Saturday, December 27, 2008

Dan Bazuin on Texans' practice squad

Looks like former CMU standout Dan Bazuin has a job - for now. He is on the Houston Texans' practice squad, and right now, he gets to help his team prepare for the Chicago Bears defense - which he briefly played for until Aug. 30, when he was cut.

Post-Motor City Bowl: What next?

On the afternoon of Nov. 19, very few saw this kind of ending for the CMU football team.

On that day, the Chippewas sat at 8-2, the best start the team has had in years. They beat their first Big Ten opponent in 16 seasons just a couple weeks earlier. They had not lost a meaningful MAC game in two seasons, and were back-to-back defending champions.

But that night turned out to be the beginning of the downward spiral. CMU uncharacteristically lost a critical home matchup with Ball State. It then uncharacteristically lost the season finale against Eastern Michigan. Last night was the culmination, a 24-21 loss to Florida Atlantic, a team that was good but beatable.

CMU simply looked too uninspired. It had its moments, for sure, and it is not as if the players were not trying to win. They were, just like they always do. But ever since the MAC West title went out its hands, this Chippewas squad just has not played with the same grind-it-out intensity it thrived on to win games this season. It is as if the team cringed when it saw its own blood following the Ball State loss.

In a lot of ways, the Motor City Bowl summed everything up just perfectly. CMU came close. It had one big play - a 72-yard touchdown run by Antonio Brown - but it was called back because of a facemask penalty by Kito Poblah at around FAU's 25-yard line. The CMU defense had stopped FAU on a three-and-out in the third quarter, but a roughing the passer penalty by Larry Knight kept the drive alive. The very next play was a 52-yard touchdown strike that gave the Owls a 17-10 lead.

Had those two penalties gone uncommitted, this game could have turned out a lot differently. But that is how this season has went - down to the wire. CMU could just as easily have lost to Buffalo and Ohio earlier this season because of mistakes by its opponents.

So what's next? Obviously, winter conditioning, recruiting and spring ball. But assuming Ball State quarterback Nate Davis elects to enter the NFL Draft, CMU should enter next season, again, as the Mid-American Conference favorite, mainly because it does not lose as many key players as other teams do. Along with Davis, the Cardinals also lose tight end Darius Hill, defensive back B.J. Hill, wide receiver Louis Johnson and offensive linemen Dan Gerberry and Robert Brewster to graduation. Western Michigan loses receiver Jamarko Simmons and a handful of defensive starters such as Londen Fryar, Louis Delmas and Boston McCornell to graduation. Buffalo, the MAC Champion, does return a lot of key players but not quarterback Drew Willy.

The only starter CMU loses on defense is nose guard Casey Droscha, who spent half the season injured anyway. It loses tailbacks Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins, but the team has a surplus of talented running backs who will fight for a starting spot, including Bryan Schroeder, Paris Cotton and redshirt Jahleel Addae. Other key losses include backup quarterback Brian Brunner, wide receiver Joe Bockheim and offensive tackles Andrew Hartline and Greg Wojt. These guys are going to be tough to replace because of their high character, but hopefully this paves way for guys like quarterback Ryan Radcliff, wide receivers Kito Poblah and Jean Pitts, and offensive tackle Jake Olson.

Furthermore, this Central team is going to be hungry come next August. I have a feeling we have yet to see the best of Dan LeFevour, entering his last season. He has all of his best weapons coming back - Bryan Anderson (senior next year), Antonio Brown (junior) and Kito Poblah (junior). The defense should get better with virtually everybody returning and possible high-profile additions in the secondary such as D.J. Scott and Shamari Benton. Obviously, it is going to take work - the Chippewas play both Western and Ball State on the road next season, but does get an improving Northern Illinois team at home. I would not expect two three-game road trips next season, either.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Motor City Bowl: LIVE BLOG from Detroit

10:44: The Chippewas are trying to mount a comeback. It is not working. Coach Butch Jones elected to go for it on fourth down, with CMU inside the FAU 5-yard line, instead of kicking the field goal and making it an 8-point game. Hmmmm.

10:42: The announced attendance is 41,399. That sounds about right - just about all of them are CMU fans, too.

10:36: FAU scores on a 14-yard touchdown pass to make it 24-13. There is obviously something wrong with CMU right now, and it is not the flu bug that was going around earlier in the week.

10:18: The penalty bug strikes CMU yet again. A reverse play that would have went for a 72-yard touchdown was called back after Kito Poblah was flagged for a facemask penalty while blocking downfield. That offset an FAU offside penalty back at the line of scrimmage, resulting in a replay of the down. That has to hurt.

10:04: LeFevour still looks too hesitant in the pocket - he took off running a little too late on third down. CMU does get a field goal to make it 17-13 Owls.

9:57: Great second effort by Justin Hoskins on third down, taking a pass another five yards after contact to give CMU the first down. The Chippewas are driving through FAU territory now.

9:54: Antonio Brown returns the ball out to CMU's 45-yard line thanks to the unsportsmanlike conduct call following FAU's touchdown. But again, a block in the back penalty puts the ball back toward the 20. That is how penalties can kill a team.

9:47: The Chippewas come up with another big stop on third down... or not. Larry Knight gets flagged for a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty, then Rusty Smith throws a 52-yard touchdown bomb to Chris Bonner. That is how penalties can kill a team.

9:40: Florida Atlantic starts its first second half drive on its 2-yard line. Nice punt by Hartmann, again.

9:38: Maybe it is just me, but LeFevour seems like he is a little off his game, despite completing 15 of 20 passes. He's a little more hesitant in the pocket than he used to be and is not showing his running ability as well as he has in the past. That is part of the reason why the offense is struggling - CMU opens up defenses with that quarterback running ability.

9:08: LeFevour takes a knee and sends the game to halftime. There's plenty of offense, with both teams hovering around 200 total yards, but not many points to be had thus far. Seniors Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins have combined for 60 yards on 12 carries, better than usual. And the CMU defense, overall, is playing well despite allowing some yardage. Rusty Smith is 10-for-20 for 158 yards.

9:01: Florida Atlantic drives again, but has to settle on a 36-yard field goal to tie the game. Only 47 seconds left until halftime.

8:52: CMU punter Brett Hartmann's stats get a boost with a 67-yarder, aided by Tavious Polo's muffed return. FAU starts at its 18-yard line instead of around the 30.

8:46: The defense bent, but did not break. A common mantra for this team. A third-down sack forces FAU to punt when it probably could have kicked a field goal had Rusty Smith thrown an incompletion.

8:43: The Owls have another drive going. CMU is playing very soft coverage, allowing receivers to get open and running backs to get moderate gains.

8:35: Andrew Aguila hits a 34-yard field goal to give CMU its first lead. ESPN has to be disappointed at the lack of offensive firepower in this game so far.

8:31: Three-and-out again for Florida Atlantic. The CMU defense stays hot. Meanwhile, Antonio Brown looked like he was going to let the punt go, but then caught it on a bounce and took it 27 yards to FAU's 38-yard line. The guy's a stud on punt returns this year.

8:25: Wow! Sophomore wideout Kito Poblah just made a highlight-reel catch - a one-hander in the corner of the end zone. Tie game.

8:23: Running back Justin Hoskins, also a senior, is getting some chances in his final game. Two consecutive first-down runs to put CMU inside the FAU 10-yard line. It is good to see him play well early.

8:19: End of the first quarter. FAU still ahead 7-0, but CMU's driving. The Chippewas just need to settle down a little bit and not force anything. The Owls have had one good drive, but not much else other than that. Meanwhile, the crowd gives former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr a huge ovation. Wolverines fans have to miss him right now.

8:17: LeFevour again throws into coverage, but hits Joe Bockheim right in stride for 28 yards. Heck of a throw.

8:14: The defense is staying on its toes, though. FAU tries a flea flicker and almost has it intercepted. But a holding call puts it 10 yards back anyway.

8:08: Central almost put a good drive together, getting into FAU territory, but had to punt after an incompletion on third down. Bryan Anderson looks shaken up after a hit near the end zone. Things just do not look in sync right now for the Chippewas' offense.

8:01: FAU's Cortez Gent has three receptions for 42 yards early. That does not bode too well for CMU if he gets going.

7:59: This is what happens when you give teams too many early opportunities. FAU drives 66 yards on six plays, easily scoring on a one-yard touchdown run. Both teams looks a bit rusty early, but the Owls seem to be in gear on offense right now. The CMU crowd is quiet.

7:52: Just to clear something up... several CMU players have had the flu bug over the last week, including a couple offensive linemen. I'm told they are fine now, but who knows at this point whether that will have any repercussions on the football game.

7:50: Things are moving fast early in this game - and not the way ESPN was expecting. Linebacker Nick Bellore picks up a fumble in CMU territory. Then LeFevour throws an errant pass to Antonio Brown and has it picked off. FAU has the ball on its 36-yard line. There certainly is no shortage of defense in the first five minutes of this game.

7:42: ...but that basically was it. On fourth and one, quarterback Dan LeFevour fumbled the shotgun snap, forcing him to fall on it and concede to the Owls near midfield. I'm not sure if it was a concentration gaffe or what, but the ball was snapped just fine. It might have been premature.

7:41: Running back Ontario Sneed is making his last game count. 28 yards on his first run, toward midfield...

7:39: Quick three-and-out drive for Florida Atlantic, mainly because of pressure to quarterback Rusty Smith. Junior defensive end Frank Zombo made a great play on first down, tipping a screen pass while chasing Smith. Great start for the CMU defense.

7:34 p.m.: The game will be underway in a minute or two. There definitely is not as many people here as last year. The CMU crowd is here, as usual, but the FAU crowd is about as easy to find as Waldo in this place. (Like I said before, though, that's not surprising, considering few would travel from Florida to Michigan for Christmas)

Stay posted for live updates from today's Motor City Bowl game.

