Six Home Games Slated for Western Michigan Bronco Football in 2021
After a shortened 2020 season due to COVID-19 restrictions and a limited Mid-American Conference schedule, season number 115 for the Western Michigan Broncos is slated to begin September 4th with a road trip to Ann Arbor.
The Broncos head into their fifth season under alumni quarterback Tim Lester at the helm coming off of 4-2 season and ending their season with consecutive losses by a combined 14 points. The final loss was to MAC West champion Ball State, who picked up the win to earn the divisional title. Among the highlights of the 2020 season bringing home the Cannon trophy from Mt. Pleasant with their third straight win over rival Central Michigan and ending a three-game losing streak to Toledo.
Western's schedule for 2021 shows no true bye weeks as the MAC continues their November "MACtion" schedule with the sports network broadcasts. The first eight games are all on Saturdays, followed by a mid-week schedule after Halloween weekend. The Broncos continue their home schedule with a team out of the Division I-Football Championship Subdivision. Their non-conference schedule is stout this year and could be a true test of Western's mettle.
Here is the 2021 Western Michigan Broncos schedule with a few tidbits -
* - Signifies Mid-American Conference game
Saturday, September 4th - (at) Michigan Wolverines
Series Record - Michigan leads 7-0-0
Last Meeting - 2018 at Michigan, lost 49-3
Notes - This will be the eighth meeting between the I-94 squads and the sixth game since 2001. Every game in the series has taken place at Big House. This will kickstart an interesting season for the Maize and Blue with head coach Jim Harbaugh, who is entering his seventh season at his alma mater and considered on the hottest seat in college football, according to Coaches Hot Seat.
Saturday, September 11th - Illinois State Redbirds
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 7-1-0
Last Meeting - 2001 at Western Michigan, won 48-7
Notes - Out of the eight previous meetings, five of them have taken place at Waldo Stadium. This season's contest will be the 50th anniversary of their first meeting, a 35-7 home win over the Redbirds. The lone loss came in Lombard in 1987. Illinois State is currently playing a Spring schedule after postponing the Fall 2020 season in the Missouri Valley Football Conference.
Saturday, September 18th - (at) Pittsburgh Panthers
Series Record - First-ever meeting
Notes - The Broncos have played Syracuse twice since Lester has been at Western, a team where he was a former assistant. Western will step back into the Atlantic Coast Conference again this season with the first-ever meeting with Pitt. The match-up is the front portion of a home-and-home series with the Panthers, where they will come to Kalamazoo in 2022. Pitt finished 6-5 in 2020 and 5-5 in the ACC (tied for sixth out of 15 teams). Another great thing about this game is that Pitt plays their home games at Heinz Field, home of the NFL's Pittsburgh Steelers.
Saturday, September 25th - San Jose State Spartans
Series Record - First-ever meeting
Notes - Another debut on the Western schedule this season comes in the form of the Mountain West Conference champion Spartans, who will make the flight from the West Coast to Kalamazoo. The Spartans have been one of the most improved programs in the nation and was able to win the conference over perennial power Boise State. San Jose State made their first bowl appearance last season since 2015, their lone loss of the season to fellow MAC foe Ball State at the Offerpad Arizona Bowl. Like the previous match-up with Pitt, this is also part of a home-and-home series that will send the Broncos to San Jose in 2022.
Saturday, October 2nd - (at) Buffalo Bulls*
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 7-2-0
Last Meeting - 2017 at Buffalo, won 71-68 in seven overtimes
Notes - Buffalo has not been in the MAC for very long but the Bulls have been one of the toughest challenges for the Broncos out of the East Division. Their last meeting was a classic that went deep into the night in upstate New York in Lester's first season. A third of their nine meetings have gone to overtime. Once again, this year's game takes place in Buffalo. The Bulls last appearance in Kalamazoo was a snowy affair in 2016, part of Western's undefeated regular season and when ESPN College Gameday made their first and only appearance at Western. The Bulls are coming off a undefeated conference schedule and fell to Ball State in the MAC Championship game in Detroit.
Saturday, October 9th - Ball State Cardinals*
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 26-21
Last Meeting - 2020 at Ball State, lost 30-27
Notes - It's a rematch of last season's finale and a game where the Broncos let the fourth quarter slip away from them against the Cardinals. Western held a 27-13 lead heading into the final quarter in Muncie, Indiana, but the Cardinals used a few big plays to take the lead and hold the Broncos off. It also led to an insane ending to the game where the Broncos almost pulled off a "band is on the field" moment, gathered below by YouTube channel PSC Highlights. The eventual flag for an illegal forward pass would end the Broncos chance to win on the final play.
Saturday, October 16th - Kent State Golden Flashes*
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 35-20-1
Last Meeting - 2017 at Western Michigan, won 48-20
Notes - Another team out of the MAC East that could pose a challenge for the Broncos is the Golden Flashes, who finished 3-1 on the 2020 season. Kent State was on their way to challenge for the division title, but had their final two games cancelled due to COVID protocols. The Broncos have won the last two meetings and will see the Flashes for the first time in four seasons, Tim Lester's first year as head coach.
Saturday, October 23rd - (at) Toledo Rockets*
Series Record - Toledo leads 44-31-0
Last Meeting - 2020 at Western Michigan, won 41-38
Notes - The Broncos head down to the Glass Bowl in 2021 where they have not won since 2015. The two teams were tied in the MAC West in 2020 and the Broncos had to come from behind to top the Rockets at Waldo Stadium. Trailing 31-21 in the final quarter, the Broncos scored 20 points to pull ahead in the final 17 seconds. The final drives included a touchdown, a recovered onside kick and a fake spike that was chronicled by Western Michigan Bronco Athletics below.
Wednesday, November 3rd - Central Michigan Chippewas*
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 51-38-2
Last Meeting - 2020 at Central Michigan, won 52-44
Notes - In the annual "Battle for the Cannon", the Broncos were able to bring back the Cannon trophy for the third straight season in a game that saw Western rack up 628 yards of total offense. It also saw the Chippewas make their way back into the game after Western led 45-22 early in the third quarter. The Broncos have won six of the last seven meetings. This year's contest opens the three mid-week "MACtion" games for the Broncos.
Tuesday, November 9th - Akron Zips*
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 15-5-0
Last Meeting - 2020 at Akron, won 58-13
Notes - The only MAC East team that was on the 2020 schedule for the Broncos that returns for 2021 will be separated by 370 days between the two games. The Zips only picked up one win in 2020 and the first for head coach Tom Arth in his second season at Akron. For Western, junior quarterback Kaleb Eleby went 12-of-16 and tossed three touchdowns in the rout for the Broncos.
Wednesday, November 16th - (at) Northern Illinois Huskies*
Series Record - Western Michigan leads 26-20-0
Last Meeting - 2020 at Western Michigan, won 30-27
Notes - It was another come-from-behind game for the Broncos in 2020, scoring 10 points in the final 9:12 to edge out the Huskies at Waldo. The win was the third straight victory over Northern Illinois at home, but have yet to break the curse at Dekalb. Western has lost six straight contests at Huskie Stadium, with their last win just west of Chicago in 2007.