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Broncos to become first ever MAC foe for Irish

Laura Myers | Thursday, October 14, 2010

The Mid-American Conference (MAC) has existed since 1947, but Western Michigan will be the first team from the MAC ever to play against Notre Dame.

The Broncos (2-3) are currently third in the West Division of the MAC, which includes teams from New York, Ohio, Illinois, Indiana and Michigan.

“Up until this week it meant a lot,” Broncos coach Bill Cubit said in a press conference. “You’re the only one out there playing [Notre Dame]. And then you get the tape, and you hit reality. These guys are pretty good. This is a storied program.”

Cubit said his team prepared with music and crowd noise to imitate Notre Dame Stadium. The Broncos’ average attendance is 17,350 fans, as opposed to Notre Dame’s 80,795.

“That’s the best thing when you’re playing Notre Dame, because that’s what they’re going to hear,” Cubit said. “Hopefully they don’t hear the fight song too much. But that’s what they’re going to hear so they get used to it.”

This will be Notre Dame’s first game this season against a team from a non-BCS conference (the MAC champion goes to GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and the conference also sends teams to the uDrove Humanitarian Bowl in Boise, Idaho and the Little Caesars Bowl in Detroit). But Irish coach Brian Kelly said his team has no choice except to focus completely on the Broncos.

“We are not that good to think about anybody else but our next opponent,” Kelly said in his Tuesday press conference. “We can’t roll the ball out and expect to win football games.”

It is a common practice for BCS teams to schedule MAC opponents for a guaranteed win — but that is not the case Saturday, players said.

“We are not 6-0 and the No. 1 team in the country,” senior safety Harrison Smith said. “We are not at that place yet.”

In fact, Kelly made sure the players wouldn’t overlook the Broncos.

“He’s shown us statistical proof of teams that they have beaten or been very close to beating in games where I’m sure those teams went in overlooking a Western Michigan opponent,” junior quarterback Dayne Crist said. “They do some good things on offense, they do some good things on defense. It’s just like any other game.”

For the Broncos, though, the game is a rare opportunity, Cubit said, that they plan to take advantage of.

“There’s only one Notre Dame,” he said. “I know they take some criticism for that, but they built that. I give them all the credit in the world.

“This is a college experience. It’s for the kids. Fifteen, 20 years from now, they can say they did this. I told them yesterday: It’s one thing to play in the Stadium, it’s another thing to play well in the Stadium.”