Setting up at Ford Field







DETROIT - I just got here about 20 minutes ago, and there is a lot of time ahead before kickoff (a little less than two hours, to be exact), so I toyed around a little bit with my camera. Nothing professional, just a look at the scene here in Ford Field prior to the Motor City Bowl.

The last two seasons, the Motor City Bowl set attendance records with CMU holding the majority of the fan base, even last year against Purdue. I would not expect another crowd of 60,000, however - not with a Florida team here. Who would come to Michigan for Christmas, anyway? The Chippewas are going to have major home field advantage, and they will probably need the help against a hot FAU team.

ESPN's hyping this game up as an offensive shootout. I don't blame them. Florida Atlantic's offense is not extraordinary, but it is going up against the 118th-ranked pass defense in the country (out of 119 FBS teams).

More to come from Ford Field.

It's showtime!

Hope everybody had a good holiday yesterday!

I apologize for no updates over the past 10 days; Since school is out, I am out of the Mount Pleasant area and spending time with family back home in Saginaw. That, and I have not had a computer even capable of updating a blog until two days ago. I am trying to follow the team as much as possible from home, however; other than the slew of coaching changes going on in the MAC right now, there's very little to update on at this point.

Hopefully today makes up for it. As you know, the Motor City Bowl kicks off at 7:30 p.m. at Ford Field in Detroit. I'll be there, updating the blog before, during and after the game, as usual. This time, I hope to do live blogging on here, as well as updating the score on cm-life.com as it happens. So if by some small chance you're not at the Motor City Bowl nor able to watch the game on ESPN (or, of course, if you would like additional analysis and behind the scenes), then be sure to tune in to this blog and the CM Life Web site.

Thank you for your patience and have fun tonight!

Monday, December 15, 2008

Update: Hoke takes SDSU job, plus CMU Bowl Mania

Ball State coach Brady Hoke has taken the San Diego State job, according to BSU Athletic Director Tom Collins.

It sounds like it's a money thing. Obviously Hoke is going to make more money coaching the Aztecs. Especially in these tough economic times, you have to make business decisions, and that's probably what drove Hoke from his alma mater. I wish him luck in San Diego State, which is going to be tough to rebuild with the likes of powerhouses such as Utah, BYU and TCU in the Mountain West.

As for Central Michigan, I got a chance to watch ESPN's Bowl Mania tonight (I guess it first aired last night?). For those of you unfamiliar with Bowl Mania, it's a fantasy game where you pick the winners of every bowl game, then rank your picks by order of confidence. You get a certain amount of points for each correct pick depending on your confidence in the pick- for example, if you have CMU over FAU at the top of the list, you get 34 points, all the way down to 1 point for your least-confident pick.

ESPN's Jesse Palmer (one of the analysts who I rarely take seriously, unfortunately) has Central Michigan winning, but has the pick ranked third-to-last in confidence. He mentioned the Chippewas' second-to-last pass defense and FAU's Rusty Smith "tearing up" the Sun Belt conference as possible reasons for otherwise, but liked CMU's practical home-field advantage.

I would agree to an extent, but I wouldn't call tearing up the Sun Belt conference as much of an accomplishment, considering only one team finished with seven or more wins. To put it bluntly, it's the weakest conference in the FBS. I still think Florida Atlantic is a good team, but I have more confidence in a CMU win, not just because of home field advantage. The one-month break gives the Chippewas time to heal a lot of key injuries and let the emotion from the last two losses wear off a little bit. But more on all this later.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Source: Ball State's Hoke to take San Diego State job

An interesting turn of events today: Apparently, Ball State coach Brady Hoke will leave his alma mater to coach the San Diego State Aztecs.

...What?

I'm not sure of the validity of this report, but if it is true, it's a head-scratcher. I'm sure he would make more money at SDSU than at Ball State, and the draw of the area is a tad better than Muncie, Ind. (At least for some).

But for Hoke to leave his alma mater, especially before the end of a historic season, it sounds strange. The cost of living in San Diego is sky-high in comparison to Indiana, so that extra salary would mostly go toward that. He has to recruit against Pac 10 schools such as USC and UCLA, and even against other established Mountain West schools such as Utah and BYU, in an area he's probably unfamiliar with.

Most importantly, though, he would be leaving his alma mater. Think about the situation he would be leaving- Ball State is extremely close to a MAC Championship and has the national attention to earn another ranking next year. His biggest recruiting challenges in the state are Notre Dame, Purdue and Indiana, all of which are currently slumping. He's got a second-round NFL Draft pick at quarterback that said he was going to return next year. Not so if Hoke leaves, I bet.

We'll see how valid this report is, but if it is true, I'm shocked.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

CMU/FAU: Motor City Bowl section

Hey everybody,

Sorry for not posting the past couple of days. It's exam week at CMU, so this is a particular time where my studies tend to get in the way of my football-covering duties.

There is some good news though: Tomorrow (Wednesday), CM Life will release a 10-page Motor City Bowl Preview section. Inside, you'll find a dissection of the Florida Atlantic squad the team is playing, plus a feature on coach Howard Schnellenberger, and more. You can find it at any CM Life newsrack in the CMU and Mount Pleasant community. For those of you out of the area, however, we did post the stories online and a PDF of the front two pages along the left frame.

I had the privilege of talking to Coach Schnellenberger over the phone Tuesday. He sounded very gracious for the opportunity his team had to play in the Motor City Bowl and had plenty of kind words to say about the CMU football program, as well. He called the Chippewas a tougher team than the Memphis squad the Owls defeated 44-27 in the New Orleans Bowl last year. I may post more of the conversation if I get the time.

Even though CM Life is ceasing publication until Jan. 12, always keep updated with the Web site throughout Christmas break for any football updates. Even though the game's on ESPN, we're going to update the Web site throughout the Motor City Bowl game, including a postgame recap. And I plan on carrying out my blogging duties here on Chip Shots as well.

Finally, to keep you satisfied for the time being, there's a new poll. Although I am afraid of an obvious result to it.

Thanks a lot for your patience!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Motor City Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Florida Atlantic

It's official, according to ESPN.com.

CMU will play Florida Atlantic of the Sun Belt conference in the Motor City Bowl, the second time in three years it plays a Sun Belt team. Middle Tennessee State was the other, in 2006, when CMU won 31-14.

Check back for more updates.

Palm Beach Post: Florida Atlantic's chances for Motor City Bowl bid 'looking pretty good'

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that Florida Atlantic is feeling good about its Motor City Bowl chances.

The only teams in contention for the final spots, it says, are San Jose State, Arkansas State and Florida Atlantic. There's also Bowling Green and NIU, but obviously no MAC team will fill the MCB spot to play CMU.

Will a Big East team be CMU's opponent?

Apparently, Ken Hoffman, executive director of the Motor City Bowl and International Bowl, said he is looking into the possibility of switching the Big East's representative in the International Bowl to instead play in the Motor City Bowl.

It might sound kind of confusing, but it means that CMU would play a Big East opponent - in this case, Connecticut or Rutgers - and Buffalo would play the at-large team in the International Bowl. Whether this will play out is still up in the air - I'm still expecting an at-large in the Motor City Bowl at the moment, until we hear anything else.

But a Big East team could very well make its way to Ford Field to play the Chippewas.

UPDATE: If a Big East team does go, it's not UConn. It just accepted a bid to the International Bowl to play Buffalo in Toronto. So that could very well put the Big East out of the picture. We will have to wait and see on that.

CMU looks headed to the Motor City

I do not have 100 percent confirmation yet, but sources tell me CMU is going to the Motor City Bowl for the third consecutive year.

Obviously, we'll get confirmation in the coming hours. But as of right now, it's all but a certainty. That should make plenty of CMU fans happy, to be able to stay in the state to watch the team in a bowl game.

As for the opponent, no one is sure yet. The two biggest possibilities, as of right now, are San Jose State and Florida Atlantic. The former would certainly be an interesting matchup, since it is a rematch of the 1990 California Raisin Bowl. San Jose State won that 48-24.

Be sure to stay posted.

Muncie Star Press: Either Ball State or CMU for GMAC Bowl

If the Muncie Star Press is any indication, CMU is either going to the Motor City Bowl or the GMAC Bowl.

According to the article, GMAC Bowl President Jerry Silverstein says either Ball State or Central Michigan will play in the game, depending on which team Ken Hoffman and the Motor City Bowl executives decide on first.

I would read the entire article, though, because it goes into good detail on Ball State's perspective of the bowl picture. It sounds like they would enjoy either bowl game.

Expect updates on this blog and on cm-life.com throughout the day Sunday for news and analysis. We'll know for sure what the game is by the end of the night.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Making sense of the bowl possibilities

The Mid-American Conference bowl picture just got a whole lot more interesting after last night.

Buffalo upsets No. 12 Ball State 42-24, winning the MAC Championship. Stunning, for sure, considering the Cardinals went all this way to not even win the conference. And of all things, they lost because of lack of discipline. Four fumbles, two of which led to returns for touchdowns. One of them was a premature shotgun snap, one quarterback Nate Davis clearly was not prepared for. This game is going to burn for a long time.

The loss may not change anything. But it is important to note that CMU still has a good chance at a Motor City Bowl bid now. Why, even with BSU at 12-1 and CMU at 8-4? Why, even with BSU beating CMU on the road on Nov. 19? Attendance.

A paltry 12,871 fans came to the MAC Championship last night. Even with Ball State treading on perfection, even with two new teams and a very interesting matchup, only 12,871 fans made their way to Ford Field in Detroit. Compare that to the 25,013 last year that came to watch CMU, then 7-5, beat a 6-6 Miami team 35-10. And that game was at 11 a.m. Friday, rather than at night when more people have a chance to attend!

