Confused? Check out the advanced-stats glossary here. Below, a unique review of last year's team, a unit-by-unit breakdown of this year's roster, the full 2016 schedule with win projections for each game, and more.
1. Taking your time
It feels like P.J. Fleck has been in charge at Western Michigan for a lot longer than three years. With a superhuman energy level, recruiting chops for days, and his own personal catchphrase, Fleck has made the most of his time in Kalamazoo.
He has also proven himself. WMU won more than seven games in a season twice between 2001-13, and the Broncos have now done it in back-to-back seasons. He has recruited at a level MAC teams aren't supposed to sustain, but after a brutal Year 0 season in 2013, he began to turn around the on-field product before these star recruits had time to develop.
He has ambitious plans for WMU, and he's well on his way to accomplishing them.
More impressively, he's still there. Because of his recruiting alone, he's taken on overtures from quite a few mid-level power-conference schools. That he hasn't bitten tells us he doesn't mind playing the long game.
And why should he be? His recruiting rankings are barely below that of Illinois or Purdue and within earshot of Iowa or Minnesota, and in 2015, WMU's on-field product (No. 53 in S&P+) was better than that of Indiana (60), Illinois (61), Maryland (65), and Purdue (86). Hell, the Broncos graded out better than 10-win Northwestern (56). That's nearly half the Big Ten. And again, Fleck's recruiting classes have barely had time to mature.
Plus, there's the matter of unfinished business. WMU has graded out better than six-time defending MAC West champion NIU in each of the last two years, but that hasn't translated into an appearance in the MAC title game ... because it hasn't yet translated into a win over NIU. In 2014, the Broncos led the Huskies by 11 points at halftime in the regular season finale but gave up 24 straight points to finish the game. In 2015, they led 19-14 heading into the fourth quarter in DeKalb, then gave up 13 points and stalled out on a late drive at the NIU 4.
"Row the boat" hasn't yet meant "Finish strong against the champ."
I would love to see Fleck stay a few more years at WMU, holding out for only the highest of high-level jobs (Ohio State or something similar). That's mainly because I'm selfish -- I want to see what sustained recruiting efforts like this can translate to in a MAC built so much around talent parity. We'll see if that's what plays out.
In the meantime, we'll see if what should be Fleck's best team yet can actually clear the NIU hurdle. WMU returns a 3,500-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher from each of the last two years, a 1,400-yard receiver, four starters on the offensive line, two defenders with 10-plus tackles for loss in 2015, and a cornerback who defensed 21 passes (fifth in the country).
WMU surged in 2014, then got a little bit better in 2015. The Broncos played like a top-15 team for a little while in the middle of the season. But they still have some more accomplishments to check off the list, and they still have their charming, semi-crazy head coach leading the way.
They also get Northwestern in the S&P+ Bowl to start the year. This is going to be fun.
|Record: 8-5 | Adj. Record: 8-5 | Final F/+ Rk: 51 | Final S&P+ Rk: 53|
|Date||Opponent||Opp. F/+ Rk||Score||W-L||Percentile
|12-Sep||at Georgia Southern||48||17-43||L||12%||0%||-23.0||-30.5|
|26-Sep||at Ohio State||3||12-38||L||27%||1%||+14.6||+5.5|
|29-Oct||at Eastern Michigan||122||58-28||W||83%||100%||+23.7||+10.0|
|18-Nov||at Northern Illinois||66||19-27||L||38%||24%||-4.0||-5.0|
|24-Dec||vs. Middle Tennessee||82||45-31||W||78%||90%||+5.7||+10.5|
|Points Per Game||36.0||26||28.3||79|
2. Midseason brilliance
There are two ways to look at WMU's 2015 campaign. The first: WMU started the season slowly, caught fire in October, then slowed down a hair late.
- First 5 games
Average percentile performance: 39% (~top 80) | Average score: Opp 35, WMU 29 | Record: 2-3
- Next 4 games
Average percentile performance: 88% (~top 15) | Average score: WMU 49, Opp 16 | Record: 4-0
- Last 4 games
Average percentile performance: 56% (~top 55) | Average score: WMU 32, Opp 32 | Record: 2-2
There's probably a little bit of value in this view. WMU couldn't keep a linebacker on the field to save its life -- eight LBs finished the season with at least 5 tackles, and six missed a combined 30 games -- and faded defensively.
