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Syracuse football 2023 opponent preview: Western Michigan Broncos

#MACtion on a Saturday? OK, we’ll take it!

Western Michigan v Syracuse Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The 2023 Syracuse Orange football season is coming up fast, which means it’s time to analyze each of SU’s 12 opponents. After hosting Colgate to begin the year, ‘Cuse welcomes another out-of-conference opponent into the Dome the following week....

Western Michigan Broncos

School: Western Michigan University

Nickname: Broncos

Mascot: Buster Bronco

#BRAND Slogans: #BroncosReign, #BroncoBrotherhood

Alternate #BRAND Slogan Suggestions: #BroncosPain, #CallEmAZoo (Get it? They play in Kalamazoo... OK I’ll see myself out.)

Recommended Blog: Hustle Belt

Conference: MAC

History vs. Syracuse: This illustrious rivalry dates all the way back to 2018. Ok, maybe it’s not so grand compared to the real ones, but both games between the Orange and Broncos were full of fireworks. SU won the initial matchup on the road 55-42, then also took the second leg of the home-and-home series 52-33 in 2019.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 09 NIU at Western Michigan Photo by Joseph Weiser/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Coach: Lance Taylor, First Season. He’s making his head coaching debut after being hired to replace Tim Lester after six seasons. Taylor has spent 13 years as an offensive assistant coach, both in college and the NFL. He most notably coached Christian McCaffrey while at Stanford from 2014-16. After a three-year stint as Notre Dame’s RBs coach, he spent the 2022 season as Louisville’s offensive coordinator - so he’s very aware of the Dome Field Advantage.

2022 Record: (5-7) (4-4)

Recapping Last Season:

In this age, falling short of a Bowl game is considered a failure by most programs - and it was enough to get the previous HC fired here. The Broncos fell to Top-15 Michigan State in Week 1 but rebounded to slip past Ball State the next game. Pitt marched into Kalamazoo and convincingly spoiled WMU’s home opener, then the following week’s trip to San Jose went even worse. A gimme game vs New Hampshire was only short-term relief, as the Broncos lost four of the next five against MAC opponents (Eastern Michigan, Ohio, Bowling Green, and Northern Illinois). Wins at Central Michigan and vs Toledo ended the year on a somewhat positive note.

This was one of the worst offensive teams in the country last season - the 7th-fewest yards per game in all of FBS football is NOT the sales pitch recruits want to hear. A three-way QB carousel between freshmen Jack Salopek (seven starts), Treyson Bourguet (four starts) and Mareyohn Hrabowski (five games, one start) made a mess of any offensive chemistry. Lost in the mix were Sean Tyler, a thousand-yard rusher, and Corey Crooms Jr., who caught 57 passes, more than double any other receiver on the team.

Zaire Barnes was a beast at linebacker, with 93 tackles, eight pass breakups, a sack, a pick, and three fumble recoveries. Seniors Corvin Moment, Braden Fiske, and Andre Carter combined for 20 sacks as the leaders of the pass rush. The unit was solid overall, allowing just over 24 points per game. Freshman kicker Palmer Domschke was very inconsistent, finishing 13/19 on field goals.

NCAA Football: Western Michigan at Michigan State Dale Young-USA TODAY Sports

2023 Season Outlook

The Broncos host St. Francis on Thursday, August 31st before coming to Syracuse in Week 2. WMU will host Ball State, Miami (OH), Central Michigan, and Bowling Green. They will also travel to Iowa, Toledo, Mississippi State, Ohio, Eastern Michigan, and Northern Illinois. Yep, that’s seven road games... at least there’s still Tuesday night #MACtion to close out the calendar.

The offense, which already had plenty of holes, has been gutted. Tyler and Crooms both joined Minnesota, and while the QBs from last year are still around, Old Dominion transfer Hayden Wolff should be the favorite to start. He joins the Broncos fresh off throwing for 2,908 yards and 18 TDs - and carries two years of eligibility.

Defensively, there are even more spots to fill. Barnes was drafted by the Jets, Fiske transferred, and Moment, Carter, and linebacker Ryan Selig all graduated, leaving the front seven desperately bare. At least the two starting safeties... wait, they also graduated. A group this young is almost guaranteed to go through a rough stretch.

Syracuse Game Date: Saturday, September 9

Location: JMA Wireless Dome, Syracuse, New York

Odds of Orange Victory: 90%

Very Early Outlook vs. Syracuse

This is another game that SU is expected to win convincingly - which to be fair is what we’ve been clamoring for in non-conference action. With an offensive mind on the headset, the Broncos have a slightly better shot against the 3-3-5. Still, they’re clearly a rebuilding program. Don’t expect this to be as close as the first pair of matchups between the two.