Western Michigan -20 over Kent St:
The Broncos (5-4 3-2) are coming off a tough home loss last week to their in-state rival Chippewas 35-28 as CMU used a 21 4th quarter unanswered points to complete the comeback and capture the Cannon trophy. Shane Morris (12/30 243 2 TD) turned an otherwise dismal start into a fantastic finish by connecting with Corey Willis (5-148 1 TD) on a 77 yard scoring pass with 2:37 remaining to help rally from a 14 point deficit. Morris had earlier hooked up with Eric Cooper on a 9 yard strike to tie the game at 28 and Jonathan Ward (18-130 7.2 1 TD) scampered 29 yards to paydirt cutting the Broncos’ lead to 7. Morris also added a couple of TD runs of 3 and 8 yards showing his agility to scramble out of the pocket calling his own number. CMU outgained WMU 407-357 plus the defense forced 5 turnovers and limited Reece Goddard (6/18 42 1 INT) whose inefficiency forced the Broncos to operate one-dimensional. Jarvion Franklin (26/228 8.8 2 TD) basically carried the team on his back with scoring runs of 47 and 9 yards while Jamauri Bogan (9-53 5.9 1 TD) gave Western Michigan a 21-7 lead at halftime with a 2 yard scoring run. Western Michigan will look to get back to their winning ways this evening facing Kent St (2-7 1-4) who were bulldozed by Bowling Green 44-16 last week at Dix Stadium. Jaret Doege (14/18 174 2 TD) connected with Datrin Guyton on a 36 yard TD pass just before halftime that gave the Falcons all the scoring they would need. Doege also found Teo Redding (5-61 1 TD) on a 7 yard TD pass with the game well in hand, and the Bowling Green defense took care of the rest forcing 5 Golden Flash turnovers. George Bollas (16/35 140 3 INT) experienced off timing, constant pressure and hurries from the Falcons defensive line which recorded 5 sacks. Bollas did run for 84 yards on 18 carries (4.7) including a 22 yard run, but Will Matthews (4-24 6.0 1 TD) accounted for the only other Golden Flashes TD.
Goddard is filling in for Jon Wassink (124/193 1411 14 TD 4 INT) who is out for the season after suffering a broken collarbone against Eastern Michigan. Wassink endured most of his efficiency and success on mainly short drops with yardage after catch from a balanced receiving core. Goddard is making just his second start of the season and the primary targets in D’Wayne Eskridge (29-494 3 TD) and Donnie Ernsberger (26-305 3 TD) have begun to make necessary adjustments though WMU is for the most part a ground and pound type of team. Sporting a top 20 rushing attack that averages about 245 yards per contest, Franklin (171-870 5.9 9 TD) has put together 4 consecutive 100+ yard games running the ball while Bogan (112-589 5.3 3 TD) alternates the workload featured in more shorter situations. The line is solid behind Goddard and must continue to do a good job in protection in order for the backfield to maintain opportunities during WMU’s successful drives. Kent State’s defense is not built to withstand the depth Western Michigan possesses largely in part that they are in the bottom 10 in stopping the run allowing better than 221 yards and 34 points per contest.
It has been an understatement to say that Paul Haynes is undergoing a rough campaign as the Golden Flashes have lost 6 of their previous 7 games. Bollas (58/119 677 2 TD 7 INT) has struggled all season and leads a basic low tempo offense that looks for efficiency rather than a high powered consistent attack. Kent St averages only 254 yards and about 11 points per game which is ranked near the bottom in the country. Their receiving core is a one-man show in Justin Rankin (29-204 2 TD) who had just 4 catches in the loss to Bowling Green and the lone receiver to appear in all 9 games thus far. There’s not much more leverage in the running game thanks to a devastating knee injury to Nick Holley who has been out since week 3 despite positive expectations. Rankin (67-283 4.2) is their top back but has not found the end zone all season. Other than Matthews and Bollas who can occasionally break for a long burst here and there, Kent has a huge hole in both the run and passing games that needs to be addressed in the off season on the recruiting and health fronts. It should be noted that while the Broncos defense has at times been suspect surrendering about 28 points per contest, their tally involved a multi OT win against Buffalo and an opening loss to USC who put nearly 50 on them to open the season. One thing is for sure. Head coach Tim Lester will not tolerate a collapse last week that put a hold on and could perhaps further damage WMU’s bowl hopes. MLB’s Asantay Brown Caleb Bailey are going to have to provide an impact in their final campaign to give the Broncos a boost if they want to find themselves back in the win column.
