A Preseason Look at Western Michigan

Rich in SC strikes again…

I was only planning to review Pitt’s eight ACC opponents and Tennessee. But Danh72, Tex and Erie Express are pretty adamant in their belief that Pitt will lose to Western Michigan (WMU). So, I said what the heck let’s do it. What’s it going to cost me – five or six hours of research and eight to ten hours of typing. Maybe I would find something that would shake my complacency. Maybe I should be afraid, very, very afraid.

The WMU Broncos are led by Tim Lester. He took the reins when P.J. Fleck rowed his boat to the Minnesota Golden Gophers after playing in and losing a New Year’s 6 bowl game. Lester, In his four years at the tiller, is 24-20 (18-12 Conference, 6-6 Out of Conference (OOC), 0-2 bowls) with the Broncos. After a fifth place division finish in 2017, his team has finished in second place the last three years.

The Mid-America Conference (MAC) (12 teams, two divisions) were late to playing any kind of a 2020 football season in 2020. The MAC decided on a six game season with every team playing the other five division teams and one crossover game from the other division. The MAC regular season started Tuesday 11/4/2020 and ended Saturday 12/12/20. They did play Tuesdays and Wednesdays to fulfill their ESPN contract paying $1M to $2M per team per year.

The MAC is considered either the ninth or tenth best conference (depending on your feelings toward Conference USA) in the 10 conference Division 1 Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS).

With that being said, what did WMU do against MAC teams and in their national rankings?

Lots of point scored. Just one blow out (Akron). Two three point wins (Toledo and Northern Illinois). Losses to eventual conference champion Ball State and a 2-4 Eastern Michigan team. If you take out the Akron game, WMU scored 192 points and gave up 192 points. (Then again, Pitt playing Austin Peay skews Pitt’s numbers.)

What is really  concerning to me is the last three games. A close loss to the worst team in WMU’s division. An 11 point loss to the second worst team and blowing an opportunity to still win the division title at Ball State.

On to a comparison of 2020 NCAA team and individual rankings compared to Pitt.

Go ahead and make any comparisons you want. Just remember that WMU played a MAC only schedule. Pitt played a mainly ACC schedule.

WMU offense is led by QB Kaleb Eleby. I believe Dan and Tex have mentioned that Eleby is fifth best QB Pitt will face. Wouldn’t surprise me if Erie Express (Rick) saw the same article or tweet. I did. Besides Eleby, I remember Howell from North Carolina and King from Miami. That leaves Sims from Georgia Tech, Uiagelelel from Clemson, Burmeister from Virginia Tech and Armstrong from Virginia as returning or named starters to finish out the top 5.

What were Eleby’s stats from 2020?

Both Eleby and WMU as a team were ranked #3. Not a bad showing for any QB and team. No matter what team, a 195.1 pass efficiency rating is pretty impressive.

Who caught the passes Eleby threw?

His main target was WR D’Wayne Eskridge. He caught 34 passes for 784 yards (23.1 yard/catch) and 8 touchdowns. He was drafted in the second round by Seattle.

Other returning receivers were:

WR Skyy Moore – 25 for 368 yards (16.5 yds/reception) and 3TD’s

WR Jaylen Hall – 12 for 323 yards (26.9 yds/reception) and 7 TD’s

RB Sean Taylor – 11 for 68 yards (6.2 yds/reception) 0 TD’s

RB Jaxson Kincade – 5 for 44 yards (8.8 yds/reception) 0 TD’s

Skyy Moore attended Shady Side Academy

WMU has 8 TE’s on their roster. Two players caught passes. They combined for 5 receptions for 33 yards (6.6 yds/reception) 0 TD’s

In rushing offense, WMU was ranked #41. Who toted the Rock?

RB  La’Darius Jefferson – 112 for 624 yards  5.6 yds/carry and 5 TD’s

RB Sean Taylor – 40 for 263 yards  6.6 yds/carry and 2 TD’s

RB Jason Kincade – 31 for 218 yards  7.0 yds/carry and 2 TD’s

QB Kaleb was the #4 in rushing for WMU. His stats are in with his passing numbers.

The leading returning defensive players are:

Safety A.J. Thomas 46 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 Pass Breakup (PBU), 1 Int, ! TD

Safety Bricen Garner 45 tackles, 0.5 sacks, 1 PBU

LB Corvin Moment 37 tackles, 1.5 sacks, 2 PBU

DT Ralph Holley 29 tackles, 3 sacks, 2 PBU

Speaking of leading returning players, here are the WMU players on the 2020 All MAC team. Players moving on are color coded.

Bricen Garner and Therran Coleman are on the WMU roster for the 2021 season. They were members of Pitt’s 2016 recruiting class. They used  the transfer portal after the 2019 season. Coleman did not play in 2020 due to injury.

Also, at WMU is Brandon Honorable. He committed to Pitt for the 2021 class but something happened and here he is now.

Besides Skyy Moore having local Western Pennsylvania (Shady Side Academy), there are two other locals at WMU. Dorian Jackson (Obama Academy) played at St. Francis where he made Honorable Mention All FCS team as a cornerback. The second is QB Jack Salopek (Norwin). The name sounds familiar. Was he or a brother on the Pitt roster as a walk-on?

If you want to see the Bronco’s in action, here is the time, OOC opponents, and channel.

Yes, The WMU at Pitt game is on your local Regional Sports Channel.

Pitt Wins.