This year I will try to have an opponent Q&A each week with a respectable blogger, usually within the SB Nation network. For the next two weeks I will be talking with one of the writers over at the MACtion uber-blog, The Hustle Belt.
Brandon Fitzsimmons handles all things Western Michigan for The Hustle Belt. I spoke with him earlier in the summer, and he has a candid look at the Broncos headed into Saturday.
T-Mill: There is a lot of youth in this game, as Western is throwing freshmen to the fire and Purdue has only 7 senior starters. Who, then has the advantage?
Brandon: I think Purdue. While the Bronco offense has been together for a whole year now, which will help a ton after last season's woes, the defensive box is pretty much a group of inexperience tasked with stopping the run. The secondary will be stacked, but as long as Purdue doesn't have to pass, they're pretty much second-level run stopping (see: pointless things nobody worries about).
I'm not sure where Purdue has their experience, but if they can run block decent enough, it doesn't matter if they start freshmen all over the field on defense, they'll win the game.
T-Mill: It is the rare matchup of 1-11 teams whose only wins were over fellow 1-11 teams. Is this possibly the worst FBS-level game of the week?
Brandon: I don't think so, and neither do our brothers over on the mothership. Hell, they rank this the 36th best game! WOO-HOO FOR MEDIOCRITY!
After waiting out an entire offseason, just about every college football game sounds pretty great. Let us know your top five in the comments!
Preview by Yahoo
Realistically though, this is an interesting game between two 2nd year coaches with young teams. Fleck has the recruiting class and Hazell has the coaching prowess. Seriously, look at Kent State before and after him. I think it's an interesting match-up, and maybe features the worst overall talent in any FBS-on-FBS game this week, but you can find worst games (I'm looking at you Boston College vs UMass, Washington vs Hawaii, etc)
T-Mill: The Bill C. Preview called Western's recruiting class the "Best in MAC history". What is the ceiling for them?
Brandon: Probably top of the MAC. Honestly, it depends on the next couple classes and if Fleck can develop these players. Also, keep in mind that two of the prized recruits in that class, Jay Harris and Lonnie Johnson, both aren't on the team. Harris notably left to re-pursue a career in rap while Johnson is academically ineligible. But who knows, if the stars align, or WMU gets a coach who can develop talent if Fleck doesn't work out (again, IF. I'd rather not go through another coach), maybe the Broncos challenge for the Group of 5 Playoff spot. But first, they have to win the MAC West, something the Broncos haven't done since Marshall dominated the conference.
T-Mill: Last year's run defense was bad, but Purdue's rushing offense was worse. Will the Boilers actually have some running room?
Brandon: Your definition of worse and my definition of worse are VASTLY different. Keep in mind, the Broncos haven't had a solid run defense in years. NIU has clobbered the Broncos the past 3 years, starting with a 500 yard performance the year of the Pizza Bowl. That is not a typo. 500. 5-0-0.
Purdue has the size to run the ball, but the Broncos have been trying to bulk up the line. They still aren't nearly where they should be, but that, plus getting Richard Ash from Michigan, will help slow the bleeding. But in the end, Purdue is in the Big Ten for a reason, and Hazell knows how to run the ball. 1 + 1 = Pass me the whiskey.
T-Mill: What concerns you the most about playing Purdue even as bad as we were?
Brandon: The fact that we are just as bad, just in a worst conference.
I mean, we started last year with SO much promise: A 26-13 loss at Michigan State, who, you know, just won the Rose Bowl and finished #3 after bowl season. No big deal. However, everything after that is just forgettable. I mean everything. Choking against EMU, losing to Nichols State, barely beating UMass. Where's that bottle again?
The thing is: Fleck is still learning how to coach. I still have to wait to see him actually win before I'm not concerned about teams like UMass, a 1-11 Purdue team, or any team from the FCS. Until then, I'm concerned no matter the opponent.
T-Mill: What's your prediction?
Brandon: I really want to see the Broncos win. It'd make up for Carder's dog shit game 3 seasons ago. However, I can't see it happening. If Purdue can play defense against a still youthful offense (that has only one decent wide-receiving threat), they'll have enough offensive opportunities to win. Or at least they should. If the Purdue offensive line is truly that bad still, I'll be in shock. Purdue wins as the Broncos drop yet another Big Ten opener. Boilers 28, Broncos 17