Western Michigan will not look past Kent this evening approaching this contest with a perennial chip on its’ shoulder. While the Broncos still face questions at QB they have the depth, speed and building blocks to overcome losses similar to last week that should not bite them where it hurts when it comes to the postseason. The Golden Flashes are depleted, undermanned, undersized, and looking for answers on both sides of the ball. Bollas has not found a rhythm with limited personnel, and all of the momentum will be with the Broncos tonight, who will put quite a hurting on a MAC conference foe with nothing left to play for but pride.
Check back for more picks coming as the week progresses.
Northern Illinois -31 over Ball St:
The Huskies (6-3 4-1) saw their 4 game winning streak get snapped by Toledo last week 27-17 at Peden Stadium. Terry Swanson (29-116 4.0 3 TD) accounted for all of the Rockets TD on the ground while Jameson Vest added 2 chip shot field goals. Logan Woodside (23/31 361) became Toledo’s all-time passing leader with a solid efficiency performance despite not finding the end zone nor creating a turnover. Woodside nearly connected on half of his passes to Diontae Johnson (10-166) converting several key third down situations setting up Swanson. Toledo outgained NIU 527-430 while the defense came up big forcing 3 turnovers. Marcus Childers (23/43 235 2 INT) was all over the place and could not lead the Huskies into a rhythm through the air into the end zone, though he rushed for 49 yards on 15 carries (3.3) including a one yard TD run. Tre Harbison (17-80 4.7 1 TD) accounted for the only other TD for NIU on a first quarter one yard scoring run that tied the game at 7 early. This evening the Huskies return to Brigham Field to host Ball St (2-7 0-5) who lost their 6th straight game last week to Eastern Michigan 56-14. The Eagles finally earned their first MAC win of the season as Brogan Roback (15/21 263 3 TD) had one of his better performances of the season with all 3 of his TD passes in the first half. EMU led 35-14 by halftime and continued to dominate the final 30 minutes pitching a 21-0 second half goose egg. Roback connected with Sergio Bailey (2-110 1 TD) on a 74 yard TD pass, John Niupalu (5-91 1 TD) for 20 yards and Antoine Porter (3-24 1 TD) for 11 to open the scoring. The Eagles also added 4 scores on the ground, 2 by Shaq Vann (7-56 8.0) and one each by Ian Eriksen (21-114 5.4 1 TD) and Blake Banhan (10-46 4.6 1 TD). Drew Plitt (11/21 169 2 TD 1 INT) was mediocre at best as the Cardinals committed 3 turnovers in all not getting much help from their defense allowing nearly 490 yards of total offense.
Don’t mistake this consistent offense as a kindness for weakness as the Huskies average about 38 points and 400 yards per contest. Childers (101/170 1107 9 TD 3 INT) had one of his few inefficient showings but overall has earned the starting job getting the better of Daniel Santacaterina (61/95 648 6 TD 5 INT) who showcased less of an arm despite slightly more accurate. The receiving core is one of the most balanced in the MAC led by Spencer Tears (32-393 4 TD) who despite 3 catches for 63 yards would bring most leading receivers brought to tears as a result of falling victim to double coverage. Christian Blake (31-351 3 TD) has also been relatively quiet since a breakout performance in a loss to San Diego St where he caught a season high 12 passes for 153 yards and 2 scores. Shane Wimann (27-262 6 TD) possesses plenty of size as evident by his 6’5 250 frame and has overpowered opposing secondaries especially in the red zone. Since Jordan Huff (85-450 5.3 1 TD) suffered a leg injury, the Huskies have lost depth in the ground game with Childers (106-378 3.6 4 TD) as the lone threat calling his own number. The good news for Northern Illinois is that Ball St is extremely vulnerable on defense surrendering about 425 yards and 40 points per contest including allowing better than 50 points on 4 occasions. Anthony Winbush has been the cornerstone of an otherwise undersized and overmatched line, leading the MAC with 10.5 sacks but just 4 over his last 9 games.
