Monday, September 29, 2008

CMU-Buffalo: Burning Questions

1. Could the bye week have come at a better time?
Probably not. It's apparent that CMU is fighting injuries right now, the most glaring area being the wide receiver position. Not having junior Bryan Anderson for the game hurt the Chippewas passing attack big time on Saturday(152 passing yards) and later, junior Jean Pitts was banged up. Even senior running back Ontario Sneed played a little injured Saturday, with a bruise in his left quad. But as good as senior Joe Bockheim and sophomore Antonio Brown are, Anderson is the deep man and plays his part in keeping defenses off balance by making them watch the long ball. Junior quarterback Dan LeFevour was very efficient against Buffalo - 21-for-26 - but his longest pass was 16 yards. That said it all, to me.

2. What do you make of the defense the last two games?
I mentioned after the 32-25 loss to Purdue that the defense was the best I saw it in the year-and-a-half I've covered the team thus far. It wasn't much different against Buffalo, especially in the first half when CMU's offense couldn't get going. To hold Buffalo to an opening field goal was critical in keeping the team in the game, something the defense wasn't especially known for doing last year. One trend that's getting worrisome, though: The defense has given up four fourth-quarter touchdowns of 40 yards or longer in the last three games. The latest was tailback James Starks on Saturday, when he took a screen 65 yards for the score within the final two minutes. As good as it's playing, the defense needs to clamp down in those late-game situations if it wants to win some of those critical MAC West games coming up.

3. Who was Saturday's unsung heroes?
The legs of the team - kicker Andrew Aguila and punter Brett Hartmann. As much as he's criticized for his inconsistency, Aguila made two critical field-goal kicks against Buffalo - one in the second quarter to put CMU's first points on the board and another in the fourth quarter to give the team a 20-18 lead. It took both of those kicks to give the Chippewas the edge in this game. As for Hartmann, even when his punt was blocked in the second quarter, he ran after the ball and swiped it out of the end zone for the safety, keeping the Bulls from recovering the ball for a touchdown. That's a heads-up play we were used to seeing out of veteran punter Tony Mikulec the previous few seasons.

4. What do you make of the weekend's MAC results?
While CMU is still the team to beat in terms of it being the two-time defending champions, Ball State is the class of the conference right now. The Cardinals have scorched every team they've played, including Kent State 41-20 on Saturday, and are probably a couple wins away from cracking the Top 25. I would say that they have a test coming up at Toledo, but the Rockets are coming off a bad game, losing to a mediocre FIU team at home 35-16, so they're largely unproven, too. Western Michigan's defense was in top form at Temple, holding the Owls to a field goal, but couldn't get its offense going (7). Bowling Green is back on track after a 45-16 win at Wyoming. Akron's looking like a dark horse candidate after nearly beating Cincinnati on Saturday, but coming up short 17-15.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

CM Life SportsLine

Hey everybody,

Be sure to check http://www.cm-life.com on Monday for a recap of Saturday's game at Buffalo. Two videos are going up - a highlight video, including the final game-ending field goal attempt by Buffalo, and a video of reporter Justin Berndt and I discussing and analyzing the game from Kelly/Shorts.

Like I mentioned before, it's just one of those movements we're making in the multimedia side of things. We're going to try to do more with our videos and such to make things a little more interactive for you guys. We hope you enjoy them!

I will have a post Monday morning with 4-5 burning questions from Saturday's game, plus a look ahead. Stay tuned!

Saturday, September 27, 2008

CMU-Buffalo: Postgame Notes

CMU 27, BUFFALO 25

Yet another Mid-American Conference showdown goes down to wire and, thanks to a field goal kick that nailed the right upright, CMU escaped its game against Buffalo with a victory.

