2012 Western Michigan Preview - Time To Win
Western Michigan QB Alex Carder
Western Michigan QB Alex Carder
Posted May 29, 2012

CollegeFootballNews.com 2012 Preview - Western Michigan Broncos

Western Michigan Broncos

Preview 2012

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By Pete Fiutak

Head coach: Bill Cubit
8th year: 47-39
12th year overall: 81-57-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 14, Def. 19, ST 1
Lettermen Lost: 19
Ten Best Western Michigan Players
1. QB Alex Carder, Sr.
2. S Johnnie Simon, Jr.
3. CB Lewis Toler, Jr.
4. OT Dann O'Neill, Sr.
5. DE Freddie Bishop, Sr.
6. DE Paul Hazel, Sr.
7. QB Tyler Van Tubbergen, Jr.
8. WR Kendrick Roberts, RFr.
9. S Demetrius Pettway, Jr.
10. OT Terry Davisson, Jr.
2012 Schedule

Sep. 1 at Illinois
Sep. 8 Eastern Illinois
Sep. 15 at Minnesota
Sep. 22 Connecticut
Sep. 29 Toledo
Oct. 6 Massachusetts
Oct. 13 at Ball State
Oct. 20 at Kent State
Oct. 27 Northern Illinois
Nov. 3 at Central Michigan
Nov. 10 at Buffalo
Nov. 17 Eastern Michigan

Is there a more fun team in college football than Western Michigan?

With an offense that wings the ball all around the yard – throwing it 554 times last season – and with a defense that stinks just enough make every game a shootout, Bronco games are usually wild. At least they were last year, and they should be again.

In 2011, six games were decided by a touchdown or less. While that's not necessarily remarkable, those six were tremendous including the 66-63 shootout loss to Toledo and the wild 37-32 bowl loss to Purdue.

One week the passing game rolled up 479 yards and five scores against Connecticut, and the next it cranked out 351 rushing yards and three touchdowns in a win over Bowling Green. Throw in the 2,218 yards – over 443 per game - and 23 touchdown passes over the final five games of the season and Western Michigan was fun, fun, fun.

Now it has to win, win, win.

Despite all the success the program has had under Bill Cubit, the Broncos haven't been to a MAC championship since 2000 and has never won the title game. Consistency hasn't exactly been the program's calling card over the years, but it has a passing game that can hang around with anyone in America and just enough veterans on defense to hope for more production.

All the yards and all the offensive production has lead the way to a MAC West title in a year when the division is by far the more difficult of the two. Defending MAC champ Northern Illinois is still going to be good in a reloading year; Toledo is still going to be solid despite the loss of head coach Tim Beckman; and Ball State, Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan are improving. It's not going to be easy, but again, that offense should be enough to get the team to the championship game.

There are holes on both sides of the ball with a whole new receiving corps coming into place and with the inexperienced defensive tackles needing to shine for a lousy run defense. Everyone on the special teams – the kickers and return men – have to be replaced, too. But those aren't major issues for a team that should put up yards in chunks.

Yes, Western Michigan football will be fun, but for the Bronco fans, nothing would be more fun than holding up a MAC championship trophy.

What to watch for on offense: The receiving corps. All Jordan White did was catch 140 passes for 1,911 yards and 17 touchdowns. He cranked out more yards than 11 teams and caught more touchdown passes than 47 teams threw, but he wasn't alone. Chleb Ravenell caught 67 passes for 839 yards and nine scores and Robert Arnheim made 62 catches for 702 yards and four touchdowns. All three big-time targets have to be replaced, and while QB Alex Carder should be good enough to make all the new receivers shine, it'll be asking a lot for redshirt freshman Kendrick Roberts to replace White and for Eric Monette and Josh Schaffer to pull their weight.

What to watch for on defense: A 4-1-6? Technically, Western Michigan runs a 4-2-5 alignment, but really, the weakside linebacker is like another safety. Last season the coaching staff often used an extra defensive back instead of a true linebacker, and that might have been what the run defense was such a disaster allowing 220 yards per game and 23 touchdowns. There's a little bit of size on the line with Travonte Boles and Demetrius Anderson around 300 pounds and quick enough to be active against the run. But the speed in the back seven has to come through and swarm around the ball to help make the run D more productive.

The team will be far better if … that run defense can hold up. Ball State tore off 220 yards on the ground and two scores, but that was the only team that ran for 190 yards or more and beat the Broncos. WMU was 6-0 when allowing under 190 and 1-6 when giving up more, and gave up 17 of the 23 touchdown runs in the six defeats. Getting a push in the backfield against the better teams needs to be part of the mix failing to get a sack in losses to Michigan, Northern Illinois and Toledo.

The schedule: The Broncos will have their tests, but they're manageable. They almost beat Illinois last year and should provide a push in the season opener, and Minnesota and Connecticut are winnable games before kicking off the MAC campaign with what might be the game of the year against Toledo, who has to come to Kalamazoo. WMU also gets Northern Illinois at home on October 27th, and it might be as simple as winning those two games to get to the MAC championship. Missing Ohio from the East is a major plus, facing winnable games against Kent State, UMass and Buffalo from the other division.

Best offensive player: Senior QB Alex Carder. He won't have his great receiving corps to work with again, but he should still put up good numbers with a decent group of prospects ready to shine. With 7,234 passing yards and 61 touchdowns over his career, to go along with 512 rushing yards and ten scores, he's one of the nation's best returning quarterbacks with great all-around skills. However, he'll have to be an even better decision maker with all his new targets.

Best defensive player: Junior Rover Johnnie Simon. The fifth defensive back in the mix, Simon proved he could handle the work on a consistent basis with a tremendous all-around season making 114 tackles, 3.5 sacks, two picks, 10.5 tackles for loss and seven broken up passes. He came up with 18 stops in the shootout against Toledo and made double-digit tackles in seven of the team's 13 games. He should be a lock for All-MAC honors.

Key player to a successful season: Junior NG Travonte Boles. Throw sophomore tackle Demetrius Anderson in that mix, too. The Broncos can't win a MAC title unless the run defense is stronger, and that means the two men in the middle have to hold up. Boles and Anderson are each around 300 pounds, and they comprise the bulk on the WMU defensive front. If they're not great, then the smallish linebackers will have to do a lot of cleaning up.

The season will be a success if … WMU wins the MAC title. This is one of the top teams in the MAC, and with Toledo and Northern Illinois at home there's no excuse to not take advantage of the breaks. There's work to be done and the passing game might not be as nasty as it was last year, but as long as Carder is effective and if the defense can be a little bit better, anything less than a MAC title will be a major disappointment.

Key game: Sept. 29 vs. Toledo. 1,439 yards. 129 points. Seven touchdown passes from Alex Carder and rushing yards and two scores from Toledo's Adonis Thomas. Those were just a few of the wild stats in one of 2011's best games. Toledo won 66-63, and this year WMU has to come away with a win to set the tone for the rest of the MAC season, with a win, the Northern Illinois game will mean everything.

2011 Fun Stats:
- 4th down conversions: Western Michigan 18-of-26 (69%) – Opponents 5-of-20 (25%)
- 1st half scoring: Western Michigan 268 – Opponents 180
- Rushing yards: Opponents 2,856 – Western Michigan 1,575
- 2012 Western Michigan Preview | 2012 Western Michigan Offense
- 2012 Western Michigan Defense | 2012 Western Michigan Depth Chart