Eastern Michigan Eagles at Western Michigan Broncos, Saturday Oct. 22, 3:30 p.m. ET
Each week I pick out the three highest-profile games on the college football schedule to preview. It's almost always the elite of the elite - the cream of the SEC, Big Ten or ACC figure in very prominently. It almost never involves a MAC team, and it is pretty incomprehensible to even consider that we would look at a MAC conference game. Through a combination, though, of a weak schedule and, more importantly, two very deserving teams, the MAC is exactly where we are.
The recovery for these two squads is incredible. In 2013 Eastern Michigan was 2-10. Western Michigan was 1-11. The difference in those records was Eastern Michigan's overtime win when the two teams met. These were two truly terrible teams. Now, though, Western Michigan is 7-0 and ranked, and Eastern Michigan is 5-2 and in very good shape. These are teams on a remarkable rise.
Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan Betting Storylines
For Western Michigan fans, every win this season is a bittersweet experience. They have something to cheer about for the first time in a long time. That's great. With each win, though, the certainty that head coach P.J. Fleck is off to greener pastures - likely much greener - draws closer. Fleck is just 35 and was a wide receiver at Northern Illinois and, for a brief time, the 49ers. His first season at WMU, and as a head coach, was that 1-11 debacle, and he had nothing to work with. The very next season he was 8-5 and was named MAC coach of the year. He guided the team to eight wins again the next year, and now he is at 7-0. The guy can coach like crazy, and he's going to be one of the prime options for those many high-profile programs that need a new coach and don't land Tom Herman. He's a massive asset here in his game.
It's not that Eastern Michigan is handicapped here, either. Chris Creighton has spent the last 20 years climbing from the NAIA head coaching ranks through Division III and FCS to, for the last three years, the MAC. The first two seasons were so bad that it seemed like his career in the big(ish) time was going to be short - 2-10 in 2014 and 1-11 the next year. As his systems were established, his players took over and he gained momentum, though, this year has been a huge change. This program had been so awful for so long that the job Creighton has done is truly heroic. The Eagles are unbeaten in bowl games. Impressive - until you note that their record is 1-0 and that only appearance was the 1987 California Bowl (whatever that is). Now they are just one win away from breaking an almost 30-year drought. Even if they don't get that win this week - which will be very tough - it's there for the taking on the remaining schedule.
We've obviously spent much more time talking about the programs than the specifics of the players here. Both squads are an impressive 6-1 ATS, so there is a lot to like here. They both have strong players - with WMU QB Zack Terrell, with 1,597 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and not a single interception the best of the group. The best summary, though, is what happened last week. Western Michigan was travelling to Akron to play the Zips, the leader of the MAC's East division. It should have been a battle. It really wasn't - the Broncos won it 41-0. This is a very good team - one on a different level than the Eagles and one that very much belongs in the rankings.
Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan Odds and Betting Trends
The Broncos opened as 23-point favorites in this one - expectations are heavy for them to remain unbeaten. That quickly dropped to -22. Nearly 80 percent of early bets have come in on the Broncos, so the line movement suggests that early sharp action hit the Eagles. We are unlikely to see dramatic line moves going forward, though.
The Broncos are 5-0 ATS in their last five against teams with winning records and 5-1 ATS in their last six following an ATS win. They are 17-4 ATS in their last 21 following a straight up win but just 1-4 ATS in their last five at home against teams with winning road records. The Eagles are 4-0 ATS in their last four against teams with winning records and have the same mark following an ATS win. They have covered the spread in their last four conference games and last five overall.
Eastern Michigan at Western Michigan Predictions and Picks
I have a ton of respect for P.J. Fleck. I would have no hesitation at all giving him a big time job. I think, for example, that he would look great at UCLA. Backing him here requires giving up a whole lot of points, and they are facing a team that clearly loves playing for their coach. I'm willing to do it, though. Western Michigan's offense is impressive, and they are going to have a strong day here. There are other plays I like more this week than this team, but I am comfortable taking the Broncos as heavy favorites.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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