But it's impossible not to notice how the caliber of opponent played a role in the season's ups and downs. WMU played three strong opponents early and struggled, played a string of bad opponents in the middle of the season and dominated, then watched its hot streak cool off when the opponents improved again at the end.
- vs. S&P+ top 50
Average percentile performance: 32% (~top 85) | Average score: Opp 38, WMU 23 | Record: 1-4
- vs. S&P+ No. 51-100
Average percentile performance: 70% (~top 40) | Average score: WMU 39, Opp 28 | Record: 3-1
- vs. S&P+ No. 101+
Average percentile performance: 84% (~top 20) | Average score: WMU 50, Opp 17 | Record: 4-0
You will find teams that play up or down to their level of competition, finishing with almost no correlation between opponent quality and percentile performance. Then you will find teams like WMU, whose success appeared based on its level of athletic advantage. The Broncos played three top-50 opponents early and lost by an average of 22 points per game, then split two games against good teams (BGSU, Toledo) late.
Meanwhile, WMU was perfectly solid against mid-level teams (slipping up only to NIU, of course) and completely destroyed bad ones. It was a rather orderly season in that regard. Flip the results of the Toledo and NIU games, and it was almost perfectly orderly.
This could say very good things about WMU's prospects in 2016, by the way. Even if WMU doesn't improve -- the projections say no, I say possibly -- the Broncos face only one projected top-50 team, and that's No. 46 Northwestern. They get six teams projected between 52nd and 97th and five projected 101st or worse. Last year's trends would produce a 10-win season.
|FIVE FACTORS -- OFFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||44.2%||37||Succ. Rt. +||107.1||39|
|FIELD POSITION||Def. Avg. FP||28.6||44||Def. FP+||27.4||25|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.9||29||Redzone S&P+||116.7||18|
|Q1 Rk||15||1st Down Rk||17|
|Q2 Rk||43||2nd Down Rk||28|
|Q3 Rk||13||3rd Down Rk||6|
3. Nothing special, just awesome
From a footprint standpoint, there's not a lot that stands out Kirk Ciarrocca's WMU offense. The Broncos were at or near the national averages in terms of standard downs run rate, tempo, and percentage of solo tackles allowed (which is a way to look at how well defenses are spread out). They threw a bit more than normal on passing downs, and they kept passing when up big; that's about the only difference between WMU and your average college offense.
This was pretty much what we saw in 2014, too. The only shifts: WMU ran a bit more on passing downs then and kept the tempo slower.
But when you have the athletes, you don't need to stray from the common script very much. When you can pass at a top-20 level and throw at a top-30 level, you don't need to get particularly creative.
Don't expect to see much straying from this script in 2016, not with the return of quarterback Zach Terrell and receiver Corey Davis. The loss of Daniel Braverman and his 109 receptions will force some adjustment, and if backs Jamauri Bogan and Jarvion Franklin -- a prototype thunder-and-lightning combo if ever one existed -- are both healthy and active, the Broncos could certainly run more frequently with happy effects. But what we've seen is probably what we will see moving forward. And it'll probably work, too.
Note: players in bold below are 2016 returnees. Players in italics are questionable with injury/suspension.
|Zach Terrell||6'2, 204||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7880||262||391||3526||29||9||67.0%||31||7.3%||8.0|
|Tom Flacco||6'0, 199||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||10||12||188||1||0||83.3%||0||0.0%||15.7|
|Jon Wassink||6'2, 200||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8174|
|Matt Little||6'3, 226||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8446|
4. Just one more way to improve
Zach Terrell has been the man behind center for most of Fleck's tenure. He played in nine games as a freshman, throwing for 1,602 yards, eight touchdowns, eight interceptions, and a 110.8 passer rating, then raised his game: 3,443 yards and a 164.4 rating in 2014, then 3,526 yards and a 162.6 rating in 2015. His completion rate has been in the 67s each of the last two years, and while his rating held steady last fall, his interception rate went down from 2.7 percent to 2.3.
