Western Michigan Preview 2006

Posted Aug 7, 2006

Bill Cubit did a phenomenal job in his first season at Western Michigan, and now it's time to return to the glory days.

Offense | Defense | Depth Chart | Further Analysis

It wasn't all that long ago, 2000 to be precise, that Western Michigan was one of the MAC's superpowers appearing in back-to-back title games. And then things went downhill in a hurry with four straight losing seasons bottoming out with a horrific 1-10 2004 campaign. Cubit turned things around in one season bringing the program back to among the MAC living, and now things are about to get better.

18 starters return to a team that saw its starting quarterbacks go down with injuries like Spinal Tap went through drummers, and struggled with a pass defense that was just this close to being the worst in America despite having the MAC's best pass rush to help out generating pressure. Last year's problems should turn into this season's positives with a stronger, more experienced secondary and two great quarterback options in Ryan Cubit, the head coach's son, and Tim Hiller, once he returns from a knee injury.

Head coach: Bill Cubit
2nd year: 7-4
7th year overall: 44-22-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off 16, Def 19, ST 4
Lettermen Lost: 8
Ten Best Bronco Players
1. LB Ameer Ismail, Sr.
DT Nick Varcadipane, Soph.
QB Ryan Cubit, Sr.
4. C Robbie Krutilla, Jr.
5. P Jim Laney, Jr.
QB Tim Hiller, Soph. Inj.
7. WR Joe Chapple, Sr.
8. SS Antwain Allen, Jr.
9. SS Louis Delmas, Soph.
10. RB Mark Bonds, Jr.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction:

9/2 at Indiana
9/9 Toledo
9/16 at Virginia
9/23 Temple
10/7 at Ohio
10/14 Northern Illinois
10/21 at Ball State
10/28 Eastern Michigan
11/4 Miami Univ.
11/10 at Central Michigan
11/18 at Florida State
11/24 at Akron

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
2005 Record: 7
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/3 at Virginia L 31-19
9/10 at Toledo L 56-23
9/17 Southern Illinois W 34-28
9/24 at Temple W 19-16
10/1 Buffalo W 31-21
10/8 Ball State L 60-57 5OT
10/22 at Bo Green W 45-14
10/29 Kent State W 44-14
11/5 at Eastern Mich W 44-35
11/12 Central Mich W 31-24
11/22 at Northern Illinois L 42-7

What the Broncos don't have is Greg Jennings, the record setting receiver who caught 238 career passes for 3,539 yards and 39 touchdowns, tight end Tony Scheffler, who caught 117 career passes for 1,345 yards and 13 touchdowns, or Trovon Riley, who ran for 1,004 yards and six touchdowns. While the offense should take a little bit of a step back after averaging 32 points per game, the defense should be better with a strong front seven highlighted by Ameer Ismail and the linebacking corps.

Now the question becomes whether or not the Broncos can build off last year's momentum. After losing the opening two games of the year at Virginia and at Toledo, they went on a great run with a stunning overtime 60-57 slip at Ball State the only hiccup over an eight game stretch. The bar has been raised high again.

If Akron can win the MAC title last year, then Western Michigan can do it this season. It has the experience, the overall athleticism, and the coaching to be a power again and battle Northern Illinois and Toledo in the West. No, it's not crazy to suggest that the road to the MAC championship might go through Kalamazoo.

The Schedule: The Broncos can't ask for much more with the two really, really big conference games, Toledo and Northern Illinois, at home. The only downside is the finishing kick with three straight road games to finish things up in November including a nasty trip to Tallahassee to face Florida State the week before playing defending MAC champion Akron. There' no much of a break from the East side playing Miami University along with the season finale against the Zips.

Best Offensive Player: Senior QB Ryan Cubit and/or sophomore QB Tim Hiller. Both suffered bad knee injuries last year, but Cubit's came early enough in the season to be able to heal in time for this year. Hiller's injury came in the season finale making him questionable to be a part of the quarterback race. Each proved he can lead the offense, but life is going to be tougher without Greg Jennings and Tony Scheffler to throw to.

Best Defensive Player: Senior LB Ameer Ismail. The Bronco ends don't generate much pressure, so it's up to the 225-pound weakside linebacker to blow things up in the backfield. He was terrific at getting to the quarterback with the speed and killer instinct to make plays behind the line.

Key player to a successful season: Sophomore CB Londen Fryar. Western Michigan finished 118th in the nation in pass defense; better cornerback play is a must. E.J. Biggers should be improved at one corner, so it'll be up to the son of former NFL star and Nebraska Cornhusker, Irving, to be a rock on the other side.

The season will be a success if ... Western Michigan wins the West. There are plenty of holes and the team might be a year away from truly being a threat for the MAC title, but the schedule works out well and there's enough experience to be the division champion right now.

Key game: Nov. 10 at Central Michigan. The Toledo and Northern Illinois games are key for MAC title hopes, but those are in K-Zoo. The Central Michigan game is the beginning of the three game road tilt to end the season and comes before facing Florida State and Akron. In other words, WMU had better beat the Chippewas.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- Field goals: Western Michigan 12 of 19 - Opponents 6 of 14
- Western Michigan second quarter scoring: 132 - Western Michigan second half scoring: 122
- Third down conversions: Opponents 78 of 177 (44%) - Western Michigan 65 of 163 (40%)

The Last Time Western Michigan…
…played in a bowl game…1988 (California Bowl vs. Fresno State)
…missed a bowl game…2005
…pitched a shutout…2004 (Tennessee-Martin)
…was shutout…2004 (Bowling Green)
…scored 50 points…2005 (Ball State)
…went undefeated…never
…won a conference title…1988 (MAC)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…1999 (Tim Lester)
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2005 (Trovon Riley)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…2005 (Greg Jennings)
…had a first-round draft choice…2004 (DE Jason Babin)

Related Stories
Western Michigan 2006 Preview - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Western Michigan Preview 2006 - F. Analysis
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006
Western Michigan Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 7, 2006

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