In fact, CMU brought more than 25,000 fans to the MAC title game in each of the two years it went. And don't forget last year's Motor City Bowl record attendance as CMU lost 51-48 to Purdue - 60,224. And from being at that game, I can safely say at least half of that crowd was supporting CMU, if not more than half.

The fact is, CMU is guaranteed to bring a huge crowd to the Motor City Bowl, no matter who the opponent is (54,000-plus to play Middle Tennessee State in 2006). Ball State, even with its small four-hour drive to Detroit, is not.

Compound all of that with two struggling sponsors - GM and Ford - and Motor City Bowl executives are probably going to have to make a business decision. Ball State's obviously the more attractive option, simply because it's a new team and it's 12-1. Chances are, it could maintain a low ranking after the Buffalo loss - it's not like the Cardinals are not the best team in the MAC now.

BUT- CMU is an attractive business option because of its huge draw. Tens of thousands of fans will go to Detroit to watch the Chippewas play anybody. That is a certainty. And right now, I'm not buying the talk that CMU would rather go to a different bowl because they've already went to the MCB the last two years. It is guaranteed Central is going to play a different team, so we already have a completely different game to look forward to under the same bowl name. And I doubt the team wants to travel across the country just for the opportunity to play in a different bowl. What's the logic?

Plus, let's face it - Every CMU game is an interesting game. I can't remember the last time the Chippewas played in a FBS game that didn't come down to the final few minutes. I think the Georgia and Temple games are it.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Bowl information, plus MAC Championship

First of all, you probably have already seen this, but if not, Athletics Director Dave Heeke posted a message on CMUChippewas.com regarding bowl information for Central. It confirms that CMU is going to go to a bowl this year, which we already figured - the four possibilities, Heeke said, is the Motor City Bowl, GMAC Bowl, Texas Bowl and Independence Bowl.

The International Bowl is not part of the equation. I'm assuming that confirms Buffalo's appearance in that game even if they win tonight (as of right now, the Bulls are up 14-10 over No. 12 BSU in the third quarter. Catch it on ESPN2. But more on that in a second.). That would be a terrific move for a team that has never played in a bowl game to play just less than 100 miles away from home. That's also a great draw for the International Bowl that will take as many fans as it can muster.

Ball State's a best bet for a Motor City Bowl appearance, no matter if it wins or loses tonight. They could even get a bid tonight, much like CMU did last year following winning the conference. But we will see, of course. That would probably mean Central is going south - either to Mobile, Ala. (GMAC), Houston (Texas Bowl vs. Rice), or Shreveport, La. (Independence Bowl vs. Louisiana Tech). Sunday is the latest we will know.

As for the MAC Championship tonight, I have watched most of it thus far, and Buffalo definitely showed up to challenge the Cardinals. But I still think Ball State will come out with a win, and as I type, it took a 17-14 win on running back MiQuale Lewis' one-yard touchdown run. I'll type more on this later tonight or tomorrow... plus, on whether Ball State should have negotiated better for a bowl game with Boise State.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Around the MAC

Several news stories have popped up concerning the Mid-American Conference over the past few days, so I figured I would go over them in a nutshell:

- Ball State and Boise State will not meet in a bowl game. That's sad for those who were hoping for a battle of the non-BCS unbeatens, but the likelihood of it happening was just too small. There was no way the Cardinals were going to take their undefeated season all the way across the country to play a road game in a hostile environment, which they would have had to do if the game would go to the Humanitarian Bowl, located at Boise State. And I doubt Boise State would have done the same even at the Motor City Bowl, a neutral site but much closer to BSU. It just wasn't meant to be... which means BSU will likely go to the MCB.

- Toledo hires Oklahoma State defensive coordinator Tim Beckman to coach the team in place of "Toledo Tom" Amstutz. At first sight, this is a good move for the team, even though it's Beckman's first head coaching gig. The Rockets, known for their offensive firepower during the Amstutz era, are weak on defense and need a good defensive mind to lead them back to the top. And Oklahoma State looks good on his resume.

- Cincinnati coach Brian Kelly claims he is happy to be coaching the Bearcats despite being contacted by other teams. Wow, that sounds familiar, doesn't it?

- You heard it here first: Turner Gill will not be coaching Buffalo next season, whether he leaves after the MAC title or the bowl game. He is such an attractive option for BCS teams with coaching openings, which we know will come within the next month or two.

- You heard it here first: Brady Hoke will coach Ball State next year. Like Gill, he's a popular commodity since he turned the Cardinals from MAC bottom-feeders into BCS contenders, but I think it's going to take a really good offer for him to leave his alma mater.

- Also, the all-MAC teams were announced. Looks good, but I have a question: Why is WMU's Tim Hiller, statistically the best MAC quarterback, on the THIRD-team offense? I understand Ball State's Nate Davis deserves to be on the first-team. And no disrespect to Dan LeFevour (on the second team), it's moreso because of his injuries throughout the year, but Hiller did have a better year than him. And Western had a good year, too.

- There's finally a new poll. Pretty basic. Fire away.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

CMU: Overlooking the regular season that was

We're still a few days away from finding out which bowl game CMU will attend. But for now, the regular season is over and we know the team's fate in the Mid-American Conference. No, it will not go to a MAC Championship game and more than likely will not make the Motor City Bowl. But at 8-4, it was still a very good year for the team with its fair share of highs and lows.

Here's to the 2008 season:

BEST WIN: CMU 37, Indiana 34 on Nov. 1. This is a milestone in the sense that Central Michigan finally overcame a Big Ten opponent after 16 seasons of failed opportunities. Although the Hoosiers are by no means a powerhouse in the BCS, it was the "monkey off the back" game that CMU needed for the program to head into the right direction. This really was the high point of the team's season. (Honorable mention: CMU 38, WMU 28 on Oct. 18. This is easily the best MAC win of the year, especially since neither quarterback Dan LeFevour nor senior tailback Ontario Sneed were available. But more on that later.)

WORST LOSS: Eastern Michigan 56, CMU 52.
There really is not a loss that was more disappointing this year, for several reasons. For one thing, the Eagles entered the game 1-9 against Football Bowl Subdivision competition. Their coach, Jeff Genyk, was fired earlier in the week. It had one thing to play for - defense of the Michigan MAC Championship, which, if you think about it, is nothing more than a novelty trophy supporting the rivalry between each Michigan MAC team. Sure, the Chippewas scored 52 points, but that was because quarterback Dan LeFevour and the offense kept having to play catch-up all game. The defense could not stop quarterback Andy Schmitt. An NCAA-record 58 completions? Really?

MOST VALUABLE PLAYER: Antonio Brown, sophomore wide receiver.
While as of right now, his numbers do not quite compare to last season, Brown has been a stud from game one. He consistently ranked among the nation's best in punt return yardage and is a staple in the short passing game because of his acceleration and moves. There were some times where he had trouble running into his own blockers, especially on returns, but his impact is nonetheless noticeable. Teams had to kick away from him on kickoffs and single him out in the offense. That's a good thing for the other 10 guys on the field.

MOST VALUABLE BACKUP: Brian Brunner, senior quarterback.
It was great to finally see Brunner get another shot as a starter this season. If you think about it, he had probably the most profound impact on this football team when he played. He took over for Dan LeFevour against Temple on Homecoming and finished out with a win - then he went 2-0 in his next two starts in two of the team's most critical games: Against a very very good Western Michigan team and against Indiana to earn the team's first BCS win. Not only that, but he was dominant in both games, throwing for 346 yards vs. WMU and 485 vs. Indiana. Interesting statistic: Brunner was 3-0 when he finishes the game for CMU; LeFevour was 5-4.

FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR: Bryan Schroeder, running back.
For the few times Schroeder has stepped in, he contributed immensely. He became CMU's first 100-yard rusher not named LeFevour when he compiled 106 yards against Western Michigan, which was critical in the win. With both Sneed and Justin Hoskins on their way out, Schroeder should get more carries next season. But he does face stiff competition from freshman Paris Cotton (that is, if he holds onto the ball) and redshirt Jahleel Addae.

PLAYCALL OF THE YEAR: Two-point conversion Sept. 22 at Purdue. With the score 24-23 in Purdue's favor, coach Butch Jones could have secured a tie and give the team a shot at a win in overtime. Instead, he went for the two-pointer and the win. Jones made a good call no matter what the result was; the Chippewas surely were sick of losing to the Boilermakers and took a gamble. LeFevour ended up connecting with a diving Antonio Brown to take a 25-24 lead. Yeah, Purdue got the last laugh 18 seconds later with a 46-yard touchdown run by Kory Sheets, but this was still a heck of a call. Jones believed in his players and they delivered.

CLOSE CALL OF THE YEAR: Buffalo's game-winning field goal off the right goalpost on Sept. 27. The Bulls had just scored a touchdown and recovered an onside kick to set up this field goal try, down 27-25. What was a sure win just moments ago was in the balance for CMU. The Bulls' A.J. Principe's 46-yard try, however, hit the right goal post, much to the delight of the CMU sideline. That was the difference between an 8-4 season and a 7-5 season, but what could have compounded that to a 6-6 season was Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson's fumble in the end zone with just 2 minutes remaining on Sept. 13. Had he held onto the ball, the Bobcats could have taken a 35-31 lead. It was close, but the important thing was the result: A CMU win.

THE TURNING POINT OF THE YEAR: Many will point to Ball State's 31-24 win on Nov. 19, which began the two-game losing streak to end the year, but the third quarter of CMU's 33-30 overtime win over NIU, to me, is where things took a turn. The Chippewas held a 30-6 lead midway through that quarter before the Huskies opened up 24 unanswered points to end the game and force the extra period. CMU squeaked by before losing its next two games.