The last step in Terrell's development: staying upright a bit more. Obviously that's on his line, too, but taking 31 sacks is a good way to knock your offense's efficiency down a decent amount. That's one of the ways you can complete 67 percent of your passes but rank just 39th in Passing Success Rate+.
That Terrell is unafraid of stepping up into the pocket is a strength. It's how you can complete two-thirds of your passes while averaging 13.5 yards per completion. But it has a downside. If he can get a slightly better feel for when to throw the ball away or check down, WMU's offense will be just about unstoppable.
Having a line that returns four of five starters will help in that regard, though the one loss (all-conference tackle Willie Beavers) hurts.
|Jamauri Bogan||RB||5'7, 187||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8133||162||1051||16||6.5||9.4||34.6%||1||1|
|Jarvion Franklin||RB||6'0, 228||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7967||153||735||5||4.8||4.8||35.3%||4||2|
|LeVante Bellamy||RB||5'9, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8619||77||493||2||6.4||5.6||48.1%||4||1|
|Zach Terrell||QB||6'2, 204||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7880||46||270||3||5.9||3.7||52.2%||2||2|
|Tom Flacco||QB||6'0, 199||So.||2 stars (5.2)||NR||28||266||2||9.5||6.8||67.9%||1||0|
|Leo Ekwoge||RB||5'11, 210||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8206|
|Davon Tucker||RB||5'8, 205||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8301|
|Matt Falcon||RB||6'1, 210||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8757|
|Dee Eskridge||RB||5'9, 181||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8228|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||Targets||Catches||Yards||Catch Rate||Target
|Corey Davis||WR-X||6'3, 213||Sr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7000||140||91||1446||65.0%||35.6%||10.3||57.1%||47.1%||2.09|
|Michael Henry||WR-Z||5'11, 189||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8026||27||18||247||66.7%||6.9%||9.1||37.0%||48.1%||1.89|
|Jarvion Franklin||RB||6'0, 228||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7967||22||17||184||77.3%||5.6%||8.4||63.6%||50.0%||1.42|
|Carrington Thompson||WR-X||6'2, 176||Sr.||NR||NR||14||8||89||57.1%||3.6%||6.4||28.6%||50.0%||0.92|
|LeVante Bellamy||RB||5'9, 185||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8619||6||4||71||66.7%||1.5%||11.8||83.3%||50.0%||2.09|
|Jamauri Bogan||RB||5'7, 187||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8133||5||3||15||60.0%||1.3%||3.0||60.0%||0.0%||0.00|
|Donnie Ernsberger||TE||6'3, 255||Jr.||NR||NR||4||2||22||50.0%||1.0%||5.5||50.0%||50.0%||1.02|
|Lucas Bezerra||TE||6'4, 248||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.7733|
|Kadeem Goulbourne||WR||6'3, 206||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8302|
|Keishawn Watson||SUPER||5'11, 180||RSFr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7948|
|Anton Curtis||WR||6'0, 185||RSFr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8124|
|Kalebb Perry||WR||6'2, 175||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8353|
|Hunter Broersma||WR||5'11, 189||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8150|
|Brett Borske||TE||6'5, 225||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8081|
5. Losing Braverman hurts, but...
In 2014, Jarvion Franklin walked onto WMU's campus and almost immediately became one of the biggest workhorse backs in the country. He rushed 24 times per game and put up at least 149 yards in seven of his first nine games as a college football player.
Franklin also faded drastically down the stretch. In his last three games, he averaged 20 carries for 65 yards.
Perhaps as a way of preventing a similar fade, and perhaps as a way of having some fun new toys to play with. Ciarocca went with more of a running-back-by-committee approach in 2015. Franklin got exactly half the carries he had as a freshman (153) while freshmen Jamauri Bogan (162) and LeVante Bellamy (77) got plenty as well.
