College Football Odds & Picks for Western Michigan vs. Akron: Look to Bet Broncos Live
Brett Carlsen/Getty Images.
- The Western Michigan Broncos will hit the road to Ohio to take on the Akron Zips on Wednesday.
- The Zips were by far the worst team in the MAC last season, making the Broncos heavy favorites heading into Wednesday's clash.
- Stuckey breaks down the game and shares a betting pick based on his analysis below.
Western Michigan Broncos at Akron Zips
|Western Michigan Odds||-20.5 [BET NOW]|
|Akron Odds||+20.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||-1667/+850 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||53 [BET NOW]|
|Time||6 p.m. ET|
Western Michigan Broncos
The Broncos actually boasted both the 2019 MAC Offensive and Defensive Player of the Year in running back LeVante Bellamy and linebacker Treshaun Hayward. Those two led an offense that finished second in the MAC in total offense and a defense that finished third in scoring defense. However, WMU only went 7-6 in large part due to the inability to win away from home (1-6).
WMU will have to replace Bellamy — who rushed for just under 1,500 yards last season — in addition to 3,000-yard passer quarterback Jon Wassink. That’s a common theme for the Broncos, who were the most experienced team in the nation heading into the 2019 season. Therefore, it makes sense they’d have a mass exodus of senior production.
Overall, Western Michigan led the MAC with 13 players receiving All-Conference honors, including six first-team All-MAC selections. Four of those six graduated. WMU will try to replace Bellamy with Sean Tyler and a pair of Power Five transfers. (Michigan State transfer La’Darius Jefferson could become the go-to back, but he’s still waiting on a waiver request decision.)
There are three options at quarterback, but Kaleb Eleby should start the season as QB1. He redshirted last year but played in five games in 2018 as a true freshman when Wassink was injured. The former three-star pro-style quarterback doesn’t seem to be as willing to use his legs as Wassink, but he has a promising arm.
From a skill position standpoint, slot wide receiver Skyy Moore returns after starring as a true freshman with 51 receptions and over 800 yards. Similar to another Moore — Purdue’s Rondale Moore — Skyy is extremely dangerous after the catch.
Western has to replace its second- and third-leading receivers, including All-MAC first-team tight end Giovanni Ricci and wide receiver Keith Mixon, who will be sorely missed in the return game.
However, a name to keep an eye on is rare two-way player D’Wayne Eskridge. The future pro prospect has played both cornerback and wide receiver in the past but will likely spend most of his time at wide receiver in 2020 after missing the majority of last season with a broken collarbone. The senior deep-threat caught 38 balls for just under 800 yards in 2018 for an average of over 20 yards per grab. Eskridge, Moore and Jaylen Hall are an excellent wide receiver trio that will put up gaudy numbers if Eleby pans out at quarterback.
Last season, Western Michigan also benefited from a very strong offensive line that finished fifth nationally in Passing Downs Sack Rate. This unit possesses plenty of experience, starting with two stalwarts in guard Mike Caliendo and NFL tackle prospect Jaylon Moore, who have a combined 62 starts. Those two should lock down the left side all season.
The Broncos will miss their best offensive lineman in first-team All-Conference center Luke Juriga, who’s now on the Eagles’ practice squad. Senior Wesley French, who does at least have tons of size, has transitioned from defensive lineman to replace the three-time All-Conference selection.
For an unknown reason, Spencer Kanz and Jordan Asbury are not listed on the most recent roster after getting most of the starts on the right side in 2019. However, Mark Brooks projects as one of the better right tackles in the conference, while Junior Dylan Deatherage should have no issues filling in at right guard if Asbury is indeed gone.
Overall, WMU’s projected starting offensive line consists of five upperclassmen with four seniors, who all weigh in at 295 pounds or greater.
The defense fared decently last year for MAC standards and will return its two best players in the aforementioned Howard and defensive end Ali Fayad. The pass rush should be terrific once again with those two potential MAC DPOY candidates along with defensive linemen Ralph Holley and Andre Carter.
