Bulldog Nation

RHS Alumni Darius Phillips Will be Playing in the Good Year Cotton Bowl

Darius Phillips is representing Robichaud at the Cotton Bowl.


Western Michigan’s season has been a magic carpet ride. The Broncos started the year with a mildly improbable win at Northwestern, then kept winning, kept winning, and kept winning a little more. Now they are the MAC champions and the Group of 5 conferences’ representative in the New Year’s Six, taking on Wisconsin at the Cotton Bowl. They and Alabama are the lone undefeated teams in the FBS.

Wisconsin is a worthy opponent standing in the way. The Badgers lost a three-touchdown lead and the Big Ten Championship to Penn State, or else they’d be in the Rose Bowl. But the Cotton is about as good a consolation as they could’ve requested, and they still have the chance to close their season with a meaningful win. They’d finish 11-3 with a victory, while WMU could go to 14-0.

It’s very likely WMU has the best offense in this game. There’s no question that Wisconsin has the best defense. We’ll see which wins out.

How to watch, stream, and listen

TV: 1 p.m. ET Monday, ESPN. The announcers are Bob Wischusen, Brock Huard, and Allison Williams.

Radio: WMU and Wisconsin

Online streaming: WatchESPN

Spread: Wisconsin opened as a 6.5-point favorite. The line’s gotten slightly bigger leading up to game time.

Make friends: SB Nation’s Bucky’s 5th Quarter covers Wisconsin, while Hustle Beltcovers WMU and the rest of the MAC.

Three big things to know

1. The best unit on the field should be Wisconsin’s defense. The Badgers have a top-five defense by both S&P+ and points per game (15.5). They’re equally strong against the run and the pass, and there’s no single formula that can obviously beat them. Penn State scored 38, more than anyone else has, and did it by throwing for 384 yards and four touchdowns. Before that, no one had eclipsed 277 yards in the air against the Badgers, and only one team had even thrown two touchdowns.

2. If WMU’s going to win, the passing game seems like the way. It’s hard to envision a MAC offensive line bullying Wisconsin’s defensive front to the point that WMU can win the game behind Jarvion Franklin and the running game. Quarterback Zach Terrell and star receiver Corey Davis lead one of the best and most explosive passing offenses in the country, and to whatever extent they can do what Trace McSorley and Saeed Blacknall did to Bucky in the Big Ten title game, it’ll help.

3. Can WMU hold up in the trenches? The Broncos absolutely earned their spot here, but it’s not incorrect to say they haven’t played anyone like Wisconsin. The best team WMU beat was a solid Toledo team, but nobody in the MAC has linemen as beefy and athletic as those WMU will see on Monday. The Broncos acquitted themselves well against Northwestern and Illinois, but the Badgers are a different beast. Particularly on defense, WMU has its hands full with a vastly more powerful offensive line than what it can match pound for pound.

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