Western Michigan gets a second shot at becoming bowl eligible when it hosts Kent State in Kalamazoo on Wednesday night. The Broncos (5-4, 3-2 MAC) missed their chance last week, falling to rival Central Michigan 35-28 at home. The Golden Flashes (2-7, 1-4) have pretty much been eliminated from postseason consideration and have been outscored 92-19 in their last two games alone.
Western Michigan still has two games remaining after this one, but they are against the top two teams in the MAC West right now – Toledo (8-1) and Northern Illinois (6-3) – and both are on the road. So while it may not be completely accurate to label this game as a must-win for the Broncos, it would make things a lot easier if they took care of business at home Wednesday night.
Western Michigan won the last meeting with Kent State 37-21 in 2016, and leads the all-time series 34-20-1.
Kent State at Western Michigan
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Western Michigan -21.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Western Michigan’s mindset after last week’s second-half collapse
It was a tale of two halves last week for Western Michigan against in-state rival Central Michigan. The Broncos jumped out to a 21-7 halftime lead at home, outgaining the Chippewas 269 yards to 82 in the process. WMU led 28-14 headed into the fourth quarter, only to watch CMU storm back with 21 unanswered points to steal a 35-28 win in this storied rivalry. The Chippewas were aided by a couple of Broncos fumbles, as this game was played in less than ideal conditions, but both teams had to deal with the rain and slippery footballs. What was a bigger issue for WMU was that after a Jarvion Franklin touchdown run (following a CMU fumble on a punt) gave the Broncos a 28-14 lead in the third quarter; they did not score again on their remaining seven possessions while only picking up three first downs. Again, weather played a factor in the outcome, but WMU can’t afford to let another game it should win slip out of its hands. Especially against a Kent State team that has beaten just one FBS opponent this season and has been outscored by an average of 21 points per game in MAC games alone.
2. How much will the Broncos feed Franklin?
WMU senior running back Jarvion Franklin is not only the Broncos’ all-time leading rusher (4,509 and counting); he’s also the program’s career touchdown record holder with 54. Last week against Central Michigan, he got things started early with a 47-yard touchdown in the game’s first possession and had more than 100 rushing yards after just eight carries in the first quarter. For the game, he finished with 228 yards on 26 attempts (8.8 ypc), but was basically a non-factor after his second touchdown gave WMU a 28-14 lead in the third quarter. From then on, he had just 45 yards on nine carries over the Broncos’ final seven drives, and also had a costly fumble in the fourth quarter that led to a Chippewas touchdown. Why the game plan went away from Franklin with a 14-point lead is up for debate, but it would be a wise strategy to give the MAC’s second-leading rusher plenty of work against Kent State. The Golden Flashes are second to last in the MAC (13th) and 117th nationally against the run. They have surrendered 221.4 rushing yards per game along with a total of 24 rushing touchdowns this season.
3. QB play
With Franklin doing most of the heavy lifting, Western Michigan doesn’t need much from its quarterback. And that’s a good thing, considering that was one of the reasons why the Broncos couldn’t protect a two-touchdown lead last week against Central Michigan. In his first career start in relief of injured John Wassink (broken collarbone), true freshman Reece Goddard completed just six of his 18 attempts for a measly 42 yards and an interception. He also was sacked three times and fumbled once. In Goddard’s defense, the rainy conditions only added to the degree of difficulty, but his counterpart, Chippewas quarterback Shane Morris threw for 243 yards and a touchdown, including a 77-yard strike to Corey Willis that proved to be the game winner. WMU ran for 315 yards and four touchdowns against CMU and should be able to do similar damage against a generous Kent State defense, but Goddard also needs to improve and if anything, take better care of the football as the Broncos are just one from becoming bowl eligible.
For Kent State, the quarterback position has been a black hole ever since Nick Holley was lost for the season just three games in. Holley also was the team’s leading rusher in 2016, and without him the Golden Flashes have just not been able to move the ball or put points on the scoreboard. Quarterbacks George Bollas and Dustin Crum have combined to complete less than half of their passes (48 percent) with three times as many interceptions (nine) as touchdowns (three). On the season, Kent State is last in the nation in scoring (10.7 ppg), second to last in total offense (253.4 ypg), and 127th in passing offense (105.3 ypg). That’s all you need to know why the Golden Flashes are 2-7 and have been outscored by an average of more than 23 points per game this season.
Western Michigan’s second-half collapse last week against rival Central Michigan adds a little more impetus to this game. The Broncos need to handle business at home against Kent State with games against MAC West Division leaders Toledo and Northern Illinois still on tap. It certainly would be in WMU’s best interests to get that sixth win and become bowl eligible before heading on the road to take on the Rockets and Huskies. And doing just that shouldn’t be a problem against a Golden Flashes team that’s merely finishing out the string and likely looking at a coaching change this offseason. Even with Reece Goddard’s struggles at quarterback, the Broncos should coast to an easy victory behind running back Jarvion Franklin. Wednesday night should end on a much happier note for the home crowd gathered at Waldo Stadium.
Prediction: Western Michigan 45, Kent State 13
(Top photo courtesy of @WMU_Football)