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March 1, 2013

Instant analysis: MAC releases football schedule

The Mid-American Conference released the official 2013 football schedule Friday afternoon, featuring an expanded midweek schedule of 13 games on the ESPN family of networks.

Western Michigan's 2013 schedule as released on Mac-Sports.com is shown below.

31 at Michigan State

7 Nicholls State
14 at Northwestern
21 at Iowa
28 *Kent State

5 *at Toledo
12 *Buffalo
19 *Ball State
26 *at UMass

9 *at Eastern Michigan
16 *Central Michigan
26 *at Northern Illinois, 7:00 pm ET (ESPN2)

*Conference opponent

Despite the five extra midweek games airing, WMU will have only one game all season not on a Saturday- the season finale at Northern Illinois on Tuesday, November 26th on ESPN2.

Notably, WMU will have the only Saturday game of the entire week on November 9th when the Broncos travel to Ypsilanti to take on Eastern Michigan.

Reactions will surely be mixed to this. While the national exposure for midweek home games is said to be a positive for programs, local fans are more able to get to games on Saturdays, which could boost attendance this fall in Kalamazoo.

What jumps out about this schedule initially is the challenge. As with many years, WMU will wrap up their non-conference slate in the first four weeks of the season-- with three of the four opponents hailing from the Big Ten. None of the three are unbeatable, but the Broncos are unlikely to be favored against any.

Things barely get any easier once WMU enters conference play, as Kent State comes into Kalamazoo as part of their MAC East title defense, and returns a solid team. A trip to Toledo follows, and it will be imperative that WMU doesn't start off 2013 0-2 in the MAC.

Things do get a bit more manageable as October and November roll along. Also of note is the rivalry with Central Michigan returning to a mid-November slot, as the Broncos and Chippewas will battle it out in the second-to-last game of the year on Nov. 16 at Waldo Stadium.

An early look shows that it will be a tall, tall order for Western Michigan to contend for a MAC West title in head coach P.J. Fleck's first season. A .500 or better MAC record should be within reach, but drawing road games at both West Division favorites Toledo and Northern Illinois does no favors to the Broncos.

Besides the ESPN2 tilt at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Ill., kickoff times are to be determined and will be released throughout the offseason by the host teams.

Other ESPN games of note include Ohio at Bowling Green on Tuesday, Nov. 12 (ESPNU/ESPN3) and Northern Illinois at Toledo on Wednesday, Nov. 20 (ESPN2).

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