Northern Illinois (9-2) at Western Michigan (8-3) (ET)

FACTS & STATS: Site: Waldo Stadium (30,200) — Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Television: ESPN U. Home Record: Northern Illinois 3-3, Western Michigan 4-1.
Away Record: Northern Illinois 1-4, Western Michigan 3-3. Neutral Record:
Northern Illinois 0-0, Western Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Northern
Illinois 3-4, Western Michigan 5-2. Series Record: Western Michigan leads,

GAME NOTES: Each with 6-1 records in the Mid-American Conference West
Division, the Northern Illinois Huskies and Western Michigan Broncos will
square off at Waldo Stadium with dreams of the conference title game on their

Northern Illinois owns the better overall record at 9-2, but the Huskies just
narrowly pulled out a 21-14 win over Ohio last week. NIU is bowl eligible, but
the team would certainly like to return to the conference championship. They
can do that with a win over the Broncos.

Western Michigan went from worst to first in one season, and is one win and a
Toledo loss away from making it to the title game. The Broncos are bowl
eligible at 8-3 overall, and get the home advantage against the Huskies this

The all-time series between these conference rivals is owned by Western
Michigan, 23-16. This is the first time coaches P.J. Fleck and Rod Carey are
clashing in a contest, however.

Northern Illinois’ offense, which averages 30.5 ppg, is based largely on a
solid run game. The Huskies are averaging 250.7 rushing ypg this season, and
have scored 28 times via the ground attack. Quarterback Drew Hare is the
team’s leading rusher, much like Jordan Lynch was last season, with 754 yards
and five touchdowns. Cameron Stingily, though, has raced for 749 yards and a
team-best 11 touchdowns this season.

Hare has also proven to be a real threat in the passing game, registering
1,720 yards through the air with 14 passing touchdowns against only one
interception. His 61.3 completion percentage is solid, and he has a passer
efficiency rating of 143.3.

Hare’s favorite two targets, Da’Ron Brown and Juwan Brescacin, have caught a
combined 10 touchdowns this season, though Brown has distanced himself from
the rest of the lineup. The receiver has hauled in 52 receptions for 880 yards
and six scored, while the next closest pass catcher, Aregeros Turner, has just
258 receiving yards.

At times the Northern Illinois defense has come up short or has put a scare
into fans in tight contests. The Huskies are allowing opponents to net 24.5
ppg and gain 394.9 offensive ypg this season, but in the past few weeks NIU’s
defense has calmed down mightily. The team hasn’t allowed more than 24 points
to an opponents since a 51-41 victory over Miami-Ohio back in mid-October.

Safety Marlon Moore is still the team’s leading tackler with 78 stops, adding
2.5 tackles for loss and an interception to his resume. He’s have to be on his
game going against a very solid WMU passing attack, as will defensive back
Paris Logan, who leads the team with 12 pass breakups. Jason Meehan’s 9.5
tackles for loss and seven sacks could come in handy against a deadly rushing

And boy, is that running game deadly. True freshman running back Jarvion
Franklin leads a backfield that rushes for 186.5 ypg, and an offense that
scores a whopping 35.8 ppg. This season, Franklin has run for 1,433 yards
(sixth in the FBS) and 23 touchdowns (second in the FBS). The freshman
averages 130.3 rushing ypg for the Broncos.

But it’s not just the running game opponents have to be wary of. The Broncos
are led offensively by quarterback Zach Terrell, who has passed for 2,890
yards and 22 touchdowns, and is completing 70 percent of his passes this
season (ranked fourth in the FBS). He also has a 170.8 passer efficiency

Terrell is boosted by two top receivers in Daniel Braverman and Corey Davis.
Braverman sits atop the team’s rankings with 74 catches, and is adding 824
yards and six touchdowns to his resume. Davis, the younger brother of Central
Michigan star Titus Davis, has 1,173 yards and 11 receiving touchdowns through
10 games played.

The Broncos have really come together defensively in the last few weeks, and
enter this final contest against NIU allowing just 23.2 ppg to opponents, and
373.5 offensive ypg. In the team’s last five games, no opponent has scored
more than 21 points against WMU. And in the past five weeks combined, the
Broncos have allowed 72 total points to challengers.

Grant DePalma and Justin Currie are at the top of the team’s leaderboard in
terms of tackles with 91 and 84, respectively. DePalma has added eight tackles
for loss with 2.5 sacks, and Currie has an interception and six pass breakups
to his name. Against an NIU offense that will run the ball with force,
defensive tackle Richard Ash (6.5 tackles for loss, 2.5 sacks) and linebacker
Jarrell McKinney (six tackles for loss, four sacks) will be huge for the

This is going to be one of the best offensive clashes we’ve seen in the MAC
this season, and it’s even better that a shot at the championship game is on
the line. Both teams will run the ball heavily, so defense and a good
complementary passing game will win it. Those belong to the home Broncos.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 34, Northern Illinois 31