The three combined for 30 carries per game, but the bell cow changed from game to game. Bellamy proved the most efficient (and fumble-prone) of the bunch, while Bogan was one of the most explosive backs in the country. The three-headed approach worked well -- WMU improved from 65th to 27th in Rushing S&P+. (Franklin, by the way, still struggled late. Over his last four games, he averaged just 4.5 carries and 19 yards per game.)
This year, the backfield gets even more crowded. Bogan, Franklin, and Bellamy are back, and not only might three-star sophomores Leo Ekwoge and Davon Tucker command a carry or two here and there, but Fleck added two more three-star backs, including Matt Falcon, the jewel of the 2016 recruiting class. Ciarocca might need to run the ball more just to keep everyone happy. That's the definition of "good problem to have."
Meanwhile, the receiving corps has a huge hole to fill and plenty of interesting candidates. Split Daniel Braverman's production three ways, and you'd have three pretty productive receivers (36 catches for 457 yards each); all three are gone. So is reserve Kendrick Roberts.
Corey Davis is back, though. The big senior was less efficient (Braverman's 57 percent success rate was remarkable) and more explosive than Braverman, and Terrell will need to figure out some new efficiency options. And last year's No. 3, Michael Henry, is more Davis than Braverman. But between last year's understudy Keishawn Watson, senior Carrington Thompson, sophomore Kadeem Goulbourne, redshirt freshman Anton Curtis, and any of three incoming three-star freshmen, the odds are good that someone steps up.
Still, you could see how efficiency could remain a sticking point for this offense. If Terrell's got more deep threats than possession guys, if Bogan's efficiency doesn't improve, and if Terrell's still taking a lot of sacks, that could mean that three-and-outs again gum up an otherwise awesome offense.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||2015 Starts||Career Starts||Honors/Notes|
|Willie Beavers||LT||13||40||2015 1st All-MAC|
|Taylor Moton||RG||6'5, 328||Sr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7644||13||38|
|Chukwuma Okorafor||RT||6'6, 333||Jr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8547||13||13|
|Jackson Day||LG||6'3, 292||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8088||11||13|
|John Keenoy||C||6'3, 305||So.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8307||12||12|
|OL||6'4, 298||Sr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8460||0||0|
|Elliot Jordan||LT||6'6, 282||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7633||0||0|
|Kristof Ifkovits||LG||6'4, 295||Jr.||2 stars (5.2)||0.7000||0||0|
|Curtis Doyle||OL||6'5, 308||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8076||0||0|
|Zach Novoselsky||RG||6'5, 299||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8006||0||0|
|Wesley French||LG||6'5, 311||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8430|
|Jonathan Todd||OL||6'6, 330||RSFr.||NR||NR|
|Spencer Kanz||OL||6'5, 285||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8522|
|Mike Caliendo||OL||6'3, 273||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8112|
|Mark Brooks||OL||6'6, 255||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8005|
|FIVE FACTORS -- DEFENSE|
|Raw Category||Rk||Opp. Adj. Category||Rk|
|EFFICIENCY||Succ. Rt.||41.7%||68||Succ. Rt. +||101.4||62|
|FIELD POSITION||Off. Avg. FP||29.7||72||Off. FP+||30.7||47|
|FINISHING DRIVES||Pts. Per Scoring Opportunity||4.8||103||Redzone S&P+||87.9||111|
|Q1 Rk||118||1st Down Rk||84|
|Q2 Rk||68||2nd Down Rk||111|
|Q3 Rk||72||3rd Down Rk||99|
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Keion Adams||DE||6'2, 245||Sr.||NR||NR||13||33.5||5.1%||10.0||5.5||0||0||1||0|
|Nathan Braster||DE||6'5, 272||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8248||12||16.0||2.5%||3.5||1.5||0||1||0||0|
|Andre Turner||DE||6'4, 266||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7867||13||12.5||1.9%||2.5||1.0||0||0||0||0|
|David Curle||NT||6'3, 303||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7800||13||12.5||1.9%||2.0||1.0||0||1||1||0|
|Eric Assuoa||DE||6'2, 230||So.||NR||NR||11||10.0||1.5%||0.0||0.0||0||1||0||0|
|Jamar Simpkins||DT||6'2, 266||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7000||12||5.5||0.8%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Ken Finley||NT||6'2, 298||So.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8089||10||4.0||0.6%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Nick Matich||NT||6'2, 288||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7756|
|Daniel Jackson||DT||6'2, 263||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7785|
|Kailen Guillory||DE||6'4, 240||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8194|
|Jordan Asbury||DT||6'3, 275||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8021|
6. An all-or-nothing run defense
From their semi-predictable alignment, WMU's offense produced a ton of big plays in 2015. The defense, meanwhile, attempted to match. With maybe the MAC's most aggressive secondary, the Broncos risked explosive plays for three-and-outs and turnovers. And while they didn't get nearly enough out of their pass rush, they were still above average from a havoc standpoint.