BY THE NUMBERS: CMU averaged 22,659 fans at each of its five home games, by far the highest average of any other MAC school. No other MAC school topped 20,000. Antonio Brown averaged 20.7 yards per punt, best in the nation. The Chippewas outscored their opponents 129-99 in the second quarter. It has been 28 seasons since the team had three consecutive seasons with eight wins or more, the last time being 1978-80.





Monday, December 1, 2008

The waiting game

I'm sure CMU fans aren't too familiar as of late with the topic of this blog entry. Usually, it's this football team that decides its own fate and takes itself as far as it can go in the Mid-American Conference. Now, with the 2008 regular season at a close, CMU has to wait one week to see if it even makes a bowl game.

But like I've said many times before, it is very likely the Chippewas are going to a bowl. For one thing, every prognostication I've seen around the major media outlets has at least four MAC teams going, some even have five (with Northern Illinois at 6-6). Enough at-large bids are opening up to accept that fourth team, which at worst would have an 8-4 record. (Buffalo will automatically go by virtue of being the only bowl-eligible team in the MAC East).

The most likely scenario, according to these outlets, is CMU and East Carolina in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6, even with Western Michigan at a better overall record. The biggest disadvantage to playing in this game, obviously, is the fan following - Mobile, Ala., is a tad further away than Detroit. You can expect many Central fans from Georgia and Florida (pipeline states) to show up, but not quite the crowd we saw at the Motor City Bowl last year.

The next game to watch, obviously, is Buffalo and Ball State in the MAC Championship on Friday. If Buffalo wins, we could see the Bulls in the Motor City Bowl instead of the Cardinals, but I still think they want the International Bowl regardless because of its proximity. Both teams have huge draws to those bowls for that reason, especially since Buffalo is going bowling for the first time since it joined the MAC and Ball State wants fans to attend the final game of its perfect season. 

That leaves CMU and WMU for the GMAC, and both have strong cases. CMU may win out by virtue of head-to-head, but WMU's 9-3 record has a say, too. We'll see, I suppose - that's the point of the waiting game.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Central/Eastern: Aftermath

YPSILANTI, Mich. - Eastern Michigan 56, Central Michigan 52. I am not so sure where to begin with this game, expect with the fact that the line looks like a basketball score.

As I've said before, this game had very little implication, expect maybe for CMU's chances at a bowl game, but yet things still got interesting. I haven't covered a game quite like it - yeah, things got a bit emotional, but even what was going on on the field was strange enough. Head to cm-life.com for a breaking news story on all of that.

The CMU defense, from the bottom up, does not have much of an excuse for this game. Sure, it's missing defensive backs Eric Fraser, Josh Gordy and Vince Agnew. But 56 points - in three quarters? EMU quarterback Andy Schmitt, despite entering this game with nothing near the accolades of other MAC guys like Dan LeFevour, Nate Davis or Tim Hiller, still managed to break an NCAA record with 58 completions. Those went for 516 yards, five touchdowns and an interception (tipped by receiver Jacory Stone).

The main reason, to me, falls down to the pass rush. It was not good enough. Schmitt had all kinds of time in the pocket to make throws and was able to scramble and buy more time almost at will. The four-man pass rush just has to work better, something it has been up-and-down at all season long. Once the Chippewas started blitzing more often in the second half, the Eagles found ways to pass underneath and set up solid screens. EMU looked exceptionally prepared today. CMU didn't.

So now what? Central is likely to enter a bowl game no matter what. It's not 100 percent certain, obviously, but I don't see any way it would miss out with the Pac 10 unlikely to fill all its bowl spots. If Oregon State beats Oregon and clinches the Rose Bowl, then that conference will send two teams to the BCS (USC) and that would open TWO spots, which likely are the Hawaii Bowl and the Las Vegas Bowl. So the MAC should get a fourth bowl, and for all we know at this point, it could go to Western anyway and send CMU to GMAC.

All we can do right now is wait and see. The Chippewas end their season on two straight losses, so they have made their bed. It's all up to this final week of play, plus the MAC title game on Friday (Ball State vs. Buffalo), to decide the rest.

Central/Eastern: Halftime update

YPSILANTI, Mich. - Quick points from today's game at Rynearson Stadium:

  • Tensions flaring! I never thought I'd say this, but this is probably the most interesting game I've been to this season. Eastern Michigan is about as fired up of a team as I've seen all year, playing its last game with coach Jeff Genyk and against its biggest rival. Unfortunately, it hasn't been the classiest performance by any means. I'll get to that in a second.
  • Shootout. Well, I said Central/Eastern was going to be one of two things today, turns out it's the latter. And that is a huge understatement, especially for Eastern Michigan. Andy Schmitt is 38-for-52 for 354 yards and five touchdowns - in the first half! The NCAA Division I record for completions and attempts is held by Purdue's Drew Brees at 55-for-83, and if CMU continues to score on offense, there's no reason to think that total is in jeopardy. As for CMU's defense, this is about the worst it gets. Schmitt felt no pressure throughout the half and played pitch-and-catch with about six or seven different receivers.
  • EMU coach Jeff Genyk is something else today. Fired earlier this week, the fifth-year coach is giving it his all in his last game. I've never seen a coach celebrate so much with his players. It looked as if he was even taunting the CMU sideline, holding both of his fists up in the first quarter when his team took a 14-0 lead! When CMU was driving late in the second quarter, he had his entire team huddle during the timeout. That warranted an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, setting up a Chippewas touchdown to make it 42-35. But it was at halftime when tensions really started flaring- the two groups of players nearly clashed, and coach Butch Jones was even yelling at some EMU coaches. The Eagles will kick off very deep in their territory in the third quarter with all the flags that were thrown.
  • At least the offense is working. Quarterback Dan LeFevour is having a decent game amidst the Eagles hoopla. He is 13-for-19 for 276 yards and four touchdown passes. Also, both senior running backs Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins have had several decent runs to balance the pass out, too. Expect more of the same in the second half, which is sure to get heated.

Central/Eastern: Pregame

YPSILANTI, Mich. - We're about 15 minutes from kickoff in the regular season finale. And I'm still having a difficult time of what to make of this game.

Either one of two things is going to happen: 1) A vengeful Central team is going to pound an uninspired Eastern team that's playing with coach Jeff Genyk for the last time, or 2) We're going to have another one of those shootouts, kind of like last year's 48-45 EMU win or the 61-58 overtime win a few seasons back. The crowd here is pushing maybe 3,000, and even that might be generous.

Very few implications arise from this game, too. A CMU win would boost bowl possibilities, but it is looking like the GMAC Bowl is the most likely option no matter what. Some are indicating Ball State and Boise State officials are negotiating a battle of the undefeated mid-major teams at the Humanitarian Bowl, but even that is a bit unlikely at this point. I don't think the Cardinals would want to play their bowl game across the country, and because that bowl game is in Boise, Idaho, it's pretty much a home game for the Broncos.

Ball State is more than likely playing in the Motor City Bowl, which I'm sure would rather host a nearby No. 15 ranked ballclub than a team it's hosted the last two seasons, even if CMU did travel very well to that game. Buffalo and the International Bowl are a perfect fit, considering they're close by. That will leave CMU and WMU. It's a possibility that GMAC would take Western if CMU was to lose today, but even that is an uncertainty.

Check back for halftime updates.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

WMU/BSU: The Aftermath

All that tiebreaker talk we've went over since Ball State won at Kelly/Shorts last week, we can throw right out the window. The Cardinals took the Mid-American Conference West last night in a 45-22 win over WMU.

So basically, the Chippewas have just two more games to worry about: Eastern Michigan on Friday (which is no easy task no matter what record the Eagles have) and a bowl game.

Yes, CMU is going to a bowl game. Some people posed the question all week and I'm not even sure where the debate is on this. Central Michigan has eight wins, possibly nine after Friday, and the MAC is going to send four teams this year. Why? Look at the Pac 10. Only five teams are bowl eligible this year, and one of those teams - Arizona (6-5) - could be left out if it loses to Arizona State this weekend. Remember, every 7-5 team has to lock into a bowl before any bowl can select a 6-6 squad. Plus, if Oregon State wins, it clinches the Pac 10 title and goes to the Rose Bowl, that could mean two Pac 10 teams in the BCS if you count No. 5 ranked USC. That opens up at least a couple of extra spots in the bowl schedule, one of which is the Hawaii Bowl, where the fourth MAC team could go (Buffalo).

If I had to guess what CMU's matchup will be in the bowl game, I would say against East Carolina in the GMAC Bowl. A loss to Eastern Michigan and then we're looking at possibly Pittsburgh or Connecticut in the International Bowl.

Of course, if Buffalo beats Kent State and somehow upsets Ball State in the MAC Championship, along with a CMU loss Friday, that could stir things even further. Hawaii, anybody?

Monday, November 24, 2008

CMU-BSU game the highest-rated ESPN2 game

Last week's 31-24 Ball State win over CMU earned a 1.6 rating on ESPN2, meaning a record total of more than 1 million people watched the game last Wednesday. That's a record for Tuesday/Wednesday night games on the network.

What does that mean? Well, obviously, expect more televised midweek CMU night games next year, but I think that was a given anyway. Mid-American Conference schools constantly bite at the opportunity for national coverage these days, and they'll get it as long as teams like CMU, Ball State and Western Michigan continue to do so well.

Expect an update tomorrow (Tuesday) on what to look for from the Ball State-Western Michigan game at 7 p.m. and how it pertains to CMU's season. I may do live blogging on it, so be sure to check in for that.

EMU coach Jeff Genyk fired

Chances are, you've heard by now - I haven't been near a computer much all day today because of classes and meetings and such. But Eastern Michigan coach Jeff Genyk was fired this morning, and will coach his last game Friday when CMU rolls into town.

