Western Michigan (5-3) at Miami-Ohio (2-7) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Yager Stadium (24,286) -- Oxford, Ohio. Television: None. Home Record: Western Michigan 2-1, Miami-Ohio 2-2. Away Record: Western Michigan 3-2, Miami-Ohio 0-5. Neutral Record: Western Michigan 0-0, Miami-Ohio 0-0. Conference Record: Western Michigan 3-1, Miami-Ohio 2-3. Series Record: Miami-Ohio leads, 37-19-1.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos will attempt to build on their three- game win streak as they travel to face the Miami-Ohio RedHawks in a Mid- American Conference battle at Yager Stadium on Saturday.
The Broncos have been on fire offensively since starting up conference play, and currently sit on a 3-1 mark in the MAC standings - a game behind West Division leader Toledo. The team easily took down Ohio at home last weekend, 42-21, as freshman running back Jarvion Franklin set a program record.
Miami-Ohio ended a two-game losing skid with a victory over Kent State last weekend, 10-3. The struggling RedHawks have been a strong team offensively in the past few weeks, but have simply been outmatched on the defensive side of the ball. The RedHawks ran up against a dismal offensive team in the Golden Flashes over the weekend.
Miami leads the all-time series against Western Michigan, 37-19-1, in a rivalry that dates all the way back to 1936. The two sides last met on the field on Nov. 16, 2011, which resulted in a close 24-21 Western Michigan victory.
Ohio struck first with a rushing touchdown in the first quarter of last weekend's contest against WMU, but it was all downhill from there for the Broncos, who went on to score the next four touchdowns. Franklin, the freshman running back, became the second freshman in the history of the football program to rush for 1,000 yards in a season. The only other player to do so for the Broncos was Robert Sanford in the 1997 season, who finished that campaign with 1,033 yards.
Franklin finished the day against Ohio with 156 yards and three touchdowns, which brings him to 1,148 yards on the season (ranked fifth in the FBS) and 19 rushing touchdowns (best in the FBS). Thanks to Franklin's revitalization of the offense, the Broncos are averaging 33.8 ppg this season with 451.9 total offensive ypg and 187.9 rushing ypg.
Since opponents have been more apt to focus on the run game, the Broncos' passing game has flourished as well. Quarterback Zach Terrell has thrown for 2,094 yards and 14 touchdowns in eight games, against six interceptions. His top targets are Daniel Braverman (634 yards, four touchdowns) and Corey Davis (821 yards, seven touchdowns; the younger brother of Central Michigan's Titus Davis). The WMU offense is clicking on all cylinders.
Since conference play began, the team's defense has started to pick up the play as well. The Broncos are now averaging 27.2 ppg allowed, and are holding opponents to under 400 offensive ypg. The biggest concern is stopping opponents on third down, as the Broncos are giving up third down conversions at a 42 percent rate.
Grant DePalma (76 tackles) and Justin Currie (63 tackles) have set themselves apart from the rest of the defense in terms of the tackling statistic, although DePalma has more tackles for loss (six) than Currie (.5). The Broncos could use more pressure on opposing quarterbacks, considering the team has registered just 15 sacks in eight games played. The same goes for creating turnovers. Ronald Zamort and Donald Celsicar have a team-best two interceptions apiece, while Zamort adds a fumble recovery to his resume.
Miami had been getting solid play from starting quarterback Andrew Hendrix in the week's past, although there weren't any wins to show for it. But Hendrix was solid once again last Saturday against Kent State, and this time the Notre Dame transfer helped his RedHawks to their second victory of the season.
Hendrix passed for 120 yards in the contest, but did most of the damage with his feet. The quarterback rushed for 102 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries, averaging 6.9 yards per carry. The RedHawks only average 98.1 ypg on the ground, and most of it comes from Hendrix. Dawan Scott leads the team in rushing with 262 yards this season, but Hendrix has scored a team-best five times on the ground.
In nine games this season, Hendrix has passed for 2,597 yards, 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. His completion percentage is below 50, currently sitting at 48.9 percent. But he has kept his team, which was winless in the 2013 season, competitive in every MAC game so far.
The RedHawks' defense is allowing opponents to score 31.4 ppg this season, which is the reason Miami hasn't been able to accumulate a few more wins. The team surrendered 29 points to Akron a few weeks ago in a 10-point loss, and then gave up 51 to Northern Illinois a week later, again in a 10-point loss. If the RedHawks can keep their opponents out of the end zone one, maybe two more times per game, the team has an excellent shot at picking up a few more wins.
Jarrell Jones leads his team with 75 tackles, and has registered a team-best three fumble recoveries. Up front, the RedHawks have been stout, with Bryson Albright leading the charge with a team-best five sacks, and J'Terius Jones adding 7.5 tackles for loss and four more sacks. Linebacker Kent Kern has been getting after opponents in the backfield with a team-best eight tackles for loss.
There's no doubt the RedHawks have been improving as each game rolls by, but the defense still has room to grow if the team wants to start limiting opponent scoring. Western Michigan was a one-win team last season, and the turnaround in a single offseason has been tremendous. There's no way Miami can slow down Franklin and Terrell, who will be unleashed this weekend as they try to catch up to Toledo in the MAC race.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 34, Miami-Ohio 24Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 2:30 p.m. (ET)