That said, it's on defensive coordinator Ed Pinkham's side of the ball where WMU needs help. While the Broncos' Off. S&P+ ranking has improved from 121st to 52nd to 25th over the last three years, the Def. S&P+ ranking has moved from 106th to 90th to 89th. That's technically improvement, but not nearly enough of it.
Injuries played a role last year -- as mentioned above, the linebacking corps was Caleb Bailey, Austin Lewis, and ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ from week to week. But the line was healthy and produced almost no pass rush outside of Keion Adams' work.
The run defense was close to something great, though, and would benefit from a more stable linebacking corps. Bailey had 12 tackles for loss, which is an incredibly impressive total considering he had no sacks. He and since-departed tackle Cleveland Smith were the driving forces behind WMU's No. 21 ranking in stuff rate.
Losing Smith hurts, though. While Adams leads the way at end, nose tackle seems manned well with big senior David Curle, and experienced junior Robert Spillane will play a larger role at middle linebacker, there's a gap next to Curle. Smith got a majority of the playing time, and senior Jamar Simpkins and sophomore Daniel Jackson are the most viable replacement options. They combined for 5.5 tackles last year, all from Simpkins.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Caleb Bailey||WILL||6'0, 236||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8289||13||60.0||9.2%||12.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Robert Spillane||MIKE||6'2, 218||Jr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8177||8||33.0||5.1%||5.5||1.5||0||2||1||0|
|Kasey Carson||LB||5'11, 206||So.||NR||NR||9||6.5||1.0%||1.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Edward Rolle||SAM||6'2, 204||Sr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8056||7||6.0||0.9%||0.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|Lucas Cherocci||LB||5'11, 216||Jr.||NR||NR||10||5.0||0.8%||2.0||0.0||0||0||0||0|
|JaKevin Jackson||LB||6'2, 221||Sr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8604|
|Alex Grace||LB||6'2, 200||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8170|
|Tristian Pipp||LB||6'1, 216||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8415|
|Eric Rogers||LB||6'0, 224||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8406|
|Jared Culp||LB||6'2, 202||Fr.||2 stars (5.3)||0.8056|
7. The pipeline is developing
Adams, Curle, and Simpkins are seniors. So is potential starting linebacker Edward Rolle.
Ends Nathan Braster and Andre Turner, nose Nick Matich, linebackers Bailey and Spillane are juniors. Three were former three-star recruits.
End Eric Assuoa, tackles Ken Finley and Daniel Jackson, and linebackers Kasey Carson and Alex Grace are sophomores. Two were three-stars.
End Kailen Guillory, tackle Jordan Asbury, and three linebackers (Tristian Pipp, Eric Rogers, Jared Culp) are true freshmen. All were three-stars.
