Western Michigan rows the boat to No. 14 in AP Top 25

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The best football season in Western Michigan history just got better.

The 9-0 Broncos moved up to No. 14 in the Associated Press Top 25 released today. (They missed making the FWAA-NFF Super 16 Poll by three votes.)

It’s another milestone in the Broncos’ landmark season, which continues Tuesday night at Kent State (3-6, 2-3 MAC).

  • The 9-0 start is the best in school history.
  • The Broncos have won 11 consecutive games, the third-longest in FBS behind Alabama (21), and 16 of their last 18.
  • Running back Jarvion Franklin and wide receiver Corey Davis both set school single-game records this season for rushing and receiving yards, respectively.
  • Davis also became the MAC’s all-time leader in receiving yards this season and is 209 yards from the all-time FBS record. 
  • The Broncos are one of five unbeaten FBS teams along with the Crimson Tide, Michigan, Clemson and Washington. They are Nos. 1-4, respectively, in the AP Top 25.

More importantly to their postseason hopes, the Broncos were the Group of Five’s highest-ranked team in the season’s first College Football Rankings, which were released last Tuesday while the Broncos were pummeling Ball State, 52-20. The next CFP rankings will be released Tuesday night, when the Broncos are playing Kent State.

That last milestone puts Western Michigan in the lead for the G-5’s berth in the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 2. But first things first.

“We’re not even there yet. We’re getting there. This is part of the journey, man,” Broncos head coach P.J. Fleck said Monday. “We’re a long way away from what we call .500. We’re a long way away from our goal. We just want to continue to change our best every single day, look at games through a one-game perspective and how can we be better today than we were yesterday.

“That takes a very mature football team to look at it like that. But I think were way mature than we’ve ever been. Are we as talented as we’ll be three, four years from now? Maybe, maybe not. But we are the most mature we’ve been.”

The maturity should help with potential trap games the next two weeks against teams with a combined record of 5-13 (3-6 Kent State and 2-7 Buffalo). The Broncos could find themselves on a higher perch in the polls heading into their regular-season finale against MAC West Division rival Toledo on Nov. 25 and possibly the MAC Championship game on Dec. 2.

It’s still a long way to go for an undefeated season. Even then, making the College Football Playoffs would be a tough row to hoe.

“It’s hard for a school outside the Power Five to jump that far,” said ASN analyst Jim Donnan, a Hall of Fame coach who led Marshall to the 1992 national championship in Division I-AA (FCS) and Georgia to four bowl victories.

The G-5’s recent bowl history confirms Donnan’s assessment:

  • UCF was ranked 15th when it upset Baylor 52-42 in the 2014 Fiesta Bowl, one of five games in the Bowl Championship Series — the CFP’s predecessor. The Knights finished 12-1.
  • Northern Illinois was 16th when it made the 2013 Orange Bowl. The Huskies lost to Florida State, 31-10, to finish 12-2.
  • Boise State was ranked ninth when it scored the original BCS stunner in the 2007 Fiesta Bowl. The Broncos beat Oklahoma 43-42 to finish 13-0.
  • Three years later, the sixth-ranked Broncos knocked off TCU 17-10 in the Fiesta Bowl to finish 14-0. They were No. 4 in the final polls.

Reaching the Cotton Bowl still would be a big payoff for Western Michigan and the MAC, and not only in prestige. According to the CFP’s  projected revenue, the Broncos would receive $2.16 million and the MAC $4 million from a Cotton Bowl appearance.

For now, Western Michigan will continue to row the boat merrily down the stretch.


Photo courtesy Western Michigan Athletics

Mike Bambach

Mike Bambach is senior web producer for ASN.