2013 TEAM OVERVIEW
Conference: MAC, West Division
Location: Kalamazoo, Mich.
Returning starters: 11 (3 offense, 8 defense)
2012 record: 4-8 (2-6 MAC)
Aug. 30 -- at Michigan State, 8 p.m. (BTN)
Sept. 7 -- Nicholls State, 7 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 14 -- at Northwestern, 9 p.m. (BTN)
Sept. 21 -- at Iowa, TBD
Sept. 28 -- Kent State, 7 p.m.
Oct. 5 -- at Toledo, 3 p.m.
Oct. 12 -- Buffalo, 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 -- Ball State, 2 p.m.
Oct. 26 -- at Massachusetts, 3 p.m.
Nov. 9 -- at Eastern Michigan, 1 p.m.
Nov. 16 -- Central Michigan, Noon (ESPN Regional/Plus/GamePlan/WatchESPN)
Nov. 26 -- at Northern Illinois, 7 p.m. (ESPN2)
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SEASON BREAKDOWN & PREDICTION (courtesy of USA Today's Paul Myerberg)
In a nutshell: Western Michigan will be exciting, at least. How could any team coached by a ball of fire not be fun to watch? This where the new staff will make the biggest immediate impact: Fleck will ensure that the days of watching stale and listless football are long, long gone, and that's a huge first step for a program that slowed down precipitously over Cubit's final three seasons. It's a start – but it's not enough.
It's hard not to pay attention to almost unimaginable work Fleck and his staff have put forth on the recruiting trail, inking – or landing verbal commitments from – some ready-for-the-MAC prospects. The roster will undergo some substantial changes in the next 12 months as Fleck continues to bring and develop the sort of talent WMU needs to move out of the background and challenge Northern Illinois and Toledo for the West Division. There's little doubt that given time, Fleck can turn this roster into a monster. It's just that the current roster has huge holes: WMU's offensive line is worrisome, the defensive line a concern, the linebacker corps is suffering through injuries and the secondary is young and untested at cornerback. These are the reasons why the Broncos aren't quite up to the challenge of moving into the championship conversation.
Here's what I think will occur: WMU will start no better than 2-4 before growing more comfortable in Fleck's system just as the schedule eases up over the second half. If all things work out as Fleck hopes, WMU will catch fire just in time to challenge for six wins in November. It's more likely that WMU starts 1-5 or 2-4, beats a few bad teams down the stretch and makes things somewhat interesting against Ball State and NIU before ending the regular season with no more than five wins.
READ MORE of USA Today's Preview (courtesy of Paul Myerberg) by CLICKING HERE