October 19, 2009

Chippewas hold their own destiny; looking to go 11-1

The Central Michigan football team is off to one of their best starts in program history as they currently sit at 6-1 overall and 4-0 in MAC conference play. Along the way, the Chippewas have defeated Michigan State, defending MAC Champion Buffalo and established further dominance in state with victories over rivals Eastern and Western Michigan. With five games remaining, the question looms….Can CMU go 11-1? Here in this exclusive article, we examine the Chippewas remaining schedule.

Game 8: @ Bowling Green (October 24th, 12:00pm)

SCOOP- The Falcons have been one of the most Jekyll and Hyde teams in the country. They currently sit at 3-4 (2-1) and started the season with a victory over Sun Belt favorite Troy. They then played Missouri to the wire in a 27-20 loss before dropping a game at Marshall the next week. With a chance to make a statement, Bowling Green welcomed BCS buster Boise State for a home game, and proceeded to get trounced by the Broncos 49-14. They followed that up with a loss to current MAC East leader Ohio at home and rounded out their schedule with two close road victories over Kent State and Ball State.

KEY WIN: @ Troy, who is now 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the Sun Belt.

KEY LOSS: Ohio. In the MAC, you have to defend your home field and the loss to the Bobcats at home put them in a tough spot in the MAC East.

KEY PLAYER: This could be a tossup between quarterback Tyler Sheehan, who has a 14-4 touchdown to interception ration and is averaging 333 yards passing per game, and wide receiver Freddie Barnes, who has an amazing 85 receptions and eight touchdowns through seven games.

How CMU wins?

Bowling Green struggles in two major areas: rush defense and protecting the quarterback. The give up over 200 yards on the ground per game and have allowed Sheehan to be sacked 20 times through seven games. Opposing teams are also averaging 29 points per game against them, meaning CMU will more than likely score points, but will need another strong defensive effort to keep the ball out of Barnes hands and stop this from becoming a shootout.

Game 9: @ Boston College (October 31st, 3:30pm)

SCOOP- It's pretty simple with BC, they are 5-0 at home and 0-2 on the road. They have home wins over Wake Forest, NC State, Kent State, Northeastern and Florida State and two road losses to Clemson and Virginia Tech…by a combined score of 73-21. They play Notre Dame in South Bend before welcoming CMU at home.

KEY WIN: Wake Forest. BC beat Wake in overtime 27-24 in a game that ultimately decided who's at the top of the ACC Atlantic Division.

KEY LOSS: @ Virginia Tech. A chance to make a statement and get a cross divisional win (over a clearly stronger Coastal Division) and BC laid a huge egg, getting walloped by the Hokies 48-14.

KEY PLAYER: How can it not be Montrel Harris? He has been the backbone of the Eagles offense and has averaged 5.6 yards per carry on the way to 756 yards and 10 touchdowns. The talented sophomore has done most his damage to NC State and Florida State, rushing for a combined 443 yards in those two games. His one game against MAC foe Kent State (34-7 BC win) resulted in only 68-yards on 19 carries, so his production against CMU could go a long way to deciding the game.

How CMU wins?

This is CMU's last chance to make a big statement out of conference, and they face an opponent that is eerily similar to the BCS school they defeated, Michigan State. Boston College has 25-year old freshman quarterback Dave Shinskie as their game manager and he has done a quality job of not losing games for BC. It's clear that BC looks to run the ball, control the clock, and then let Shinskie use play action to exploit the defense. Michigan State tried a similar game plan and had erratic QB play, Shinskie will need to be accurate and hit the big plays when they are available for BC to be efficient on offense.

Game 10: Toledo (November 11th, 8:00pm)

SCOOP- Just when you think Bowling Green is the most Jekyll and Hyde squad in the MAC, here come the Toledo Rockets making a late push. They lost @ Purdue and followed that up with a shellacking of Colorado 54-38 at the Glass Bowl. Week three saw them sacrificed to Big Ten power Ohio State 38-0, but Toledo responded with two victories over Florida International and Ball State. Then, with a wounded Western Michigan squad coming to play at Toldeo after a 38-3 whooping from Northern Illinois, they got trounced 58-26 and lost starting quarterback Aaron Opelt to injury. Reeling and starting true freshman quarterback Austin Dantin, Toledo the pulled out a huge victory over Northern Illinois 20-19 to stay alive in the MAC West race.

