|UConn DB Blidi Wreh-Wilson and his teammates will face a test on Saturday against Western Michigan's potent passing attack. (US Presswire)|
Kickoff: Saturday, 2 p.m. ET, (ESPN U)
Spread: UConn by 1.5
Watchability: The Huskies' defense is one of the nation's best. The Broncos' passing attack features an emerging star in true freshman wideout Jaime Wilson. The Huskies hope to avenge a 38-31 defeat to Western Michigan last season in East Hartford. Earlier in the week, UConn coach Paul Pasqualoni said he deeply respects Broncos coach Bill Cubit for the job he's done in Kalamazoo.
Shining stars: UConn: LB Yawin Smallwood. The accolades continue to pour in for the Huskies' redshirt sophomore. A day after earning Big East Defensive Player of the Week honors, Smallwood was named Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday. In last Saturday's 24-21 win over Maryland, Smallwood had 2.5 sacks and 14 tackles -- five more than any other player in the game. Smallwood currently leads FBS in TFLs with 11. The Huskies' middle linebacker has impressed Pasqualoni with his instincts and peripheral vision while reading plays. Smallwood and his teammates will face a talented runner in Western Michigan junior RB Dareyon Chance . Last week vs. Minnesota, Chance rushed for 144 yards on 29 carries -- the most yards ever by a Broncos' player against a Big Ten opponent. Western Michigan: QBAlex Carder . In last season's victory over the Huskies, Carder threw for 479 yards and five touchdowns. It was one of five games he passed for 400 yards or more. Many scouts believe Carder will be on an NFL roster next season. His quick release and precision are most impressive. Jordan White, Carder's top receiver from last season, is now on the Jets' practice squad. Carder, though, has another target that is just as explosive in Wilson.
Who could steal the show: UConn: RB Lyle McCombs. It's a recurring theme early in the season, but the sophomore needs to get going. Through three games, McCombs has just 236 yards on 70 carries (3.4 yards per carry). The Huskies expected more from McCombs after he rushed for 1,151 yards last season as a freshman. McCombs will face a Broncos' rushing defense that's ranked fourth in the MAC (131.7 yards per game). Western Michigan: Wilson. The true freshman was added to the Biletnikoff Watch List this week after his second straight 100-yard performance. In last Saturday's loss to the Golden Gophers, Wilson had 10 catches for 117 yards. He is currently tied for third in FBS in receptions per game (9.67) and eighth in receiving yards per contest (110.0). Cubit describes Wilson as having an “it factor,” in finding a way to get open even when it appears unlikely.
You going? Ranking the road trip: Western Michigan fans are known for their tailgating. In 2008, school officials made efforts to increase enforcement of tailgating rules after a number of nearby residents complained about the excessive noise. Still, the Huskies' contingent at the game may be sparse. Kalamazoo is one of the longest trips for UConn this season.
Magic number for UConn: 51. The Huskies have allowed only 51 rushing yards a game through three weeks. If UConn can take away the run early, the front seven may be able to tee off on Carder, making him uncomfortable in the pocket.
Magic number for Western Michigan: 429. The Broncos went 3-2 last season in the five games when Carder passed for at least 429 yards. Carder threw for 548 yards and seven touchdowns vs. Toledo, but the Broncos still lost 66-63. Western Michigan also narrowly lost to Purdue in the Little Caesars Bowl when Carder threw for 439 yards.
The game comes down to: The trenches. For UConn, if McCombs can keep the chains moving they can keep Carder and Wilson off the field. For Western Michigan, a strong game by Chance will keep its offense balanced.
Prediction: Western Michigan 20, UConn 17.
For more up-to-the minute news and analysis on the Big East, follow bloggers Evan Hilbert and Matt Rybaltowski @CBSBigEast.