You can see the pipeline forming. Each year WMU will boast senior leaders and high-upside underclassmen. It will be the case in 2016 and 2017, and it appears it will be the case beyond that, too.
|Rivals||247 Comp.||GP||Tackles||% of Team||TFL||Sacks||Int||PBU||FF||FR|
|Asantay Brown||FS||6'0, 203||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.7881||13||79.5||12.2%||3||1||2||5||2||0|
|Darius Phillips||CB||5'10, 191||Jr.||2 stars (5.4)||NR||13||42.0||6.4%||4.5||0.5||5||16||2||1|
|Sam Beal||CB||6'1, 177||So.||2 stars (5.3)||0.7948||12||13.5||2.1%||0||0||0||1||0||0|
|Justin Tranquill||DB||5'11, 185||RSFr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8705||4||5.0||0.8%||0||0||0||2||0||0|
|Justin Ferguson||FS||6'1, 203||Sr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8918|
|DB||5'10, 174||Jr.||3 stars (5.7)||0.8575|
|Davontae Ginwright||DB||6'2, 191||So.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8042|
|Stefan Claiborne||DB||6'0, 173||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8523|
|Dontre Boyd||DB||5'10, 160||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8360|
|Drake Spears||DB||6'1, 205||Fr.||3 stars (5.6)||0.8254|
|Emanuel Jackson||DB||5'11, 171||Fr.||2 stars (5.4)||0.8219|
|Brad Tanner||DB||6'2, 182||Fr.||3 stars (5.5)||0.8120|
8. Depth in the back?
And speaking of a pipeline, Fleck signed five three-star defensive backs this year. A few of them might make the second string, but despite the loss of starting safety Rontavious Atkins and active-as-hell corner Ronald Zamort, it appears the Broncos have more than enough options to avoid freshman hell in the back. Safety Asantay Brown leads the way, and corner Darius Phillips was even more active on the ball than Zamort.
Sophomore Sam Beal and Iowa transfer Malik Rucker could battle it out for the spot opposite Zamort, and if redshirt freshman Justin Tranquill -- the injury-prone gem of the 2015 class who tore his ACL last fall -- can stay on the field, he appears to be a keeper. Former Notre Dame safety Justin Ferguson could take over if Tranquill can't.
Experience in the back is vital, and losing four of last year's top eight should feel a little scary. But aside from Tranquill's knee situation, I feel pretty comfortable with the WMU secondary ... the first string, at least. A couple of injuries, and the redshirts come flying off.
|Derrick Mitchell||6'2, 203||So.||87||62.5||36||0||41.4%|
|Darius Phillips||KR||5'10, 184||Jr.||36||23.3||1|
|LeVante Bellamy||KR||5'11, 185||So.||4||21.3||0|
|Special Teams S&P+||81|
|Field Goal Efficiency||55|
|Punt Return Success Rate||58|
|Kick Return Success Rate||49|
|Punt Success Rate||122|
|Kickoff Success Rate||52|
9. The MAC's losing some legs this year
So many MAC teams are replacing kickers and punters this year, and WMU is no exception. Though big-legged kickoffs guy Derrick Mitchell is back and will, I assume, man the punter position this year, losing Andrew Haldeman hurts a bit. Haldeman was a little bit scattershot, missing three PATs, but he was a weapon on longer kicks.
|Date||Opponent||Proj. S&P+ Rk||Proj. Margin||Win Probability|
|1-Oct||at Central Michigan||85||1.7||54%|
|1-Nov||at Ball State||101||7.1||66%|
|8-Nov||at Kent State||104||7.5||67%|
|Projected wins: 7.6|
|Five-Year F/+ Rk||-10.2% (84)|
|2- and 5-Year Recruiting Rk||78 / 83|
|2015 TO Margin / Adj. TO Margin*||1 / 3.2|
|2015 TO Luck/Game||-0.9|
|Returning Production (Off. / Def.)||70% (79%, 62%)|
|2015 Second-order wins (difference)||7.5 (0.5)|
10. So much potential
WMU was nearly untouchable against teams outside of the S&P+ top 50 last season and plays only one projected top-50 team this year (though Georgia Southern and Toledo are close). The Broncos have at least a 36 percent chance of winning in every game and are at 62 percent or higher in seven. They return most of the important pieces of their defense and some of the most explosive offensive weapons in the mid-major universe.
This could be a huge season in Kalamazoo, especially if WMU figures out a way past a crafty, limited Northwestern team in the season opener. But while the schedule is certainly lighter this time around, most of these pieces were in place last year, and the Broncos still figured out a way to falter against NIU and lose the division. Is this the year that turns around?