Not many people know this, but there is an uber-MAC blog within the SB Nation network. As part of SB Nation's plan for
world domination covering almost every sports angle out there, they have The Hustle Belt, which fills the role of uber-blog for the MAC much like Off Tackle Empire does for the Big Ten. One of is writers, Brandon Fitzsimons, contacted me for a Q&A about Western Michigan in advance of the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. This is a bowl that I will now likely be attending, as I was approved for a credential under the "it's not THAT far of a drive, so why not apply?" principle. Here is what Brandon had to say about the Broncos:
1. Was the Little Caesar's Bowl a bit of a surprise after Toledo, Ohio, and Northern Illinois did better in the conference? To me? A little bit. To a lot of people, yes. The thing is, Western was courting the LCBP officials for a little bit, and basically tried everything they could to sell them on WMU. Apparently it worked.
Western has a huge base of students and alum in Detroit, and basically as long as NIU and Ohio found homes in the other two automatic MAC bowls (Godaddy.com and Potato bowls, respectively), it seemed like Western was in. A late report of having to place Temple and Toledo elsewhere worried some of us fans (of even getting a bowl at all), but alas, we are here.
2. You guys played Illnois pretty tough when they were still good this year. What kind of advantage does that give WMU? Little known fact: We also played Michigan well in the first half as well. I don't look at the 2nd half because as soon as halftime hit, everything literally turned to s**t on account of the weather.
As for the Illinois game, we gave up big plays, and the power run game took the game away from WMU. I feel like we gave it away honestly. Anyways, advantage? None really. I think that it was so long ago, that it really won't be looked at. I think that with our (hopeful) home-field advantage in Detroit, that will be the key factor rather than confidence we can "hang" with a Big 10 team.
3. How do you feel WMU's run defense will slow down Purdue's running game even though Ralph Bolden will miss the bowl game? Drew Nowak will be key. Say hello to the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. He's the plug in the middle, so as long as we can contain on the outside, we should be able to throw an extra man or two in the box and stop any power run game. Of course this is all in theory and will probably end up like the rest of year where teams ran it down our throats and we really couldn't stop it.
Bolden wasn't a 1000 yard guy, and your next highest yard gainer is at 370. This tells me that a team that relies so much on the run would have to be balanced.
4. How does Alex Carder match up against the Purdue Secondary? It's weird because you've faced Notre Dame, Wisconsin, and Michigan, and 2-10 Middle Tennessee State has the lone 300-yard passer on you guys. Alex Carder should be healthy for this game, and is actually the weaker passer between him and back-up Tyler VanTubbergen. However, Carder is more like the Aaron Rogers mold: shifty, good passer, and is a playmaker.
I honestly think that Purdue has not faced an offense like Western's all year. Wisconsin and Michigan have better offenses, but they are more run based. Western is an air assault. Carder has All-American Jordan White to throw to.
He also has Chleb Ravenell and Robert "One-Arm" Arnheim. This trio of WRs is scary to face. Purdue will have an uphill battle against this aerial attack.
5. Do you think the MAC looks at this bowl game with more importance the Big Ten? Simple answer? Yes. Complicated answer? They have to. The MAC tied their record this year by getting 5 of 13 teams into bowl games. The Big Ten got 10 of 12 teams into bowl games. This is the 2nd of 3 automatic MAC bowls. This is the 8th choice for Big Ten teams. Each team gets about the same money regardless of the outcome, so there really is no incentive besides not having the "we lost to a MAC school" branding in there for the Big 10.
The MAC needs a win every chance they can get in the national spotlight. Helps with recruiting, helps with fan bases, it just helps all-around. The Big Ten has their own network, has the "Big Ten Brand", and the LCPB is one of the weakest bowls in the Big Ten's eyes. Making it is just saying, "You are one of the weakest bowl eligible teams the Big Ten put together. Congrats." Harsh words? Yes, but true words in my mind. (mine too)