Midweek MACtion is back, which means the college football week gets started a little early with the help of the Western Michigan Broncos and Ball State Cardinals. These two teams are set to kickoff at 8:00 EST on Tuesday, November 5 at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo, Michigan. The game will be broadcast on ESPN2.
Oddsmakers list the Broncos as 7-point favorites at home with an over/under of 64 points. Be sure to check out a full list of the Week 11 college football odds.
Western Michigan has had the textbook definition of an up and down season. The Broncos have yet to win back-to-back games, but they’ve also not lost back-to-back games. They’ve flipped back and forth all season, putting them at 5-4 on the season, one win away from bowl eligibility.
More importantly, they are 3-2 in MAC play and in control of their own destiny. If the Broncos can win out, they will not only go to a bowl game for the fifth time in six years, but they will also play in the MAC Championship for the first time since they won the conference crown in 2016.
Of course, the road to the MAC title game goes through Ball State at the moment. The Cardinals lead the MAC West division with a 3-1 record in conference play. BSU lost three of their first four games during the non-conference part of the season, coming up short against the likes of Indiana and NC State. But the Cardinals have won three of four since the start of conference play.
With four games left in the season, Ball State will win the MAC West if they win their remaining games. However, the Cardinals are facing Western Michigan and Central Michigan in their next two games. Both teams could overtake them in the West division standings, so Ball State can’t afford to lose Tuesday’s game if they hope to play in the MAC title game for the first time since 2008. They also need at least two more wins if they hope to play in a bowl game for the first time since the 2013 season.
Ball State should have some confidence against Western Michigan after knocking off the Broncos last year. However, WMU had won four straight games against the Cardinals prior to that. In fact, Ball State has just one win in their last four trips to Kalamazoo, including a 55-3 shellacking they took from the Broncos two years ago.
Western Michigan’s consistent inconsistency this year is actually easy to figure out. They’ve won all five of their home games and lost all four of their road games. All five home wins have come by comfortable margins with the closest game being a 16-point win over Central Michigan. I’d be foolish to think that trend won’t continue. I’ll lay down the points and take the Broncos to cover a touchdown on Tuesday.
To be fair, Ball State is a solid team and surely one of the better teams in the MAC this season. However, the Cardinals are coming off a 34-21 loss to Ohio in their last game. Ohio is also one of the top MAC teams this year, so it’s not a good sign that the Cardinals couldn’t measure up, especially at home. More importantly, Ohio has long been known for their potent rushing attack, which the Ball State defense failed to contain, conceding over 300 rushing yards and four touchdowns against a team that only threw the ball 16 times.
BSU’s inability to stop the run doesn’t bode well for them against Western Michigan. The Broncos have one of the best running backs in the MAC in LeVante Bellamy, who has already surpassed 1,000 yards on the season. Outside of Michigan State, no team has been able to get a handle on Bellamy. He is also coming off his best performance of the season last time out against Bowling Green, rushing for 178 yards and four touchdowns.
Against the WMU offense, the Cardinals are likely to get a heavy dose of the run until they prove they can stop it. But the Broncos are far from one-dimensional. Joe Wassink gives Western Michigan a senior quarterback in his third year as a starter. Wassink already has a career-high in passing yards and has tied his career-high with 16 passing touchdowns. He doesn’t post eye-popping numbers, but he’s consistent and hasn’t been sacked in back-to-back games.
The Broncos are averaging over 44 points per game at home this year. I’m not sure the Ball State offense can keep up with that kind of pace. The Cardinals have surpassed 30 points just twice this season, and one of those occasions was in a loss. Quarterback Drew Plitt is putting together a nice season, but he’s had some dreadful games against some of the better defenses in the MAC, which gives me some concerns about Ball State keeping up in a shootout.
Ultimately, Western Michigan has the better quarterback and the best skill player on the field in Bellamy. At home, that should be enough to win comfortably, especially with the way Ball State struggled to stop the run in their last game. I’ll eat the points and trust the Broncos to cover.