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Western Michigan Favored At Eastern With Bowl Eligibility At Stake

State’s third MAC team, Central Michigan, a home ‘dog against Northern Illinois




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“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee.The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead when the skies of November turn gloomy.”

The great Canadian folk singer Gordon Lightfoot, who passed away this past May, sang of Lake Superior in The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It’s a tune that takes its listener far from Ann Arbor and East Lansing (although the Spartans are a shipwreck) and into the wilds of the mighty MAC conference, where Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, and Western Michigan are all scuffling for bowl eligibility as the season heads into its final third.

As of this writing, Central has bragging rights among the middling trio. The Chippewas are 4-4 and 2-2 in the MAC, just like Eastern, but Central defeated the Eagles by a score of 26-23 to open conference play and thus hold an edge. FanDuel currently gives the Chippewas a 35/1 shot to win the MAC championship game, with BetRivers going longer on Eastern at 60/1.

With odds of 200/1 to win the MAC title, 2-6 Western is 1-3 in MAC play and must win its remaining four games for the opportunity to go bowling. The Broncos will host Central Michigan on Nov. 7, but first they make a trip to Ypsilanti this Saturday to face the Eagles, whom they’ve lost to in four straight contests, including a 45-23 drubbing in Kalamazoo last year.

Given all of the above, it would stand to reason that Eastern would be favored at home to beat Western, but Michigan’s mobile sportsbooks don’t see it that way, as the Broncos are consensus 3-point favorites to halt their losing streak against their cross-state rival. The best moneyline price for Bronco backers is the -146 offered at FanDuel, while those who expect the Eagles to soar beyond expectations should grab the +135 at Golden Nugget, which, like FanDuel, has set the point total at 46.5. BetRivers, meanwhile, projects the over/under at 47 points.

A study in contrasts

Western has dealt with a three-man battle for the starting quarterback position by letting all three — Hayden Wolff, Treyson Bourguet, and Jack Salopek — take the reins intermittently, with Wolff emerging as slightly more effective than his counterparts. Their favorite target has been Kenneth Womack (fourth in the MAC with 438 yards receiving), while Jalen Buckley has handled the load on the ground (fourth in the MAC with 637 yards) for the Broncos.

Conversely, while Austin Smith is the clearcut starter for Eastern at QB, the Eagles have spread the ball around a bit more, with running backs Samson Evans and Jaylon Jackson each gaining a hair below 400 yards, and wideouts Tanner Knue (305 yards) and Hame El-Zayat (260 yards) pacing the passing attack.

As for Central, a win over Northern Illinois on Halloween would vault the team into second place in the MAC’s West Division behind 7-1 Toledo, which is undefeated in conference play. But despite playing at home, the Chippewas are 2.5-point underdogs (FanDuel) on Tuesday.

Photo: Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images