I'm not too surprised by the move, considering Genyk is 15-42 as coach and did not improve the team whatsoever this season. EMU is 1-9 against Football Bowl Subdivision competition, the only win coming against Bowling Green.

Despite all that, this adds a little bit more for the Eagles, knowing they are playing their last game with Genyk around. What better way to send him off than by beating rival Central Michigan? The stakes go even higher with a WMU win on Tuesday - beating CMU would kick them out of the title game and put Western in. It's a strange situation.

Just so you know, we WILL update the Western Michigan-Ball State game tomorrow on cm-life.com. The game will air on ESPN2 and ESPN 360, though.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Watching the MAC East tiebreaker

More good news for CMU fans today: Temple beat Eastern Michigan 55-52, and Ohio currently is beating Akron 28-21 in the first half.

As a reminder, should Ball State, Western Michigan and Central Michigan ALL finish at 7-1 - which is what would happen is WMU beat BSU and CMU won on Friday - the tiebreaker would come down to the combined conference record of each team's MAC East opponents.

Here's how the tiebreaker scenario is playing out, with MAC records:

CMU/WMU: Buffalo (5-2), Temple (3-4), Ohio (1-5) = 9-11

BSU: Akron (3-3), Kent State (2-5), Miami (1-6) = 6-14

Not including the finish of today's Akron-Ohio game, here's the rest of the games to watch, all on Friday, Nov. 28:

Ohio at Miami
Akron at Temple
Kent State at Buffalo

That's three games to watch, the margin at which CMU holds the tiebreaker over Ball State. An Ohio win today would make it four and therefore make the tiebreaker unreachable for the Cardinals.

So here's the scoop: If Ohio beats Akron today, it is clear - A WMU win over Ball State and a CMU win Friday sends the Chippewas to the MAC Title.

If Ohio beats Akron, BSU officially wins the MAC West with a win Tuesday, AND officially is eliminated with a loss... and Western's chances then would rest on CMU's result at Eastern. A loss to the Eagles would send the Broncos to the MAC Title.

I hope that makes things a little more clear... if Ohio loses to Akron, then next Friday's MAC East games still are worth watching.

Stay tuned.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

CMU/Ball State: Halftime Notes

CENTRAL MICHIGAN 10, BALL STATE 10

Quick points at halftime from Kelly/Shorts Stadium:

  • Solid defense. The Cardinals have made a few big plays today, but that's been expected out of a potent offense such as theirs. Nate Davis is 6-for-12 for 83 yards, a good sign for CMU's defense as long as it can keep that up. But there were some plays where he felt no pressure - which you can attribute to Ball State's excellent line protection. But that's what CMU needs to penetrate if it wants to have more success.
  • Strange officiating. There were a couple of penalties against CMU that were serious question marks. On one play in the first quarter, a clear-as-day facemask on Dan LeFevour was overlooked in favor of a holding call on CMU. That play should've been an offset penalty, at best. Later on, a late hit was called on Kirkston Edwards, although he clearly pulled a Ball State receiver by momentum. That led to a Ball State touchdown to make the score 7-0.
  • Again... keep it up. CMU's playing with the Cardinals, which is what it wants to do. But with Ball State's powerful offense, it can explode at any time, so Central can't lose its focus in the second half. The situation's different from NIU, sure, but you really don't know what to expect. That's been evident each week concerning CMU football. The snow is starting to fall here, too, so that could make the field a little more slick. (The weather had little to no effect in the first half, just a couple of slips here and there)

Check back at cm-life.com for a special Web edition after the game!

CMU/Ball State: Pregame Notes

It's official: CMU is donning gold jerseys with maroon pants tonight against BSU.

I don't have any pictures right now, but they don't look too bad. Some people disagree, though. Sports Information told me this is not a one-time thing: These jerseys will more than likely be used as alternate home jerseys one time per year.

As for the game itself, it's a media madhouse in here. I've never seen this press box full, and today it's looking like it's filling to the brim. Scouts from the Detroit Lions, Indianapolis Colts and Chicago Bears are here, and ESPN's crew is all over the place.

We're about 30 minutes until kickoff and the stadium is filling at a decent rate. I'd expect between 20,000 and 25,000, easily. And the weather, which was somewhat of a concern over the last week, isn't TOO bad... the field is kind of slick, but the temperatures aren't that cold and the wind isn't that strong. So I wouldn't expect it to play a big factor tonight.

Just a reminder that the game's on ESPN2... so if you're not at the stadium or not near a TV, be sure to check cm-life.com for real-time updates from today's game, and also this blog for halftime and postgame notes!

CMU/Ball State:Gold out?

If you go to CMUChippewas.com, you will (finally) see a splash page for the game today, advertising... gold jerseys?

It seems interesting that they would decide to put this up on game day, without much prior notice. Not only that, but I've heard speculation from several people that the team might do something different in this game, although I haven't really heard what.

Although in my opinion, these jerseys look pretty ugly... don't be surprised to see the team flash gold instead of the traditional maroon tonight. It certainly would give the night some extra kick for CMU fans.

CMU/Ball State: All over the press

Here's a few articles around the web to get you ready for the big game tonight, which kicks off in less than five hours:

Preview from Midwest Sports Fans


Preview from College Football News

Yahoo! Sports has Dan LeFevour on its front with a link to its preview.

Preview from USA Today

Column by Mike Rosenberg
, which details each Michigan team (go to "The other game")

Preview from Bleacher Report

Preview from The Football Expert (at the top)

Preview from MLive.com


If you want to find more, a good idea is to go to Google News, type in Ball State or Central Michigan along with the word football.

Otherwise, hope to see you at the game tonight!

CMU/Ball State: NCAA 09's Prediction, and more

NCAA 09, at 6-3 this season in picks, is picking another close one.

Ball State opened up fast, taking a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter. CMU's lone score came on a 57-yard run by senior Ontario Sneed to begin scoring, but the Cardinals would open up with three consecutive touchdowns: a one-yard pass from Nate Davis to Darius Hill, an interception return by linebacker Wendell Brown and a 13-yard pass from Davis to receiver Torieal Gibson.

CMU did kick a 26-yard field goal (Andrew Aguila) to cut the lead to 21-10 at halftime.

The Chippewas would take the lead in the third quarter, thanks to two Dan LeFevour touchdown passes: An 11-yard strike to Bryan Anderson and an 8-yard strike to Antonio Brown to make the score 24-21 at the end of three.

Cornerback Kirkston Edwards would return an 8-yard interception for a touchdown in the fourth to put CMU ahead 31-21 before a 4-yard pass from Davis to Hill closed it to 31-28. Aguila then kicks a 40-yard field goal, much like he did to cap off scoring last week, and CMU doesn't look back.

The Chippewas win 34-28.

Sneed, in his final game at Kelly/Shorts, runs for 106 yards and a touchdown on 24 carries. LeFevour had a decent game, completing 24-of-32 passes for 311 yards and 2 touchdowns, albeit 2 interceptions as well.

My pick, as you saw in today's edition of CM Life, was CMU 31, Ball State 30.

I came extremely close to picking Ball State in this one. People argue that CMU's pass defense is too suspect and that Nate Davis is going to rack up all kinds of yardage, much in the same way as WMU's Tim Hiller did a month ago. I would agree that Davis is going to have a good night. But even Hiller, despite throwing for 470 yards, didn't beat CMU.

As statistically bad as Central's pass defense is, it has not lost a single game this year. The team lost to Georgia and Purdue by virtue of their run games, with the latter escaping because of a late 46-yard run by Kory Sheets. The pass defense fared particularly well against Curtis Painter, a guy who torched the Chippewas twice last season.

Therefore, I honestly do not see Ball State winning on Nate Davis' arm. If the Cardinals win today, it will come down to running back MiQuale Lewis and how well the Chippewas stop him, especially late in the game. Very few offensive teams do well without the presence of a run game (one exception, obviously, was Brian Brunner vs. Indiana) and if BSU can not depend on that, it is just not going to keep up with Central. But that is obviously more difficult than it sounds; I think Lewis will have some success tonight.

I think what will prevail tonight is swagger. Ball State is on a roll, true, but with the 112th strongest schedule in the nation out of 120 teams, it's largely unproven in games of this magnitude. Central is the toughest team it will have played to date - it's on the road, it's in the cold, and CMU knows how to win these tough games already. That's why I eventually decided to go with Central.

Besides, my own 10-0 record (in picking CMU games) is on the line, too. So either mine or Ball State's is going down tonight.

Monday, November 17, 2008

CMU/Ball State: The week is here... technically

We're about 48 hours away until CMU and Ball State kick off at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Although you honestly could not tell around here.

Ball State is revving up its fans. Are we?

It is interesting to note that for quite possibly the biggest game in the history of Kelly/Shorts Stadium, the promotion for it has been scarce, at best. CMUChippewas.com has no intro page with a game graphic on it. I have not walked around campus much today, but there's no bulletin board advertising, sidewalk chalking (although today would've been a bad day for that) or anything from what I saw. It's as if this game is being treated as just another home game. Is that how CMU wants fans to perceive it?

With temperatures projecting to go as low as 20 degrees and snow in the forecast, doing virtually nothing extra to promote this game does not sound like the greatest idea. People need to know the magnitude of this game if they're going to show up under these conditions.

I wrote a column in today's CM Life, which I guess could provide as a promotion. Although really, if you're a student at all following or supporting the team and you have nothing planned that night, there is no reason for you to skip out on it.

