Bragging rights are just one of the things on the line when Central Michigan and Western Michigan add another chapter to their storied rivalry on Wednesday night in Kalamazoo with a national television audience watching.
Not only is this the 88th all-time meeting between these two MAC West programs that are separated by roughly 134 miles, but a win also would secure a fourth straight bowl appearance for the Broncos (5-3, 3-1 MAC) by way of a fourth straight win over the Chippewas (4-4, 2-2). Western Michigan leads the all-time series 48-37-2.
Besides positioning in the MAC West standings, these two teams also will vie for two trophies – “Battle of the Cannon Trophy” and the Michigan MAC Trophy. The Cannon Trophy was established in 2008 between the student governments of each school as both teams fire off cannons at their respective home games. Western Michigan’s name has been etched on the trophy five times to Central Michigan’s four, although the Broncos have gained possession of it five of the past six years.
The Michigan MAC Trophy, which debuted in 2005, goes to the in-state program (Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Western Michigan) that fares the best against the other two teams. With WMU’s 20-17 overtime win over EMU last week, the Broncos only need to beat CMU to secure the Michigan MAC Trophy for a fourth straight season.
Central Michigan at Western Michigan
Kickoff: Wednesday, Nov. 1 at 8 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN2
Spread: Western Michigan -6.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Western Michigan’s October roller coaster
The Broncos played just three games in October, but it probably felt like more considering how those contests went. The wild ride started with a 71-68 win at Buffalo that needed seven overtimes to finish. It set an FBS record for combined points (139) and tied the record for longest game.
Next was a 14-13 home loss to Akron that was played on Sunday because heavy rain and lightning forced a postponement from Saturday. WMU put together a fourth-quarter comeback after trailing the entire game and had the ball late, but couldn’t get into field goal position as quarterback John Wassink was sacked on the last play.
Then in their most recent game, the Broncos went to Ypsilanti and survived Eastern Michigan 20-17 in overtime. Josh Grant missed a potential, game-winning, 37-yard field goal at the end of regulation, but the freshman redeemed himself with a 21-yarder in overtime. WMU’s defense then stuffed EMU twice from the 2-yard line and Eagles kicker Paulie Fricano missed on a 24-yard attempt that would have sent the game into a second overtime.
Given everything that the Broncos have experienced recently, nothing they have to deal with from this point should faze them one bit. In fact, WMU’s roller-coaster October could benefit them right away since the team will be without its starting quarterback because of injury and will have a true freshman under center (more on that below) for this rivalry game.
2. Broncos’ lead horse
Jarvion Franklin’s importance to Western Michigan’s offense is unmistakable. The senior is not only the program’s all-time leading rusher, he’s third in the FBS among active players in yards (4,281) and second in rushing touchdowns (48). He enters this game tied with Corey Davis, the fifth overall player taken in this year’s NFL draft, for the most touchdowns (52) in school history.
Franklin is third in the MAC in rushing (642 yards) and is a big reason why the Broncos are second in the conference and 21st in the nation (235.6 ypg). He has really hit his stride recently, with three straight 100-yard games. Franklin’s not a one-man backfield show either, as WMU also has junior Jamauri Bogan who is eighth in the MAC in rushing and is averaging 5.2 yards per carry. He did have two critical fumbles in the last game against Eastern Michigan. LeVante Bellamy (8.1 ypc) was making his share of plays as well, but the sophomore suffered a leg injury in the Akron game and could be lost for the rest of the season.
Franklin and Bogan will look to take advantage of a Central Michigan defense that ranks near the bottom (ninth) of the conference against the run (192.1 ypg) but is coming off of one if its best efforts of the season. The Chippewas held Ball State to just 81 yards on 41 carries (2.0 ypc) in their last game.
3. Western Michigan QB Reece Goddard
If you haven’t heard about Goddard until now, you’re not alone. The true freshman will be making his first start against rival Central Michigan following a broken collarbone suffered by John Wassink against Eastern Michigan. Goddard has seen limited action in four games, as he’s completed two of his three pass attempts for 15 yards and has 17 rushing yards on eight carries.
Defensively, the Chippewas have given up their share of yards (387.6 ypg, sixth in the MAC) and points (27.0 ppg, eighth), but they also have generated plenty of turnovers. CMU is tied for 11th in the FBS with 18 takeaways, including 10 interceptions, which are tied for 20th nationally. Josh Cox leads the way with four picks and will no doubt look to add to that total.
The Chippewas also boast the nation’s sack leader in Joe Ostman. The senior defensive end has 10 following a four-sack performance against Ball State and is just 1.5 behind Frank Zombo for the most in school history. Western Michigan has done a fine job protecting the quarterback with just 11 sacks allowed. That’s tied for first (with CMU and EMU) in the MAC and 23rd in the FBS. Pass protection will no doubt be even more important with Goddard making his first start, especially with an opportunistic defense eagerly awaiting its opportunity to rattle the true freshman.
Western Michigan QB John Wassink’s injury definitely adds to the intrigue for this game, as the Broncos will have a true freshman under center. Central Michigan’s defense has been extremely opportunistic this season, something that seems to play right into their hands against an inexperienced signal-caller. However, WMU still has a potent running game, led by senior Jarvion Franklin, who not only wants to help the Broncos become bowl eligible for a fourth straight season, but also become the first class in school history to go 4-0 against the rival Chippewas. It will be a struggle, but Franklin and his teammates will get the job done on Wednesday night.
Prediction: Western Michigan 27, Central Michigan 23
(Top photo courtesy of @WMU_Football)