My first thought regarding Western Michigan's trip to Ohio Stadium is that I am surprised the spread is so large.
I'm not the person to question the oddsmakers because they prove time and again they know what they're doing, but when I watched the Broncos against Michigan State I saw a team that can certainly stay within four touchdowns of Ohio State.
Against the Spartans, they showed quite a few good things on both sides of the ball.
Quarterback Zach Terrell, a 6-4, 209-pound junior, is a tough guy with pretty good feet. He was pressured a lot but was able to get out of the pocket and find open receivers. He is completing over 70 percent of his passes on the season and threw for 356 yards against Michigan State.
His most-targeted receiver is slot man Daniel Braverman, who caught 13 passes for 109 yards against the Spartans. On the season, the 5-10, 177-pounder has 40 catches for 398 yards with three touchdowns. Meyer called him an NFL prospect on his radio show this week, but I would not be surprised if he misspoke because as tough a cover as he might be, there is another guy on the team who much more fits the mold of a future pro, and that would be Corey Davis.
Davis is listed at 6-3, 205, and he has also been quite productive this season. He looks like a more raw Michael Thomas and made a great catch on a high throw for a touchdown against the Spartans. He's got long arms and will go get the football. The other outside receiver, Kendrick Roberts, is also a big guy at 6-3, 209.
They have a running back who was All-MAC last season (Jarvion Franklin), but he was not able to get anything going against the Spartans aside from one time he got into the open-field and put a move on a defender after catching a swing pass.
The WMU offensive line wasn't bad against Michigan State considering the quality of MSU's front seven. They gave up some four-man pressures but then also held their own against MSU's various exotic blitzes. Of course, we're grading on a curve, here. They gave up seven sacks, but it did not feel like Terrell was absolutely under duress all night. Perhaps he helped that with his ability to move around in the pocket. They have given up a total of three sacks in the last two games.
The running game was primarily zone. They tried a couple of traps with the tight end, but the MSU nose tackle was having none of it.
In the passing game, the Broncos schemed up the Spartans a few times, getting Braverman isolated on a linebacker once and scoring a touchdown when the tight end went uncovered through the MSU secondary because they had him lined up to the same side as the split end and slot receiver.
Defensively, WMU loaded the box with a bear front and a safety in the box most of the night. That kept them from getting gashed up the middle much, but they were absolutely pummeled on the edges as Michigan State countered them to death from a variety of formations both from the shotgun and under center. The Spartans also got the outside sweep going a few times.
They were able to pressure Connor Cook at times with blitzes, and they forced him into a fairly inefficient but still productive night as he was 15 for 31 for 256 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
End Nathan Braster flashed a couple of times as a pass rusher and against the run.
Cornerbacks Darius Phillips and Ronald Zamort (both listed 5-10) held their own most of the night in man coverage. They gave up a few plays, but they were very competitive against a veteran group. There was also what appeared to be a coverage bust Cook saw immediately for a touchdown in the second quarter where the cornerback was either caught looking in the backfield and lost DeAnthony Arnett down the sideline or was expecting help from a safety who didn't get there.
Michigan State tight end Josiah Price had a nice night, catching three passes for 49 yards and a touchdown.
Phillips had two long kickoff returns, including one for a touchdown against MSU.
Of course, the line is in all likelihood taking into account WMU's only win of the season came last week against FCS team Murray State, but their record might be deceiving. They played MSU tough before ultimately losing by 13. A week later, WMU lost at Georgia Southern, but it's not hard to envision them suffering a hangover effect in that game -- not good when you also have to deal with a unique offense.
Which team will show up in Columbus on Saturday? Only time will tell, but they recovered from a bad start against the Spartans (falling behind 27-7 in the second quarter) and kept it a game until late.