Western Michigan head coach P.J. Fleck will get his first taste of being a head coach Friday.
It won’t exactly be an easy debut for the former Northern Illinois wide receiver and assistant coach, who was hired by the Broncos in December. Western Michigan heads up to East Lansing, Mich., to play Michigan State.
Fleck, a Kaneland graduate, will also be coaching against Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who was NIU’s linebackers coach from 2000 to 2002.
“They’re one of the best defenses that I’ve actually had to game plan against through my time in college football. They are extremely experienced. They play their tail ends off with Pat Narduzzi,” Fleck said on the Mid-American Conference weekly coaches teleconference. “They’re where we want to get to.”
It’s the start of a brutal nonconference schedule for Fleck.
After Nicholls State in Week 2, the Broncos head to Northwestern Sept. 14, and will play Sept 21 at Iowa.
Fleck isn’t complaining about the tough slate.
“I absolutely love playing the Big Ten schedule, I do,” Fleck said. “I think it’s great for our kids, it’s great for our program. I think it’s great for our environment. Basically, it’s great to see where you’re at.
“I love the Big Ten, I love the type of atmosphere the kids get a chance to play in.”
Wenning ready to go: Ball State quarterback Keith Wenning, possibly the second-best quarterback in the MAC behind NIU’s Jordan Lynch, underwent minor knee surgery before the start of camp, but only missed a few practices.
He should be ready to take the field when Ball State hosts Illinois State at 6 p.m. Thursday.
“We did go in and get his knee scoped early during camp. He had an old lingering injury that flared up and started to annoy him a little bit,” Cardinals head coach Pete Lembo said. “He was out a very short amount of time, probably missed 3-4 days of practice, and we eased him into the lineup. He feels great.”
Three top-10 teams await MAC foes: As is the normal case any season, there are some big challenges for MAC schools as they open the nonconference schedule.
Three MAC programs face top-10 teams on the road. Buffalo heads to No. 2 Ohio State T 11 a.m. Saturday, Toledo will play 10th-ranked Florida at 11:21 a.m. Saturday at The Swamp, while Ohio plays at No. 9 Louisville at 3:30 p.m. Sunday.
The Cardinals are coming off an upset over the Gators in the Sugar Bowl and are an overwhelming favorite to win the American Athletic Conference.
“They are a top-10 ranked team and deservedly so,” Bobcats coach Frank Solich said. “They’ve got great experience coming back on both sides of the ball even though they are still young.”