Q&A With A Western Michigan Blogger August 29, 2012
Three days until football. FOOTBALL.
As the game approaches, I get more nervous. The words “Western” and “Michigan” bring up awful memories for Illini fans. The 2008 Debacle In Detroit that kept us out of a bowl. The 23-20 squeaker in Champaign last year. The other squeaker (I want to say… 2004?) in Champaign. And the dreaded MAC roadtrip in 2016. AND a road game for the basketball team in Kalamazoo. I mean, it’s almost like we had a Western Michigan grad in the DIA for a while who helped with the scheduling.
To better understand this version of the Bronco’s, I did a little Q&A thingy with Brandon Fitzsimons of Saddle Up, Fight On, a Western Michigan blog. Want to know their most important players, ranked in order? They’re currently doing a similar series. Go check it out.
Brandon’s questions for me will appear on his site. My questions for Brandon appear, well, right here:
1) Tell me about Alex Carder. He terrifies me. If our two starting safeties really do miss the game on Saturday (they’re not listed on the depth chart), I feel like he’s going to throw for 450 yards.
If Issac doesn’t ruin the game, I wouldn’t put it past him. Even with new WRs, I think Eric Monette and Josh Schafer can help carry the load to help the other guys. 450 yards is a bit high, but 400 is about where I’d put a “God Mode” performance. Again, that’s if they aren’t playing in a tropical storm.
2) Who are the other players we need to know about (on either side of the ball)?
Johnnie Simon for one. Ball-hawking rover that led our team in tackles last season. Other defensive guys would include what many are saying is a “new-look” Paul Hazel, who will play DE/OLB this season and is very athletic, Lewis Toler, who was so dominant his freshman year that no one threw his way last season, and Brian Fields, who if we have to run will be the #1 running back.
3) Nearly every ball we threw last year went to AJ Jenkins, and now he’s gone to the NFL, which terrifies us. You kind of went through the same thing, with Jordan White heading off to the NFL. Talk about how much he’ll be missed.
I honestly think White kept us in a lot of games last season. Need a huge 3rd down pick up? Throw to White. Need a big play? Throw to White. Need to open up other receivers? Did you throw to White yet? True definition of “possession receiver”. If our passing game fails this year, it’ll be because we didn’t have White as our “big red button”.
4) Vegas has the over/under for Western Michigan wins set at 8.5 this season. Too high? Too low?
I think 8.5 sounds about right. The non-conference schedule is VERY friendly (other games are @Minn. vs UConn, vs FCS team), and we get the toughest two teams in the West at home this season. Cross division includes games against Kent State (who has a VERY inconsistent offense), Buffalo, and UMass (both of whom are bottom 3 teams in all of the MAC). Really, this would be the schedule to make an argument that we could go 12-0 with huge BCS hopes, but I know that’s not happening. If I were to bet though, I would probably go over with a 9-3 (6-2) record.
5) Are Michigan State fans aware of Chris Hanna, WMU graduate and former associate AD at Illinois who helped with football scheduling? I’d think he’d be a bit of a cult hero around those parts. The only answer we’ve ever come up with is that he was implanted in Champaign as a WMU mole years ago, biding his time and finally getting his revenge with a football series that included a game in Detroit (what?), a basketball game in Kalamazoo (What?) and, in 2016, a football game at your place (WHAT?). Is there a statue somewhere to this man for putting together the most fortunate home-and-home package any MAC team has ever had with the Big Ten?
Is is really that big of a home-and-home? Let’s look at football first. Of those two games we get (one being in Detroit, but we’ll count that as a home), we also give you two straight up home games. So while we have to travel for one of ours, you get yours in your backyard. I think that’s pretty fair. I can’t explain the basketball game, nor will I try to. However, I can say any basketball game against us is a gimme game anyways, so I think that was just some kind of miracle. What Michigan State did with the 3 directions is utterly insane/amazing. “We’ll play you guys on your home turf! Oh yeah, you just have to wait 4 years. And you also have to play us 3 times at our place every two years (outside of the home game).” AND THEY DID IT WITH 3 SCHOOLS! Michigan are you listening?
6) Illini fans will twitch if you mention the 2009 season to them, but there was one bright spot for us: keeping Michigan out of a bowl. Are WMU fans aware that you kept us out of a bowl in 2008 with that win in Detroit? That our program that appeared to be building took a serious step back by missing a bowl game in 2008?
I have no idea if fans know that. I do know that was the signature win of that season, and that is the best season Cubit has had in his reign at WMU. But look at it this way: we did what we had to so you could get rid of Ron Zook. Feeling better?
7) Give me your prediction for Saturday.
This game will largely depend on Issac and what he does. Turns through Nawlins and beelines for Lake Michigan? Illinois wins, probably easily, with a run game because we can’t throw. Changes directions and heads for Texas, weakens, or spins through and heads for Lake Erie? Then we have a ball game. You guys can run, and our run defense was suspect all season. We can pass, and your secondary is weak. It’ll be interesting. So my final scores for each situation:
Illinois – 34
WMU – 17
Illinois – 38
WMU – 35
(I didn’t tell him there’s no way we score 38 points. Of course, he’d probably respond with “there’s no way our defense doesn’t give up 38 points”. Bloggers.)