Western Michigan will play its first, and obviously only, midweek game of 2013 tonight in their season finale at Northern Illinois. WMU is playing for pride and something to go out on for next year, while the Huskies look to complete an unbeaten regular season and take another step towards a BCS bowl berth.
David James: Where to begin, with this one. I'm just struggling right now to find any matchup where WMU will have an edge tonight. I do actually think the Broncos will move the football on NIU; most teams have. The Huskies have excelled for a couple of years now, though, when it comes to bending but not breaking. Conversely, WMU has had well-documented struggles with finishing drives.
Combine that with a physical offensive line, running back, and obviously Jordan Lynch, and the matchup for WMU's defensive line is a nightmare. I don't really expect Lynch to have to do that much through the air, particularly as we get to the second half. Look for this to be a pretty standard NIU game: establish the run early, take about a two-score game into the half, then blow it wide open in the second half as the opposition wears down-- something they shouldn't have a problem forcing on this WMU team.
Northern Illinois 47, Western Michigan 10
D.J. Duckett: This game has every indication of being a blowout. Northern Illinois is on a quest for its second consecutive BCS bowl berth as well as a perfect season. WMU has struggled all season, showing no reason to believe that they will be able to get it together at all.
P.J. Fleck will most likely have an emotional return to his alma mater, but I do not see him being able to row his way through this one. Jordan Lynch is likely to continue what has been a Heisman caliber season as WMU's undersized defensive line will struggle to stop him from running.
I would love to give reasons for this game being close, but honestly, I just do not see it being so. Thus the Broncos will look forward to next season with high hopes, much like they did this one.
Northern Illinois 45, Western Michigan 14
Brian Persky: If the Broncos want to keep this game competitive, the key will be getting out to a quick lead and -- especially on senior day when emotions will be running high. In my opinion, P.J. Fleck would be smart to take the ball and be the aggressor early, in the event that WMU wins the coin toss. The Broncos have absolutely nothing to lose in this game, and that's the mindset that they'll need to pull off a shocker in DeKalb.
That being said, the reality of the situation is that there is still just too much on the line for NIU to overlook Western Michigan. Northern Illinois is ranked 14th in the country for a reason. Even if the Huskies gain a sizeable lead Tuesday night, I don't expect Rod Carey to ease up one bit with Fresno State looming in the background, hoping to snatch NIU's BCS hopes out from under them.
With relatively gusty winds, expected wind chills in the single-digits, a chance of snow, and possibly low attendance as a result,I think Western Michigan easily covers the spread. However it's still not enough to contain Jordan Lynch and come out of Dekalb with the improbable road win. The Broncos' long season finally comes to an end, and it won't be pretty.
Northern Illinois 35, Western Michigan 7