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Western Michigan dodges trap Boise State, Houston fell into

Zach Terrell
Loren Orr/Icon Sportswire

Western Michigan continues to stay blemish-free.

The Broncos are a perfect 9-0, the latest victory for head coach P.J. Fleck and company a 52-20 shellacking over the Ball State Cardinals on Tuesday night in Muncie, Indiana.

Winning on the road is the most important part of this victory, as the Broncos continue to climb in the rankings and garner attention for being in the final group of unbeaten FBS football teams. In its quest for a New Year’s Six bowl trip, Western Michigan didn’t slip up away from home, something two of the Group of Five’s best already did this season.

In the span of four weeks, both Houston and Boise State had their New Year’s Six bowl arrangements ruined. They squandered ideal situations and ceded Group of Five leverage to WMU.

The Cougars, perhaps the unanimous favorite to forge that feat (again), ran laps around in Oklahoma in Week 1; hell, even Tom Herman’s long shot pipe dream of a College Football Playoff berth wasn’t out of the question. In Week 6, as a heavy 15.5-point road favorite, Houston slipped up versus Navy. To seal the deal on being ousted from anything remarkable in 2016, the Cougars tripped up again two weeks later, this time as four-score favorites on the road against SMU.

In Week 8, then-7-0 Boise State, which had been matching Western Michigan, laid 14.5 points to the Wyoming Cowboys in Laramie — and lost.

If mid-majors with New Year’s Six aspirations, on the road, laying heavy chalk, was a recipe for chaos, Fleck fractured the fad.

Both Navy and Wyoming are better than Ball State. Had Western Michigan succumbed to the trap, it’d be the “worst” loss among the three. Toss in MACtion’s tendencies (did anyone see Buffalo beat Akron, and/or Ohio beat Toledo last week?), and that unorthodox Tuesday game when a program has to focus during the middle of the week, and Western Michigan easily could have been fazed.

The Broncos weren’t — at all.

It’s as if we’re all tagging “that week” as the game when the Broncos’ hooves finally come down to Earth and touch the ground. Except we’re still waiting.

Patiently waiting.

It didn’t come at Illinois, two weeks after Fleck’s biggest win — a Week 1 road triumph at Northwestern. It wasn’t the rivalry game versus Central Michigan.

On Tuesday, it certainly wasn’t the same, odd situation in which a few of the mid-major cogs had crumbled.

It was an opportune time for the Broncos, who were laying 17.5 on the road, to flex their muscles versus an inferior opponent, as good teams do.

Quarterback Zach Terrell posted 367 yards on 23-of-34 passing and threw for three scores, all of which went to Corey Davis. The senior, who had topped the century mark only once in the previous six weeks, caught 12 passes to the tune of 272 yards.

On the other side, whereas Houston was gashed by Navy quarterback Will Worth (32 rushes, 115 yards, three total touchdowns) and Boise was exposed by Wyoming’s Josh Allen (274 yards and three passing touchdowns), Western Michigan’s defense did its job.

The Broncos kept Ball State’s Jack Milas in check all night. They picked off two of his passes, the first one being returned the other way for a touchdown early in the first quarter to set the tone for Western Michigan.

It was simply another complete game for the Broncos. There was no leakage despite the bizarre MAC, or playing on a weekday game on the road — just flat-out domination.

Post-Christmas pleasantry becomes more and more realistic for Fleck’s football force, coming at the competition with all the momentum of a MAC truck.

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