The defensive line also has depth for days, which is important to second-year defensive coordinator Lou Esposito, who likes to frequently rotate to keep his guys fresh. WMU should have no problems finishing in the top 25 in Sack Rate in all situations as it did last season. It could stand to improve against the run, where it got gashed at times in 2019 (96th in yards per rush).
It will miss second- and third-leading tacklers OLB Drake Spears and safety Justin Tranquill. WMU also lost projected starting outside linebacker Zaire Barnes for the year due to injury, which forced A.J. Thomas to move from safety to fill the SAM position. WMU will at least see the return of 2018 starter Corvin Moment, who missed last season with an injury.
Bottom line, the Broncos will need some very inexperienced pieces to step up at outside linebacker and defensive back. WMU can rely on returning starter Patrick Lupro at one cornerback spot and hope Pitt transfer Therran Coleman can step up at the other to help improve a bad pass defense from 2019.
There are also questions at safety, especially after Thomas moved to linebacker. WMU hopes another Pitt transfer, Bricen Garner, can adequately step in as the starting free safety. The outlook at strong safety looks a lot dicier with a competition between a walk-on and two converted wide receivers.
After losing so many seniors, regression looms for Western Michigan on both sides of the ball. Replacing Wassink and the lightning-quick Bellamy will be no easy task — even with a potentially dominant offensive line.
The defense also lost a number of key contributors. While the pass rush should still be productive, WMU could struggle some on the back end and could see some serious turnover regression after finishing in the top 20 in takeaways per game.
The special teams also struggled across the board last year outside of Mixon in the return game, but he’s now gone.
Well, it can’t get any worse for Akron this year after becoming the first team in college football history to start 0-10 ATS en route to an 0-12 season.
The offense was historically bad as the Zips were the only FBS team to average fewer than one point per possession. They averaged a pitiful league-worst 4.0 yards per play and 10.5 points per game.
I can’t really say anything positive about the offense, which somehow averaged only 1.8 yards per rush (130th) and had an offensive line that couldn’t block anybody. The Zips failed to score more than seven points in seven of their 12 games. Yikes.
Now, Akron will have to replace both starting tackles as well as its best offensive lineman in guard Brandon Council, who transferred to Auburn. The Zips hope Indiana transfer Cole Gest can give them anything in the running game, but this offensive line should still really struggle to open up any lanes.
Senior quarterback Kato Nelson does return under center with basically all of his receiving targets from last year, but can he get enough time to throw?
Relative to the offense, the defense wasn’t that bad. Especially considering how often it had to take the field (average of 34 minutes per game) with the offense doing nothing. Akron’s only two All-Conference selections came on this side of the ball in linebacker John Lako and defensive back Alvin Davis. However, both of those tackling machines are now gone, as are five of the team’s top eight tacklers.
The secondary and linebacker group have the most potential, but the defensive front will likely still struggle to generate any type of pressure after securing only 10 sacks in 2019.
The Zips, who have lost 17 straight games overall, should at least benefit from a much more experienced roster with 54 returning players this season. They still remain extremely young but were even younger last year. You’d think there should at least be some improvement with 15 returning starters and some potential help from incoming freshmen and JUCO grabs.
I expect Akron to be a tad better this year, but it will be extremely outclassed in the trenches on both sides of the ball. That spells doom against Western Michigan’s massive offensive line and relentless pass rush. Nelson will likely be running for his life, while Eleby should have all day to throw.
Luckily, this is a pure pass for me. I thought I might end up liking the Zips before the lines came out. Fortunately, the line is spot on to where I have it. It’s also just a lopsided matchup in the trenches on both sides of the ball for the Broncos.
Western Michigan really needs its two Pitt transfers to step up in its secondary this season, but I’m not sure Akron has the firepower to provide a real threat. And I don’t know if the offensive line can hold off one of the best pass rushes in the MAC.
Bets to Watch: Pass pregame. I’d look WMU live under two touchdowns if Akron scores first on a fluke.