When it comes to college football in the state of Michigan, Michigan State and Michigan will always be at the forefront, but don’t forget there’s three other Division I football programs — Western Michigan, Eastern Michigan and Central Michigan — in the state too. And one of those football programs — the Western Michigan Broncos — is slowly but steadily on the rise.
Since Tim Lester took over head as head coach in 2017, the Broncos have never finished under .500 and won eight games, including a bowl game, last season. Not bad for a MAC school. And yet, the line for Broncos win total is set at six via Barstool. The line for the over is at -108, with the under set at -118.
Even though those wins exclude bowl games and playoff games, you should still take the over. Yes, the Western Michigan offense loses starting quarterback Kaleb Eleby, star wide receiver Skyy Moore — second round draft choice of the Kansas City Chiefs — and three starters on the offensive line from a year ago. However, the Broncos return seven starters from last year’s top defense in the MAC. Plus, the Broncos return their two leading rushers from a year ago — Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson — and should be better offensively under first-year offensive coordinator Jeff Thorne.
Thorne went 65-10 in six seasons as the head coach at Division III North Central College in Naperville, Ill., and was named the D3football.com Coach of the Year in 2019 after guiding the program to its first ever national championship. North Central held the longest winning streak in college football from 2019-21 at 24 games before losing to Mary-Hardin Baylor in last year’s national championship game. So, it’s quite clear Thorne knows offense and knows what it takes to win. That should help a lot for an offense that was inconsistent at times last season and has few returning starters.
No doubt the Broncos have a lot of questions marks at the wide receiver position, and yes, we still don’t know who will start at quarterback, but it’s not like the Broncos have the hardest schedule in college football. You can pretty much chalk-up week one as a loss vs. Michigan State, but their schedule gets a whole lot easier after that.
Weeks 2 and 3 are more than winnable games against Ball State and Pitt, but the next two weeks should be guaranteed wins against San Jose State New Hampshire. Assuming Western Michigan wins one of its first three games, the Broncos should be no worse than 3-2 entering Week 6. After that the Broncos face Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Miami and Bowling Green.
Western Michigan should win at least two of those games — most likely against Ohio and Bowling Green — which puts them at five wins. That means you only need one more win for a wash, and two for the over to hit. After Bowling Green, Western Michigan has Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Toledo. The Broncos beat Northern Illinois last season, and despite losing to Central Michigan and Toledo last year, neither strike me as unwinnable games for the Broncos.
Most of the books have the line set at 6.5, but Barstool currently has it at six. Six wins for Western Michigan isn’t exactly guaranteed, but it’s pretty likely. Maybe wait and see how the line shifts after the Broncos first game against Michigan State — assuming it’s a loss — but keep track of it.
The bet: Western Michigan over six wins (-108) odds via Barstool
Bet $108 to win $100