KEY WIN: Northern Illinois. Lose that game and the Rockets would fall to 1-2 in MAC West play and out of the race.

KEY LOSS: Western Michigan. Giving up 58 points to a WMU squad coming off just three points at home against NIU? Not good.

KEY PLAYER: Forget what may or may not be happening at the quarterback position, the true playmaker for Toledo is the quarterback of the defense, safety Barry Church. The athletic safety is regarded as one of the top safeties in the country and boasts 65 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 2 sacks, 1 INT and 2 blocked kicks this season, all with teams shying away from him. Church is just a playmaker and a player every team must account for in the secondary.

How CMU wins?

For as good as Church is, Toledo has only allowed one opponent to score less than 30 points on them, and that was Northern Illinois just last week. CMU will score plenty of points, and if Toledo has to start Dantin at Kelly/Shorts during a night game on ESPN2, CMU will make him pay for choosing the Rockets over CMU. Toledo has the weapons, but a healthy Opelt is a must if they plan on competing with CMU at a home stadium they have outscored opponents 152-28 at.

Game 10: @ Ball State (November 18th, TBA)

SCOOP- There is no sugar coating the Cardinals this season. They are 0-7 (0-3) and have losses to Army, New Hampshire and North Texas OOC. They have been competitive in just about every game, even a 54-30 loss at Auburn, but have turned the ball over 17 times and have been unable to establish a run game with returning star Miquale Lewis.

KEY WIN: Hard to have a key win when you haven't won a game.

KEY LOSS: Hard to pick one of the seven, but losing to FCS New Hampshire at home has to be the low point. But on the bright side, there were only 11,884 fans to witness it.

KEY PLAYER: RB Miquale Lewis. Lewis has struggled this season behind a revamped offensive line, but has the ability to score on any play and is a weapon in both the running game and passing game.

How CMU wins?

By basically doing what every other team has done, stop Lewis and force inexperienced quarterback Kelly Page to beat you through the air. Defensively, the Cardinals have been a sieve through the air to the tune of 253.7 yards per game. Enter Muncie one of the MAC's best offenses, leave Muncie with a likely victory.

Game 11: Northern Illinois (November 27th, 7:00 or 8:00pm)

SCOOP- This one could be for all the marbles and looks to be a tough challenge a day after turkey day. Northern Illinois sits at 3-3 (1-1) but has had their three losses (@Wisconsin, Idaho, @Toledo) decided by just 12 total points. On the flip side, the Huskies hold an impressive victory over Big Ten surprise squad Purdue in West Lafayette and have pounded Western Illinois and Western Michigan.

KEY WIN: @ Purdue. As impressive as their 38-3 victory over Western Michigan in Kalamazoo was, the Huskies victory against the Boilermakers was a statement victory.

KEY LOSS: Toledo. Just a huge loss in terms of competing for a MAC Championship. The Rockets had a true freshman back-up QB and were coming off an embarrassing loss to Western Michigan, and the Huskies slipped 20-19. That loss makes the game @CMU almost a must win.

KEY PLAYER: The Huskies two headed monster at running back of Me'co Brown and Chad Spann. Combined the two have 985 yards and 13 touchdowns. Quarterback Chandler Harnish is also a rushing threat, with 242 yards and 2 touchdowns on the season.

How CMU wins?

Use the home field atmosphere and make the Huskies beat you through the air. Harnish has just had to manage games this season with a heavy rushing focus and the Huskies have not had a pass play go for more than 50 yards all season. Defensively they are one of the best in the MAC and allow only 18.8 points per game, but they have yet to face a team with the offensive talent CMU has. Whether NIU can limit the CMU offense will decide whether this is an easy win or a game CMU is going to have to fight for.

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