Can Western Michigan row the boat right to a MAC championship? In order to do so, the Broncos will need to navigate some treacherous water this weekend as they close out the regular season at home against Toledo. The Rockets bring the stiffest challenge to Western Michigan yet in the MAC championship picture and could be the final real hurdle standing in the way of the Broncos and a possible berth in the New Year's Six bowl lineup.
This has all the makings of a MAC classic as it should be the conference’s game of the year this season. Here’s a look at the top two contenders for the MAC West Division crown facing off this Friday at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Toledo at Western Michigan
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 25 at 5 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Western Michigan -9
Three Things to Watch
1. MAC West Division on the line
Western Michigan has done a great job of taking care of business this season, but one final test remains. A win over Toledo is still needed in order to clinch a spot in the MAC Championship Game, which puts the Broncos one giant step closer to a possible New Year’s Six bowl berth. Toledo can steal the MAC West Division championship with a win of their own, and the Rockets should be inspired to play the spoiler role, because...
2. Western Michigan spoiled Toledo’s New Year’s Six shot last year
Last year at this same time, Toledo was in line to wrap up the MAC West title and make one final push for a spot in the New Year’s Six (which ended up going to Houston). All the Rockets needed was a win at home against Western Michigan. Now, the roles are reversed and Toledo is arguably the best team Western Michigan will face all season. With Kareem Hunt and Logan Woodside leading the offense, Toledo will have as good a chance as any to score revenge and ruin this season for the Broncos.
3. Offensive shootout or defensive standoff?
The MAC’s top two scoring offenses are set to square off with the division on the line. It would be easy to suggest this one will be a wild MAC shootout, and it could very well be. There is a lot of offensive talent here with Hunt and Jarvion Franklin on the ground and the MAC’s top two wide receivers with Western Michigan’s Corey Davis and Cody Thompson of Toledo. Or will this game flip the script and be a battle of defenses? Western Michigan and Toledo have the MAC’s top two scoring defenses this season, with the Broncos allowing just 17.7 points per game and Toledo at 22.5.
Everything seems to be falling into place for Western Michigan and P.J. Fleck, but this will be the Broncos’ toughest test of the season. With Toledo coming in with all the weapons needed to run with Western Michigan, the Broncos will have to be on top of their game with the stakes as high as they could ever be for the program. This could also be Fleck’s final home game with the program. If Western Michigan can take an early lead, it may be able to have a leg up in this one until the end to go play for the MAC championship.
Prediction: Western Michigan 26, Toledo 24
— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. McGuire also contributes to College Football Talk and The Comeback as well as hosts the No 2-Minute Warning Podcast. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB and Like him on Facebook.