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There are two predominant reasons the Broncos are favored by six points in this game. The first and primary reason, Nevada will not have Carson Strong. But the second reason is the game is being played in Detroit, just a two-hour drive down I-94 from the team’s campus in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Don’t overlook that factor as the Broncos seek their first bowl win since 2015. They do so on the back of an extremely balanced offense. Kaleb Eleby leads the way; he completed 222-of-348 passes (63.8 percent) for 3,146 yards, 21 touchdowns, and five interceptions.
He certainly doesn’t do it alone for the Broncos, who also have two legitimate No. 1 running backs.
Sean Tyler has the better stats – rushing 164 times for 1,004 yards (6.4 yards per carry) and nine touchdowns – but LaDarius Jefferson led the team in scores, rushing 185 times for 836 yards (4.5 yards per carry) with ten touchdowns.
They will have to make sure they do a good job protecting the ball against the Wolfpack, however, who finished No. 1 in the country with a +16 turnover margin.
Good luck to everybody betting in this game – because it is very difficult to know what the Wolf Pack offense is going to look like without Carson Strong.
The Wolfpack’s best quarterback since Colin Kaepernick announced last week he will declare for the NFL draft and is opting out of the bowl game. There is a decent chance Strong is a first round pick in the upcoming draft and it is not hard to see why – he went 367-of-524 (70.0 percent) passing this season, racking up 38 touchdowns and just eight interceptions.
He had a clear favorite target in Romeo Doubs, but there are a number of capable pass catchers in this high-flying attack. Doubs, who caught 80 balls for 1,109 yards and 11 touchdowns is expected to play – though that can always change.
The other top pass catchers (Cole Turner, Troy Horton, and Melqual Stovall) have all caught between 52-62 passes and racked up between 643-677 yards.
The only difference is touchdowns: Turner, the tight end, had ten, Horton had five, and Stovall had one.
It is not going to be an easy test, however, going against a Western Michigan defense that ranked 25th in overall defense in the country, which was led by MAC defensive player of the year Ali Fayad who had 35 tackles – 16 for loss as well as 11.5 sacks, eight quarterback hurries and two forced fumbles.
Very clearly for Nevada, in the truest sense of an x-factor, is quarterback Nate Cox. He is a senior who never got his shot, but will now get to play in a bowl game.
He went 14-of-20 passing in limited time this year, amassing 158 yards and just one score with no turnovers.
For Western Michigan, it’s wide receiver Skyy Moore. Moore was an All-conference receiver, catching 91 balls for 1,256 yards and ten touchdowns (all which led the Broncos). Look for him to go over 100 yards in this game, something he did seven times this year, including each of the last two games where he totaled 24 catches for a ridiculous 387 yards and five touchdowns.
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|Western Michigan vs Nevada Information|
|Teams||Western Michigan Broncos at Nevada Wolf Pack|
|Location||Ford Field, Detroit, Mich.|
|Time||Monday, Dec. 27, 11:00 a.m. EST|
|How to watch||ESPN|
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Tony writes about baseball for WSN.com after recently graduating with his Masters from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University. Prior to that, Tony was a local sports reporter for MLive Media Group, based out of Jackson, Michigan where he covered everything from high school to professional sports. He graduated from Michigan State in 2015 with a degree in journalism. During his time there he covered the Michigan State football and men’s basketball teams from 2013-15 and hosted a sports radio show on WDBM 89FM.More info on Tony Garcia
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