I'm going to switch things up a little bit this time around for postgame notes, because there was a point in the press conference where things took a little turn from the ordinary. Coach Butch Jones answered questions from the media, as usual, and things were normal up until I began asking a question. It dealt with the two plays in the 4th quarter when Buffalo took a screen 65 yards for a score and recovered the onside kick, because up until that point, nobody had bothered to ask about those two plays, as critical as they were. Jones interrupted the question to defend his defense for the otherwise great game it played today. Here's how it went:

Me: "You got a good win today, but again, the defense gives up a big play late---"

Jones: "Our defense played well. I'll tell you that. I don't want to hear nothing about our defense. It's a great team win. Our defense kept us in the ballgame. So yeah, they gave up a big play. We'll get that corrected. But let's talk about the positives. That was a great team win today. Our students, our fans, it was unbelievable. Best since I've been here. So... we'll get that corrected. That's also, you know, (their) team has great players, too. That tailback's (James Starks) going to play on Sundays. That quarterback's (Drew Willy) going to play on Sundays. They made their plays when they had to. But hats off to our kids, I thought they played extremely well."

First of all, this really wasn't much of an incident. Jones and I spoke after the conference, I got to finish my question and he responded - I've worked with him for more than a year now and I don't think any less of him now than I did before. Nobody's been criticized more over the last year than the CMU defense, and with it playing extremely well the last two weeks, he defended it after a big emotional conference win. I understood all of that.

But here is my point, and I know I'm not the only one who's thinking this: The defense, and the special teams at some points, cannot continue to give up big plays late if it wants to three-peat in the MAC. I'm not at all trying to be negative after a win. In fact, I completely agree with Jones - CMU's defense, overall, is the best I've seen it in the last two years, and we at CM Life gave them that credit after last week's loss at Purdue. It's coming a long way, for sure, and it deserves a lot of credit for keeping Central in the past few games and putting it in the position to win. Those guys are playing their hearts out.

On the same token, though, there's those fourth-quarter breakdowns that you just can't ignore when you go further down your schedule! Let's go back to two weeks ago against Ohio. When CMU made that game 24-14 in the fourth quarter and later 31-21, it took the Bobcats a combined six plays to respond with two touchdowns, both on 40+ yard plays. (The defense did come up big on fumble recoveries on the last two drives to preserve the win) Fast forward one week against Purdue - with the score 25-24 in CMU's favor, it took one play following a kick return to CMU's 46-yard line for Purdue to score and win 32-25. Today, after CMU makes it a two-possession game (27-18) with less than three minutes to go, it took four plays for James Starks to take a screen play 65 yards for a touchdown - and then Buffalo recovers the onside kick and sets itself up for a game-winning field goal! As great as the defense played all game, the game was in Buffalo's hands late, and they missed the field goal.

Just in case that isn't enough, here's the point total, spread out over four quarters, by CMU opponents this season:

1st: 30
2nd: 30
3rd: 30
4th: 63

CMU has some great offenses to look forward to playing against this year - Western Michigan, Toledo and Ball State are the more prominent, and you can't ignore NIU after today's 37-0 drubbing of Eastern Michigan. Nobody can expect those teams to miss the opportunity to win like Buffalo did today. That is my point. You can talk all day about how great the defense played for the majority of the game - it definitely has the last two weeks - but hypothetically, if Buffalo converted the field goal today and won it, the team still would be 0-2 after those two weeks. Could you really blame everybody but the defense for that?

The best case scenario for the football team is, they learn from these plays and lock down better as a group in those late-game situations. It's completely capable of doing that if it can play as great as it does for a majority of the game. But it is one of the little things that you have to look at heading into the bye week.

CMU-Buffalo: Pregame Notes

MOUNT PLEASANT, Mich. - It felt pretty nice to type that city for the first time in four weeks! We're about 12 minutes from kickoff as I type, so I'm going to make this update quick:

First of all, the biggest difference heading into this game was right at the north entrance of Kelly/Shorts Stadium, where several dozen CMU faculty were picketing for a new contract. For those of you who don't know much about it, read the latest here. The administration has until Oct. 15 to negotiate a contract for the faculty, or we could see a strike. It's good timing for the faculty, considering today is CMU and You Day and Family Day - make sure those families of prospective CMU students see what's going on!

One last note: As we were suspecting, junior wide receiver Bryan Anderson is out with a shoulder injury. Senior Joe Bockheim takes his place. How this will factor into today's game? Well, Anderson had been struggling entering this game, probably because of the injury, and Bockheim has made some serious strides in his final year. Not having a guy like Anderson will hurt, for sure, but I don't think it's going to drastically affect the offense today.

Check back here after the game against Buffalo for more coverage!