Ball St is averaging about 19 points per contest but tallied 40 per game in their 2 wins over UAB and Tennessee Tech. They’ve only scored 66 over their 6 game losing streak and are getting outscored by an average of 45-11 over that span. Plitt (26/55 266 2 TD 1 INT) is Ball State’s third starting QB this season behind Riley Neal and Jack Milas. Neal (67/99 659 6 TD 3 INT) got off to a nice start before suffering a knee injury in week 3 during the win at Tenn Tech. Milas (79/148 731 6 INT) performed inefficiently throughout his tenure and suffered a season ending elbow injury while Plitt has been mediocre thus far. Ball St averages about 340 yards per contest but the main culprit has been possession ending turnovers and stalled drives on downs coming back to haunt them. Give the Cardinals credit however, as head coach Mike Neu is not shy to take chances in an otherwise lost season when it comes to falling well short of a bowl appearance. Justin Hall (57-605 2 TD) has been the workhorse of the bunch downfield with Riley Miller (24-245) and Nolan Given (23-144 3 TD) as secondary underneath options. Caleb Huntley (137-643 4.7 3 TD) is the main go to guy on the ground in the backfield with Malik Dunner (54-291 5.4 5 TD) also featured in shorter situations. The Huskies defense has been much more stellar over the past few seasons, including their 2017 campaign where they are allowing 19 points and 332 yards per contest, and that features a top 10 ranking against the run with opponents only mustering 113 yards per game. Ball St allows nearly as many sacks (24) as Northern Illinois has recorded (26), making the Huskies tops in the conference. The Cardinals lack plenty of depth on both sides of the ball. NIU is also among the nation’s leaders in INT’s with 17. Ball State’s offensive line lost redshirt freshman, left tackle Kaleb Slaven last week after he broke his left foot while redshirt sophomore center Andrew Poenitsch remains out with a neck injury.
If you want to compare both of these teams personnel wise Northern Illinois has a huge advantage on the health front and also sports more of an advantage mixing up their routine of runs and passes against an increasingly anemic Ball St offense, who looks just as vulnerable on defense decimated with injuries and playing more on instinct rather than confidence. Sure nearly 5 TD’s is a lot to give, but that being said, Northern Illinois will look to combine a balanced pass offense with a bulldozing protective presence in the backfield, leaving Ball State to depend on forcing turnovers and big plays just to stay close.
Arizona -20.5 over Oregon St (bought half):
This was not a good week for anyone to catch the Wildcats (6-3 4-2) after a crushing loss at USC last week. Ronald Jones II (27-194 8.1 3 TD) scored on a pair of one yard runs inside of 5:00 left breaking a shootout tie leading the Trojans to a 49-35 hard fought win over the Wildcats. Midway through the third quarter Jones scored on a 5 yard run to give USC its biggest lead at 28-6. Sam Darnold (20/26 311 2 TD 1 INT) connected with Tyler Vaughns (4-59 1 TD) on a 22 yard scoring pass and later hooked up with Steven Mitchell from 27 yards out for a 21-3 Trojans advantage. Aca Centric Ware added 122 yards on just 14 carries (8.7) including a 42 yard scamper to paydirt two plays into the 4th quarter. USC outgained Arizona 642-380 while the defense forced 4 turnovers, sacked Khalil Tate 6 times, and even got a blocked punt returned to the house by Jalen Greene to open the scoring. Tate (14/31 146 2 TD 2 INT) faced extreme pressure and was hurried by a quick and burly defensive line that outclassed the Wildcats when it came to pass protection. Tate did run for 161 yards on 26 carries (6.2) including a 32 yard burst to the house that trimmed Arizona’s deficit to 28-13 late in the second quarter. He also led a comeback from 15 points down by hooking up with JJ Taylor from 16 yards out and minutes later with Shun Brown (8-78 1 TD) on a 30 yard strike. The 2 point conversion was successful but not enough thanks to Jones’ heroics late that put the game away. Meanwhile, you have to feel sorry Oregon St (1-8 0-6) not just because they lost a heartbreaker a couple of weeks back to Stanford by a point with Bryce Love out, but followed it up with their 7th straight loss at the hands of California 37-23. Despite putting forth yet another inspiring effort, Ross Bowers (24/30 259 2 TD) found Jordan Veasy (3-49 1 TD) on a 25 yard scoring pass that held off the Beavers late in the third quarter. Bowers also unloaded a 14 yard scoring strike to Vic Wharton (8-121 1 TD) that gave the Golden Bears the lead for good. Patrick Laird (33-214 6.5 1 TD) converted some key first downs down the stretch and got Cal on the board with a 12 yard scoring run midway through the first quarter. Jordan Choukair converted all 3 of his field goal attempts including a pair of 49 yarders, while the Golden Bear defense limited Oregon St to just 104 rushing yards. Darell Garretson (13/25 169) was just mediocre despite turnover free, while Thomas Tyner and Ryan Nail accounted for the only Beaver TD’s.