But let's talk about the game itself. A couple of questions to answer for now:

1. What is it about Ball State that makes it 10-0?
Obviously, this team has good players. Quarterback Nate Davis is in the top tier of MAC quarterbacks and tailback MiQuale Lewis is in the top tier of MAC running backs. Darius Hill is the best tight end, and the offensive and defensive lines are some of the best of the mid-major schools. All of those guys make this team one of the best in the conference alone... but it's not as if CMU has not faced good skill players this year. What separates Ball State is the little things it does. The Cardinals haven't been flagged for a penalty in three consecutive games now. Not a single false start, or offsides, or delay of game. None. They don't give teams free yards or first downs - they make you work for everything. They're also 18th in the country in turnover margin, with 18 forced and 10 lost. Simply put, this virtually is a mistake-free football team during most games, which makes beating it all the more difficult.

2. How will the cold weather play an impact?
At this moment, forecasters are projecting mid-20's temperatures Wednesday evening with a chance of flurries and winds up to 15-20 miles per hour. Obviously, the field is going to be slick nonetheless, and both teams are going to have to warm up on the sideline. If anything, the weather is going to make this game more physical. It's especially critical to stop MiQuale Lewis from raking yards on the ground. CMU, with the 2nd-best rush defense in the country, absolutely has to eliminate that portion of Ball State's offense if it wants to have any success. That's just half the battle, because Nate Davis is certainly capable of taking over a football game himself, but the weather could play a role in the passing attack, especially if it is windy. Davis has a tendency to float his longer throws more than most quarterbacks, so he will have to make an adjustment and put some zip on his passes.

As for the CMU offense, it is the exact opposite: It has to get its run game going. Quarterback Dan LeFevour will have to use his legs more often than in most games. And senior Ontario Sneed, in front of his Mount Pleasant fans for the last time, should have some extra intensity for Sneed's Creed to be proud of. What really should separate CMU's offense, however, is its ability to use the short passing game. I would expect LeFevour to utilize sophomore wideout Antonio Brown more often with the short, safe outlet passes.


I'm going to post the NCAA 09 pick by tomorrow afternoon, hopefully with a more extended analysis. I believe the game is 6-3 in picks now. I'm still 10-0 after getting last weeks' game correct, and that one will come Wednesday morning when CM Life publishes the position-by-position breakdown.

Also be sure to check the Web site for CM Life SportsLine with myself and staff reporter Justin Berndt on Wednesday.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

AP Poll: CMU No. 29 with 13 votes

Some more good news for CMU today: Its vote count is up to 13 in the Associated Press Top 25, one more than WMU and good for No. 29 in the country.

The USA Today Poll finally gave recognition, too, giving Central three votes. WMU got 16. But this poll usually is less forgiving of mid-major schools.

Friday, November 14, 2008

CMU/NIU: Afterthoughts

I know it's a couple of days after the 33-30 overtime win Wednesday night, but it's been a busy couple of days for me. We got back into Mount Pleasant at 7 a.m. the following morning, and starting that early afternoon, it was time to put a Friday newspaper together. Plus, it was my 22nd birthday, so my folks came up from home and I had dinner with them ... you know the drill.

There's a few points to take from this game, because CMU is going to play arguably its most important game in years on Wednesday. More on that later.

  • Blowing the lead. This was something I warned about during the halftime notes, when CMU held a 23-3 lead, and it was a sentiment that stuck with me even when it had a 30-6 lead in the third quarter. Northern Illinois is a very, very dangerous team, simply by virtue of its coach, Jerry Kill. With this team's back against the wall, it will attack in any way it can. And unfortunately, the Chippewas fell victim to not one onside kick, but two, and NIU easily recovered both. Who's to blame for that? The coaches. Coach Butch Jones said after the game that the team was prepared for both. The first onside kick recovery was forgivable. But from looking at replays, there was little evidence of preparation even for the second kick. You may have expected it - a lot of other people sure did - but that is not the same as appropriately preparing for it. Granted, kicker Mike Salerno did a heck of a job getting the right bounce, but there is no reason to not have a CMU player in the right position to make a play anyway. There were two white jerseys in the vicinity, and one took a massive block, leaving one CMU player and a horde of Huskies. The second onside kick was the key play of NIU's comeback for several reasons: It kept CMU's offense off the field for a long time, it kept the defense on the field for a long time, and bada-bing, the Huskies cut the deficit to 30-20 with plenty of time on the clock.
  • Since Ball State ripped NIU 45-14, and CMU barely escaped the same team, does that prove BSU is a better team and will undoubtedly win Wednesday? Not at all. A few things to consider: Northern Illinois' gameplan against Central, in part, was based on its trip to Muncie, Ind. Like I mentioned before, NIU's back was against the wall on Wednesday, having the Ball State loss tallied and facing a big deficit to CMU. There was absolutely nothing to lose at that point. I would argue that had those two games switched, NIU would not have been so quick to try onside kicks and fake punt reverses, all of which keyed the comeback against the Chippewas. We could be looking at a much different recap of the NIU/CMU game in that case.
  • What now? Obviously, there are flaws to correct before Ball State comes to town. I don't have a prediction ready until Tuesday or Wednesday morning, but I am expecting Central to come out strong for its home finale. And should this game get close, keep in mind that the Cardinals have virtually no close game experience this season, while the Chippewas have tons of it. Not one time has quarterback Nate Davis played with his back against the wall this year. That alone could affect how he plays, or how everybody else on the team plays. Of course BSU remembers the 58-38 loss to CMU last season and that will provide extra motivation.
  • But Ball State has more to lose Wednesday. A loss not only blemishes its perfect season - it keeps it out of the MAC Championship. Central clinches the division with a win because it would own head-to-head tiebreakers over both BSU and WMU should it lose to Eastern the following week. A CMU loss would NOT keep the Chippewas out - they would obviously need a win at Eastern, but get this - They would need Western Michigan to win out, including against Ball State in the finale. That would open a three-way tie between CMU, WMU and BSU at 7-1 in the MAC and 4-1 in the West division, and it would all come down to the conference winning percentage of each team's MAC East opponents. Because Buffalo, a CMU and WMU opponent, beat Akron, a BSU opponent, on Thursday, as of right now Ball State (MAC East crossovers: 6-12) would be out of the picture, and CMU would beat WMU (MAC East crossovers: 7-11) because of the head-to-head tiebreaker. Both teams played the same MAC East teams.
  • Other direct MAC East games to worry about, in this case: All of these on Nov. 28: Kent State at Buffalo, Miami (Ohio) at Ohio and Akron at Temple. If you are a CMU fan, you want every home team to win these games. In fact, you want Buffalo, Ohio and Temple to win as many games as possible in the final two weeks, considering they all play MAC opponents. Who you DON'T want to win: Kent State, Miami (Ohio) and Akron, all BSU opponents that could affect the tiebreaker.
Hope that clears everything up for now - anything can happen in these final two weeks. CMU could make it simple and clinch the West outright with a victory Wednesday, but that is not going to come easy by any means.

Also, there is a new poll to the right.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

CMU/NIU: Halftime Notes

DEKALB, Ill. - CENTRAL MICHIGAN 23, NORTHERN ILLINOIS 3

Quick points from tonight's game at Huskie Stadium:

  • Defense. Collectively, this unit is the MVP thus far. Last season, it gave up more than 500 yards to the Huskies, despite only 10 points - this time, it has not allowed NIU to get much of anything - 81 total offensive yards, in fact. Its only score, a field goal, came after returner Ricky Crider took a kickoff 75 yards to CMU's 20-yard line - and a facemask penalty moved the ball up 10 yards. The defense's response? A 4-play, -12 yard drive for Northern Illinois.
  • LeFevour is back to his old ways. Looks like Dan's ankles are holding up pretty well. He's already got 93 yards on 14 carries, plus a touchdown. His running ability is the difference-maker for the offense's success so far - the Huskies have not had an answer for the junior quarterback. There was one third-down play in the second quarter in which he converted a 3rd-and-12 with a 13-yard run. He's showing excellent instinct on the field.
  • So is the offensive line. Although NIU's tough front four have gotten through on a few plays, overall CMU's offensive line is playing tremendous. That's especially helping out senior tailback Ontario Sneed, whose burst through the middle also is putting a dent in the Huskies' defense. He's got 62 yards on nine carries. Against the toughest defense in the MAC, Central has put up 336 yards of total offense in one half of play. A lot of that is attributed to the front line.
  • Keep it up. Central carries a good-size lead into halftime, but this Northern Illinois squad is tough and has plenty of close-game experience this season. Coach Jerry Kill should have that team fired up in the second half. I wouldn't be surprised one bit if they come back and make this a nail-biter, especially in their final home MAC game.

CMU/NIU: Pregame (LeFevour expected to start)

DEKALB, Ill. - First of all, I heard from CMU Sports Information that junior quarterback Dan LeFevour is expected to start against NIU tonight. After the way Brunner has performed, it is almost like it does not matter who starts for Central as of late, but it's good to see LeFevour back to full health (or at least very close to).

And again, I have to put out the NCAA 09 pick quickly since I simulated the game this morning before heading south: CMU 34, NIU 21.

The drive down here was actually pretty quick, if not for a little Chicago rush hour traffic heading out to the suburbs. We got here about an hour and a half before the game. That's not so bad. We're about 15 minutes away from kickoff and as of right now, we don't see much of a crowd. There's definitely a "blackout" on the opposite bleachers, though.

If there's any MAC city that feels like Mount Pleasant, it is DeKalb. It's virtually the same size, with a street full of strip malls like Mission Street and the stadium on the left side when you come in from the south, just like Kelly/Shorts. The stadium's a tad smaller, particularly in capacity, but it's pretty nice. At the north end is the Jeffrey & Kimberly Yordon Center, which houses the weight training rooms and such, and from here it looks very nice. Better than some of the other MAC stadiums I've seen the last two years, that's for sure.

