2022 Western Michigan Broncos Preview

by Matt Fargo

Western Michigan Broncos

2021-22 Season Record 8-5 (4-4 MAC West) - 6-6-1 ATS - 7-6-0 O/U

Returning Starters

Offense - 4
Defense - 7

Overview

Since a 1-11 record in the first season under head coach P.J. Fleck, Western Michigan has finished .500 or better in eight straight seasons, making it the most consistent team in the MAC in recent years. The Broncos had everything going in its favor heading into last season as they had 19 starters back and one of the better recruiting classes in a wide open conference and things got off to a solid 4-1 start then the wheels began to fall off. Three blowout losses in four games and then a narrow five-point win over Akron as a four-touchdown favorite summed up what could have been. The Broncos closed with a win over rival Northern Illinois and a blowout bowl win over a depleted Nevada team and that could provide false hope heading into this season. Only 11 starters are back to go along with a No. 124 returning production ranking and a schedule that is backloaded with five games against top teams spells trouble Tim Lester.

Offense

The offense was great last season as it scored 30 or more points in seven games but failed to show up in some others as it had to rely on a solid defense a few times. The Broncos were No. 15 in total offense and No. 49 in scoring offense which showed the lack of being clutch when needed. The passing game was good under quarterback Kaleb Eleby as he threw for over 3,000 yards with 23 touchdowns and six interceptions but he is gone and the situation this season is a tough one. A pair of redshirt freshmen battled it out in camp for the starting spot that was eventually won by Jack Salopek who has just five career attempts under his belt. He does not have many options going into the season as three of the top four receivers are gone from last season. The good news is that there is a potent running game with Sean Tyler and La'Darius Jefferson but the offensive line has to replace three starters.

Defense

It was an up and down season for the defense that did not bend a lot but broke on too many occasions. The Broncos finished No. 28 in total defense but No. 89 in scoring defense as they were able to stop opponents on third down but were unable to keep them out of the endzone. Allowing 24 or fewer points five times was a bonus but giving up 40 or more points six times was the downfall and while seven starters are back, two of the best are gone. The strength will be at linebacker with all three starters returning as Corvin Moment, Zaire Barnes, and Ryan Selig combined for 199 tackles and nine sacks and they will need to apply more pressure with sack leader Ali Fayed departed from the defensive line as well as Ralph Holley and his 5.5 sacks. The secondary is in fine shape with two starters back as well as getting safety Bricen Garner back in the mix after missing nine games last season.

2022 Season Outlook

Last year was a season of ifs, ands or buts for Western Michigan as after getting outgained in its first two games against Michigan and Illinois St., it won the yardage battle in its final 11 games but had just a 7-4 record to show for it. The returning production on offense is one of the worst in the country and it faces one of the toughest schedules in the conference. The Broncos open at Michigan St. and then start MAC play at Ball St. the following week before their home opener against Pittsburgh. A trip to San Jose St. is followed by three straight home games before the slate cranks up with the last five games against teams expected to compete for a championship with only two of those at home. The O/U win total is set at 6.5 which is lofty considering lack of experience in many key positions and the fact there is no bye week on the schedule. The first losing season for Lester looks inevitable. 

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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