Back in a bowl game after missing last year, the Cougars look to close out a roller coaster season that saw them return to the AP Top 25 early in the season before dropping four of five games during one stretch. Western Michigan is making its fourth bowl appearance in the past five seasons and its second trip to Boise, where it lost to Air Force in 2014.
Western Michigan run game vs. BYU defensive front. The Broncos averaged more than 200 yards per game rushing this season, led by junior LeVante Bellamy, who averaged 97.7 yards per game and finished the regular season with 1,172 yards rushing. He was the leading rusher in the MAC. The success of the ground game allowed Western Michigan to average more than 33 minutes in time of possession, ninth-best in the country. The Cougars rush defense was very good, giving up just 129.4 yards per game. In the last six game, Utah was the only team to average more than 3.1 yards per rush against the Cougars.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Western Michigan: QB Kaleb Eleby. Eleby has played in only four games this season but may have announced himself as the Broncos QB of the future. The freshman has thrown for 917 yards and four touchdowns, and added another two rushing TDs in the four games he’s played.
BYU: QB Zach Wilson. The other freshman QB in the matchup, Wilson took over at midseason and threw for 1,261 yards and eight touchdowns after moving into the starting lineup. Wilson led wins over UMass and New Mexico State and had the Cougars in position for an upset of rival Utah before the Utes rallied in the second half.
Schools have not played since 1970 and had one common opponent this year: Northern Illinois. BYU lost to NIU 7-6; Western Michigan won 28-21. … This will be BYU’s 36th all-time bowl game, tied for fifth among all FBS programs. … Both teams are plus-1 in turnover margin for the season. … Bowl game will be second game since Western Michigan promoted Lou Esposito to interim defensive coordinator. The Broncos allowed just 262 yards to Northern Illinois in Esposito’s first game calling the defense.
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