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Servpro First Responder Bowl Preview: Western Michigan Broncos vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

Two “western” teams head further west for a showdown in Dallas

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 23 Western Kentucky at Southern Miss Photo by Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Western Michigan Broncos (7-5, 5-3 MAC) vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-4, 6-2 C-USA)

Date & Time: Monday, December 30th 2019, 12:30 PM ET

TV/Streaming: ESPN

Location: Gerald J. Ford Stadium in Dallas, Texas

Betting Line: WKU -3, O/U 53.5

All-Time Series Record: Western Michigan leads the all-time series 11-3. The two teams tied 0-0 in 1930. These two teams have not faced each other since 1947 when WMU won 38-0.


Preview

The year was relatively kind to both of these two programs with the Tops and the Broncos returning to the postseason. After starting the year with a bad loss to FCS foe Central Arkansas, Western Kentucky went on to win five of their next six games despite losing starting quarterback Steven Duncan to a leg injury. Grad transfer Ty Storey assumed the QB1 role with flying colors and threw for 2,209 yards with a 70.1% completion percentage and 12 touchdowns. Storey was also recently named C-USA’s Newcomer of the Year for 2019.

WKU stumbled twice in a row against Marshall and FAU before ending the regular season with three consecutive victories.

The Tops’ postseason honors didn’t end with Storey. Head coach Tyson Helton won C-USA Coach of the Year in his first season on the job. Junior defensive end DeAngelo Malone also earned the title of C-USA Defensive Player of the Year after picking up a 11.5 sacks and 21 tackles for loss, which is the third-highest total in FBS. Malone was a huge reason why the Tops have the best scoring defense in C-USA up to this point allowing just 20.1 points per game.

Offense was the best part of Western Michigan’s game in 2019. The Broncos had the second best offense in the Mid-American Conference averaging 34.2 points and 457.3 points per game. Running back LeVante Bellamy earned MAC Offensive Player of the Year honors as well as the league’s Vern Smith Leadership Award. Bellamy totaled 1,412 yards on the ground with a league-leading 23 touchdowns. Quarterback John Wassink was also exceptional with 2,904 yards through the air.

Defense was something of a different story for the Broncos. Because of the defensive issues, WMU couldn’t put together consecutive wins until late October. They then rattled off three straight victories against Bowling Green, Ball State, and Ohio before dropping their season finale to Northern Illinois to finish 7-5.

WMU’s defensive highpoint was the play of outside linebacker Treshaun Hayward, who led the conference in tackles with 132 and was the MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Despite allowing only 26.2 points per game, the Broncos allowed 414.6 yards per game, which was one of the higher averages in the MAC.


Prediction

It’s tough to argue with the kind of streak that WKU ended the year on. Additionally, the Tops have the best defense (aside from Michigan State) that the Broncos have faced all season.

WKU wins 27-20