Arizona is one of the most dangerous running teams in the country averaging better than 60% of their offense on the ground. Their 43 points and 508 yards per contest ranks 7th in the nation in total offense. Tate (95-1087 11.4 9 TD) is quick and nimble running the option with his feet and confuses opposing defenses pitching the ball to JJ Taylor (104-570 5.5 4 TD) and Zach Green (55-280 5.1 7 TD) who carry the bulk of the work in the backfield. Tate also has a pretty solid arm (60/98 930 8 TD 5 INT) although has had a tendency to take chances in the lesser popular aerial attack. Brown (32-431 5 TD) had his best game of the 2017 campaign against the Trojans last week while Tony Ellison (25-431 2 TD) was more efficiently covered underneath limited to just 3 catches for short yardage. At 6’2″ and 215, Tate makes things happen with option play calling following his blocks behind a stout front line that generates yards and points in bunches. Oregon St will have their hands full as they are extremely porous against both the run and pass attacks yielding an average of 450 yards and 40 points per contest. Overall Oregon St is in the bottom 20 in total defense. Bright Ugwoegbu is about the only versatile back that can play almost any position, but other than Kee Whetzel, this inexperienced unit under Kevin Clune is in for a long night ahead.
With Jake Luton (83/135 853 4 TD 4 INT) out for the season due to injury, Garretson (75/136 875 1 TD 3 INT) has had difficulty making things happen through the air as this offense is mediocre and slow developing. Despite showing some signs last week, the urgency level has not been there all season for this Beavers squad. They have a couple of mid level receivers in Noah Togiai (26-317 1 TD) and Jordan Villamin (24-276 1 TD) who when on the same page can sustain moderate success, but other than Ryan Nall (117-632 5.4 7 TD) are extremely limited in personnel and firepower. They average about 21 points per contest but have scored 30 points or better just twice all season. That being said however, the Wildcats are nowhere near stellar on defense surrendering nearly 33 points and 471 total yards on average. Their secondary is especially weak allowing 305 yards through the air, 4th worst in the country. However, those numbers are likely to improve but need to be more in control especially on defending third down opposing situations. It’s difficult when you possess such a quick strike high powered offense that your defense has only so much time to feel rejuvenated in Rich Rodriguez’ scheme. Marcel Yates’ crew has allowed 30 points in 6 straight since a 63-16 trouncing of UTEP in week 3. Kurtis Brown and Colin Schooler are going to have to be quick to the punch inside on the line and out and not look past the Beavers, who like to kill clock and depend on minimizing mistakes. After all, Oregon State’s lone win has come against Portland St thus far.
Everyone is getting fat on the Beaver defense that can’t get off the field. The Stanford game was an aberration, with the Cardinal offense without Love converting just 31% of its third down chances. Every other team on the slate has converted 50% or more. Tate and the running game will set up easy third down chances when it’s not hitting home runs paving the way for constant conversions. Tate and the offense will get out to a huge first half, and then coast from there with the reserves getting plenty of work in the fourth quarter.
Best of luck however you play!
YTD 11-8 .579 (heading into the week)