This game is on ESPN2, so if you have that, be sure to tune in. And be sure to check back here for halftime and (hopefully) postgame coverage from the game. Feel free to comment with some of your own thoughts if you'd like! We're doing real-time updates on cm-life.com, too, so keep updated there, too.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

AP Top 25: WMU 6 votes, CMU 5

Make that three Mid-American Conference schools with at least one vote in the AP Top 25. WMU secured six votes after beating Illinois 23-17 at Ford Field on Saturday, while CMU trails with five. The Broncos also received five votes in the USA Today poll to the Chippewas' none. And Ball State moves up to No. 14.

Why WMU ahead of CMU? Well, it's pretty simple, actually: Few voters outside of Michigan take CMU's 38-28 win over WMU into consideration. If one of these mid-major teams beats a BCS team, people notice; that's the exact reason why Central got a vote last week when it beat Indiana. Plus, it didn't help that the Chippewas didn't play over the weekend, either. 

Either way, CMU's real shot at a ranking lies on Nov. 19, as long as it beats NIU heading into that game. Ball State will not lose to Miami (Ohio), so it will more than likely go into Mount Pleasant at 10-0.

Speaking of which... you heard it here first on Sept. 14 that Ball State was walking in here 9-1 or better. I guess I am not so bad at these long-term projections! 

Back to Western. Obviously, it was impressive of the Broncos to pull off a victory over the Illini, and I'm not surprised they received votes. But with the respect the MAC has, it would not surprise me whatsoever if voters overlooked the Central-Western game. That would have made some think twice about ranking Western at #25 instead of Central. 

In other MAC action, Bowling Green was back up to its Jekyll-and-Hyde ways, playing a sound game Saturday and beating Ohio 28-3. But the MAC East still looks like it is between Akron and Buffalo. They play on Thursday, Nov. 13 (my birthday, no less). 

Thursday, November 6, 2008

CMU-BSU salivating, but NIU stands in the way

From Friday's edition of CM Life:

Wednesday was the first night in which I could finally see what the fuss was all about in Muncie, Ind.

That is the home of the No. 16 ranked Ball State Cardinals, a MAC West rival that not only beat their first eight opponents — they dismantled them. Being a football beat writer that has to focus on one team, my only connection with Ball State games this season consisted of cell phone updates and ticker scores.

The Cardinals hosted Northern Illinois on ESPN2 in what looked like a promising defensive showdown between two of the Mid-American Conference's best. First-year coach Jerry Kill had NIU (5-4, 4-2 MAC) in every game this season just one year removed from a 2-10 record.

That is, until he ran into Ball State (9-0, 5-0 MAC).

And after watching Ball State crush NIU 45-17, it is safe to say that team is every bit as good as its ranking suggests. It is for real.

Quarterback Nate Davis looked nothing like the guy I saw in last season's 58-38 loss to CMU. In that game, he missed wide-open receivers, overthrew others and found himself constantly running out of the pocket and scrambling to make a play.

On Wednesday, this guy was the football equivalent of Superman. He sat in the pocket with absolute ease and torched the vaunted Huskies secondary, going 18-for-22 for 300 yards and four touchdowns.

The man in the backfield, MiQuale Lewis, entered the game the MAC's leading rusher and it showed. He cut through NIU's defensive line like paper with 119 yards on just 19 carries.

Receiver Louis Johnson had a 71-yard touchdown reception in the third quarter called back because his left foot went out of bounds at the 37-yard line. What does he do the very next play? Catch a 22-yard touchdown pass (a 15-yard NIU facemask penalty was enforced).

Let’s put it this way: Northern Illinois entered the game giving up 8.2 points per game. Ball State scored six times that, all of it in three quarters and one minute.

In short, this Cardinals team, carrying the newfound demeanor of a quintessential winning team, picked apart the MAC’s best defense and looks just about unstoppable. Chances are, it is going to do the same next week at Miami University and enter Mount Pleasant on Nov. 19 with a 10-0 record and a top-15 ranking.

That will set up arguably the MAC’s biggest game since the days of Marshall and Toledo a few years ago. The ranked, undefeated favorites against the veteran two-time defending conference champions fighting for the MAC West title.

But there is one catch. As Chippewas coach Butch Jones and his players will tell you, they are not even thinking about Nov. 19 yet. They have Northern Illinois to deal with first on Wednesday, a matchup that has all the makings of a trap game.

Okay, so it is a bit tough to talk up a team that just got shellacked on national television. But that is the point.

The Huskies are going to come back refocused. They get CMU at Huskie Stadium, in one of the most difficult MAC environments. They are still the same grind-it-out force that thrives on physicality and beating teams no matter what the conditions are like.

Yeah, they looked pretty bad against the Cardinals. But so did Indiana and Toledo, both of which gave CMU fits in later games.

The next two weeks have more significance to them than just Wednesday games. They not only decide CMU's three-peat bid - they decide CMU's Top 25 bid. The latter game has all the makings of Kelly/Shorts Stadium's biggest showdown in years.

But one game on Nov. 12 in DeKalb, Ill., stands in the way.

sports@cm-life.com

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Tuesday Topics

Happy election day, everybody! Hopefully, you made (or will make) your way out to the voting booths and made your voice heard in this year's races. I am lending my online duties to CM Life today to help take care of all our election coverage tonight.

But first - football.

Speaking of voting, senior quarterback Brian Brunner's up for yet another National Player of the Week award: USA Today's. He currently leads the fan voting with a considerable lead over TTU's Graham Harrell, who won the publication's award. He certainly deserves credit, too, for throwing for 474 yards against the No. 1 team in the nation. That's not easy to do, obviously.

There's a couple of topics I'd like to get to for today's update. I'll probably update again tomorrow with some more coverage on Ball State-Northern Illinois tomorrow. Hopefully I can catch the last half of that game (night class).

Without further ado...

1. Is there a quarterback controversy? This was a topic brought up prior to CMU's game at Toledo, when some speculated that junior Dan LeFevour was in danger of losing his job to Brunner, who at the time led the team to big wins over Temple and Western Michigan. A little bit of that resurfaced this week because of Brunner's monster 485-yard performance at Indiana.

I seriously doubt there is a controversy. That's nothing against Brunner - his performance was spectacular in both the Indiana and WMU games, and as I mentioned to some co-workers earlier, he really could start on most MAC squads. I've always thought he had the talent to start this football team, just never really had the chance to do it because of how well LeFevour was playing. The only thing is, LeFevour has the job, and he hasn't done a thing to lose it. He played very well against Toledo and was 10-for-11 before going down at Temple. I just think with the way Brunner is playing as of late, there's much more incentive to rest LeFevour and make sure he's 100 percent before putting him back on the field. And should LeFevour struggle in any of the next three games, I'm sure coach Butch Jones would not have a problem with giving Brunner some snaps and seeing if he can get going.

It's certainly a good problem to have, because both of those guys can command the team as well as the other. That is why they're both captains. It is uncertain who will start against NIU, and it would not surprise me if they went with LeFevour or let him rest some more.

2. How is the MAC West race shaping up? A lot of that depends on the clash between No. 16 Ball State and Northern Illinois on Wednesday night. If the Huskies lose, they're all but done. With how competitive this group of teams is, a team with one loss or fewer will emerge as the MAC West representative at Ford Field.

If you are a CMU fan, you obviously want NIU to win so the Chippewas have sole possession of the division as the only undefeated MAC team. That would make a possible NIU loss the following week a little more bearable. But a BSU win sure would not hurt, either, because that would further open the opportunity to play an undefeated, ranked Ball State team at Kelly/Shorts.

Speaking of that game, chances are the MAC West is going to depend on that game the most. Ball State's not going to lose more than one MAC game, so it's really up to Central to beat the Cardinals and hold the tiebreaker should both teams end the year on one loss.

Then there's Western Michigan, which sits at 5-1 in the MAC. This team's in a real pickle. To win outright, it needs CMU to lose twice (tiebreaker) and Ball State to lose at least once before the two teams play at the end of the year. Whether that game plays a critical role obviously depends on what happens the next couple of weeks. That's the best we can do at this point. It's so wide-open, there's no telling who will represent the MAC, even with Ball State undefeated and ranked.

Monday, November 3, 2008

Toledo coach Tom Amstutz to step down

Sources say "Toledo Tom" Amstutz is stepping down as the Rockets head coach, according to ESPN.com.

I was shocked to hear the news, even with Toledo at 2-6. Amstutz has been in that program since he was a lineman and has as much love for his university as any other head football coach in the Mid-American Conference. He made Toledo into a powerhouse earlier in the decade, winning multiple MAC championships and earning rankings in the Top 25 polls.

It looks as if he is going to take another position within the university, though. Wish him good luck on his future endeavors - the man is one of the better minds in college football today, for sure.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

CMU/Indiana: The Day After

The trip from Mount Pleasant to Bloomington is longer than it seems. We took a four-person car down to the game on Saturday, starting at 5 a.m. - bright and early - and we did not get back home until about 11 p.m. I told my roommate, once I got home, that I was going to take about a half hour to shut my eyes for a little bit. Next thing I know, my clock reads 8:30 a.m.

Okay, so it was actually 7:30 a.m. because of the time change, but that's still a long nap! It was a long day indeed, and for CMU, a fulfilling one. The Chippewas finally beat a Big Ten team, and really, it came two months too late. Flashback to Sept. 20. As you probably know, they led Purdue 25-23 with 1:18 to go in that game, only to lose on one long kickoff return and one long touchdown run by Kory Sheets.

CMU wasn't about to let that happen again. The defense played phenomenally in the fourth quarter on Saturday. Out the door were the three- and four-man rushes that were putting little pressure on IU quarterbacks Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell, and in were the blitz calls which kept Chappell running and making poor decisions. One was defensive back Kirkston Edwards' interception.

