. 17 in the College Football Playoff rankings, and are looking to break the glass ceiling. As of now, they are in line for the Group of Five bid to a New Year’s Six bowl game. However, it is in the eyes and minds of many that Western Michigan will need to win big to make sure it stays ahead of Navy team in the final rankings. Then, you have the elephant in the room, which are the constant rumors about head coach P.J. Fleck and him possibly leaving for a bigger position in a power conference.
Stranger things have happened in college football, and something may happen here. Western Michigan needs to cast aside the whispers and bring its A-plus game, or this could get very interesting against a well-coached Bobcats team in Detroit. I feel the Broncos are ready to roll and roll they will – Western Michigan 52, Ohio University 21