Western Michigan-Wisconsin Cotton Bowl Preview


Western Michigan had the best season in program history, but the committee didn’t bother to take more notice. The Broncos have experienced players that returned from last season, including the three-headed monsters on offense that played since their freshmen year (QB Zach Terrell, RB Jarvion Franklin, and WR Corey Davis). After the upset against Northwestern, they threatened the MAC conference and finished the season undefeated. This is the Broncos fifth meeting with Wisconsin and faces their defense that allows 15.5 points per game and only allowed 20+ points three times this season. Western Michigan’s victory over Wisconsin would be a huge accomplishment and it gives the committee so much to look at for the non-Power 5 conference.


Zach Terrell, Jarvion Franklin, and Corey Davis are the reasons for Western Michigan’s offensive success. Backup running back Jamauri Bogan contributes to the offense and slowly breaks down Wisconsin’s #2 rushing defense. The offensive line does their job by holding up the pass rush to give Zach Terrell time to target his options. Western Michigan’s defense slows down Wisconsin’s running game. Corey Clement and the rest of the running backs struggle and the quarterbacks have less to no consistency in the passing game. The quarterbacks make mistakes to and Western Michigan’s defensive backs and linebackers capitalize on it.


The offense can’t handle Wisconsin’s defense. Jarvion Franklin can’t find any open holes or big run opportunities without getting tackled. Corey Davis is contained by Wisconsin’s defensive backs and forces Zach Terrell to throw to other targets or run out of the pocket. The offensive line is not strong enough to contain Wisconsin’s defensive ends including linebackers T.J. Watt and T.J. Edwards. Western Michigan’s defense is worn out by running backs Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale. The success in the run game opens up the passing game that catches cornerbacks Darrius Phillips and Justin Ferguson off guard. The offense fails to score 20 points but allows over 20 points and Wisconsin's running game is the main reason Western Michigan fails to win.


Wisconsin quietly won 10+ games six of the eight seasons since 2009 and are in the top ten in total defense for the fourth straight season. Wisconsin is overshadowed by Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State but it never stopped them from succeeding in the Big Ten West Division. Corey Clement ran behind James White and Melvin Gordon before finally having an opportunity until injuries and a suspension took away his chances last year. Now he’s running the offense his senior year, but the only issue is the quarterback situation. Wisconsin hasn’t lost to a non-Power 5 school since 2010 against TCU when they played in the Mountain West conference.


Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbowale do their job on the ground which Western Michigan are unable to slow down. Whether Alex Hornibrook or Bart Houston start, they eventually have success in the passing game because the offensive line has great protection and the quarterbacks make big plays with receivers Jazz Peavy, Robert Wheelwright, and Troy Fumagalli. Wisconsin’s defense doesn’t allow 20 points and the rush defense shuts down Western Michigan’s running game. They force Zach Terrell to stay in the pocket and make inconsistent throws that eventually lead to turnovers. T.J. Watt is the impact player and gives the Broncos' backfield a difficult time all game long.


The lack of quarterback play is Wisconsin’s weakness and Western Michigan focuses on stopping the run before the pass. Corey Clement manages to run the ball, but it’s not enough to get Wisconsin back in the game. Alex Hornibrook or Bart Houston must throw the ball more to keep up with Western Michigan since they score plenty of points. The offensive line eventually breaks down and the team loses confidence. Wisconsin’s defense allows 20 points for the fourth time and gets into a scoring duel. The passing defense can’t stop Corey Davis and the Broncos’ running game wears out the Badgers’ defensive front. Wisconsin has a possession that can decide the entire game, but one of the quarterbacks fail to make plays and the team loses in the end.