Despite Indiana's 272-yard rushing performance, that was the main difference in the game: Line play. It almost always comes down to that. This time, it did in the fourth quarter. Once guys at the line started tackling the running backs better, that meant IU had to throw the ball. And once guys like defensive end Mark Dietz (three sacks) started getting to Chappell and Lewis and forcing them to run out of the pocket, that set the Hoosiers off balance, especially when they had Chappell in the game.

As for the offense, everything that could be said about senior quarterback Brian Brunner was. He was about as good as you can get for a backup quarterback (and was nominated for AT&T All-America Player of the Week). But the real question heading into this week is the running game. Senior Ontario Sneed and freshman Bryan Schroeder virtually had no holes to run through on Saturday and could not seem to get going. The Chippewas actually had negative yardage on the ground heading into the fourth quarter of play. It has been a Jekyll-and-Hyde act all season at this position. This time, though, they're thankful to have Brunner around.

Later tonight or tomorrow, I hope to put the MAC in perspective a little bit since the season, believe it or not, is coming down to its final stretch. There's three games left for most teams and things still are wide open in both the East and West divisions! I hope you all had a good weekend, and make sure to vote in the above poll, if you haven't already.

(And, of course, in Tuesday's election. That's pretty important, too.)

CMU earns vote in AP Top 25

Just a quick update, for the moment: CMU officially has one vote in this week's AP Top 25.

To me, that's much sooner than expected, even with the IU win yesterday. I would've thought that a win against NIU in a week and a half would solidify a few votes. But I'm sure the team will take it. Technically, it's ranked #36 in the nation.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

CMU/Indiana: Halftime Notes

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - Quick points at halftime from Memorial Stadium:

  • Porous defense early. Indiana used a wide array of runners in the first half and it seemed each of them had success against Central. Tailback Marcus Thigpen has more than 100 rushing yards already, many coming from his 77-yard scamper in the first quarter that made it 14-7. The main issue here, yet again, is tackling - CMU missed several tackles, some of which could have saved touchdowns or big-play yardage. While the Hoosiers have just 98 passing yards, they really have not utilized that part of their game (6-for-9 combined between quarterbacks Kellen Lewis and Ben Chappell). The Chippewas just need to tackle better and keep putting pressure on the quarterback. That's all it takes; Indiana's not good enough to overcome that.
  • Outstanding performance by Brunner. Junior Dan LeFevour's absence barely affected the offense today in terms of scoring. Here's senior quarterback Brian Brunner's stat line after just one half: 24-for-32, 248 yards, three touchdowns. He is singlehandedly keeping Central in the game. Two or three of his passes were near-interceptions, but because he is throwing so accurately, those passes were complete, including a 16-yard lob to Joe Bockheim to tie the game late in the half. His play is key so far.
  • The absence of senior right tackle Greg Wojt shows. CMU has just two rushing yards. Tailbacks Ontario Sneed and Bryan Schroeder have a combined 7 rushes for 0 yards, many of which were stuffed because of Indiana defenders breaking through. This also applied to the pass, where Brunner struggled to stay comfortable in the pocket late in the second quarter. The offensive line just need to protect the run and the pass better if the Chippewas are going to continue scoring.
  • Despite their struggles, the Chippewas still have a tie. It's obviously important not to get down. It's a tie game, and CMU gets the ball to start the second half. Start it off right, and build some momentum on defense. That's the key to winning the first Big Ten game in 16 years.

CMU/Indiana: Interesting developments already

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - First of all, senior quarterback Brian Brunner is in right now. Apparently, he took most of the reps during practice this week and junior Dan LeFevour is not quite 100 percent, according to Sports Information. More word on that later.

CMU recovered an Indiana fumble on the Hoosiers' 35-yard line, but could not do much of anything on the drive. More to come from Memorial Stadium.

CMU/Indiana: Pregame Notes

BLOOMINGTON, Ind. - First of all, NCAA 09's prediction: Indiana 35, CMU 26.

The game's 5-2 thus far in predicting games - it picked Buffalo and WMU to win its respective games at CMU, but CMU prevailed in both. My prediction is CMU 34, Indiana 28 - I'm still perfect on the season (8-0), but this is probably the closest game I've had to pick thus far, maybe besides Central-Western.

The weather, for a November game, is gorgeous. Hot and sunny. Problem is, this is a stadium that seats almost 50,000 and it is nowhere close to filling to capacity. And we're 15 minutes from kickoff. I understand this is a basketball school, and the football team is playing subpar this year, but you'd think, especially after it beat a ranked school, more people would come out to this game. I'm guessing 25,000 tops by the time the game kicks into gear, which is unusual for a Big Ten school.

A couple of injury updates: Junior safety Eric Fraser (concussion) and senior right tackle Greg Wojt (leg) are out today, it looks like. Also, IU quarterback Kellen Lewis is starting.

Nothing else to update, at this point. We started driving at 5 a.m., so we're pretty anxious for this game to start. Personally, I'm not looking forward to the drive back whatsoever. Enjoy the game, and be sure to stay posted on here and on cm-life.com!

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

CMU/Indiana: Purdue Part Deux?

(Edited 11:30 p.m. Thursday)

If you are a CMU fan, you more than likely remember the last time the football team played a Big Ten squad.

The Chippewas were on the brink of victory at Purdue, a team that scored a combined 96 points in its two 2007 wins against them. Quarterback Curtis Painter, a man who torched the CMU secondary in 2007, faced a downhill pass rush he never saw out of the maroon and gold before.

And with just 1:18 remaining on the clock at Ross-Ade Stadium, Central had the lead, 25-24.

But yet again, the first Big Ten win in 16 years and the first-ever Bowl Championship Series win eluded Central. The Boilermakers scored on one offensive play. And the Chippewas went home as 32-25 losers teased out of glory.

Another chance, however, comes at noon Saturday. The team returns to Indiana to face a Big Ten team. This time, it's the Hoosiers of Bloomington, Ind. - a team that dropped five of its last six games.

Nobody in the CMU football program is going to say it. Yeah, it is a non-conference game. It has no say on who will represent the Mid-American Conference West Division in the MAC Championship game, the team's main goal.

But if this team wants national respect, it simply has to win Saturday. No ifs, ands or buts. This is it.

Why?

1. Indiana is 3-5 overall, including 1-4 in the Big Ten. One win came against the FCS' Murray State. Another came from Western Kentucky, a former FCS team converting to FBS. The Hoosiers, despite their talent, are a mediocre BCS team, whether or not it starts fleet-footed quarterback Kellen Lewis. Yet they're still 2.5-point favorites to win Saturday, which goes to show how much respect CMU has from the Vegas betters right now.

2. A MAC team already walked out of Bloomington with a win. That would be No. 16 ranked Ball State, which routed Indiana 42-20 on Sept. 20 for its first-ever BCS win. We know the game of football is more complex than comparing common opponents. But a CMU loss here would look foolish in comparison to BSU, and would kill the little national respect it has right now.

3. That Sept. 20 loss at Purdue is looking worse and worse. The Boilermakers hosted CMU one week after they nearly toppled then-No. 16 ranked Oregon in overtime. We thought they were a good team. Not anymore. Purdue, now 2-6 overall, has not won a single game since escaping CMU, or even come close for that matter. It is a Big Ten-worst 0-4 - worse than Indiana. Central needs people to forget that loss. Winning Saturday will help that.

4. CMU needs to keep its win streak going. Because after Indiana, the team plays its two biggest games of the year - Nov. 12 at NIU (5-3, 4-1 MAC) and Nov. 19 vs. Ball State (8-0, 4-0 MAC). A loss in either game and chances are that three-peat bid will pack its bags and kiss CMU goodbye. A milestone win is a good way to go into these games, barring any letdowns.

5. If the Chippewas win out, they're ranked. You heard it here first, unless BSU enters Mount Pleasant with a loss. In this scenario, CMU would beat its first Big Ten team and first ranked opponent in the program's Division I history. And assuming the Big Ten sends a team to the Motor City Bowl (chances are, it will send either Iowa or Illinois), if CMU wins that, it will go 12-2, 9-0 in the MAC and finish somewhere between No. 23 and 25 on the AP Top 25 and/or the coaches' poll. You heard it here first.

That would do wonders for the MAC, a conference stuck in the basement of the FBS.

And coach Butch Jones, who set the goal of an AP Top 25 ranking right from the get-go of his head coaching career, would complete his legacy in just two seasons.

But, of course, it comes down to Saturday first.

Indiana. A Big Ten team.

Can CMU finally do it? We will see.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

CMU/Indiana: Kellen Lewis to start?

First of all, an update on Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis. IU coach Bill Lynch is mum on who will start Saturday, saying as much as "I don't know." Lewis missed the last couple of weeks with a high ankle sprain, paving the way for backup Ben Chappell.

Does this matter, considering Chappell led IU over a ranked Northwestern team last week? Yes, considering Lewis, with 404 yards on 57 attempts, is the team's leading rusher despite playing in two less games than starting running back Marcus Thigpen. Any team that has to deal with junior quarterback Dan LeFevour and the CMU offense can attest to this: Dealing with a running quarterback blows open a completely different dimension to an offense. While CMU already beat a mobile quarterback in Ohio's Boo Jackson, he's not a LeFevour or a Lewis. Those guys can really scramble and open holes in the secondary - a simple scramble to the outside can cause a defender to lose his man. 

Chappell is a much better matchup for Central. He's not a dominating passer, completing just 52.2 percent of his passes, but as already mentioned, he did beat Northwestern. That counts for something.

Within the next 24 hours, my hope is to get into the whole "Purdue part deux" topic a little bit - does CMU absolutely have to win this game to earn some national respect? I'll write about that on Wednesday.