Friday, September 26, 2008

CMU-Buffalo: NCAA 09's Take

Gosh... sorry, guys, for the late update. For some reason, my computer wasn't letting me into Blogger the entire day to update this thing. But now it's working, so I'm going to give this a shot.

Up until this point, I am 4-0 in predicting games, and NCAA 09 is 3-0 (didn't sim the first week). But it looks like one of us is going to get a loss, because NCAA 09's got...

BUFFALO 38, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 34

CMU opened up a 21-0 lead in the first quarter on an Antonio Brown kickoff return for a touchdown, a Justin Hoskins 6-yard touchdown run and a Dan LeFevour pass to Hoskins for another touchdown. But Buffalo scored 14 unanswered points to end the half at a 21-14 deficit.

Central led pretty much the entire way, keeping a 34-31 lead throughout the last half of the fourth quarter... until Buffalo scored a touchdown with about 1:30 remaining in the game. The Chippewas came up short in a comeback effort and the Bulls steal the game.

My prediction is CMU 38, Buffalo 30 - so one of us is going to be wrong. We'll just have to wait and see.

Expect an update before the game at around 3:30 p.m. tomorrow (assuming Blogger cooperates this time)... that is, if you're watching the game at home! We'll be sure to give you real-time updates on what's happening on cm-life.com and right here at halftime and postgame. Take care!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

MAC Power Rankings: Part Deuce

To say it was an eventful week in Mid-American Conference football is kind of an understatement.

Obviously, CMU's heartbreaker 32-25 loss to Purdue is a big story. But so is Ball State's 44-20 win over Indiana, the first Big Ten win for the Cardinals. Buffalo scared Missouri - for a little while. Toledo lost a 55-54 overtime thriller of its own to Fresno State. But the big news, of course, was BSU receiver Dante Love's injury which could keep him out of football forever.

Which brings me to #1 for the second consecutive week in my power rankings...

1. Ball State Cardinals (4-0 overall, 1-0 MAC)
It's difficult to tell how the loss of Love will affect the Cardinals. They did have to play more than a full half without him, and they still outplayed the Hoosiers, even with the distraction. I'm sure Ball State's going to miss him throughout the season, but I doubt it's going to drastically hurt the team's chances to overtake CMU in the MAC West. After all, they still have coach Brady Hoke, quarterback Nate Davis, running back MiQuale Lewis, tight end Darius Hill ... you get the picture.

2. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-2 overall, 1-0 MAC)
I can't move them out of this spot just yet, even though they really should have beaten Purdue last Saturday. Their defense showed a lot of heart despite having lapses and more than its fair share of criticism. Coach Butch Jones' two-point call was risky, yet job-defining, and should give this team plenty of confidence heading into the thick of the MAC schedule. The first test is Buffalo on Saturday.

3. Buffalo Bulls (2-2 overall, 1-0 MAC)
Speaking of which! Even though the Bulls pulled within a few points of Missouri last weekend, I think we all knew they didn't have a chance to pull the upset. The Tigers were warming up, that's all. Either way, Buffalo has a huge chance to prove itself on Saturday, facing the two-time defending MAC Champs. (Note: Looking at their 2007 season was a lot like looking at CMU's 2005 season: Obviously, it's on the rise, and was within 2-3 games of clinching the MAC East. But like CMU, in close losses to WMU and NIU, the Bulls came up short. This could very well be the year the Bulls surprise everybody.)

4. Western Michigan Broncos (3-1 overall, 1-0 MAC)
So they're 3-1 and have a better record than CMU and Buffalo. Big deal. They beat a bunch of cupcakes, including last weekend's 44-7 loss to Tennessee Tech. They barely beat a rebuilding NIU team at home, so it still remains to be seen how good the Broncos are. They certainly have the potential to reach the top, but they did last year, too. Did they learn something that time?

5. Toledo Rockets (1-2 overall, 1-0 MAC)
I'm not very impressed with my second round of these rankings. I was hoping to change Toledo and Bowling Green around, mostly for the sake of the change in rankings, but I honestly couldn't. Toledo came darn close to beating a tough Fresno State team last weekend.  Coach Tom Amstutz pulled a Butch Jones and went for the 2 and the win. But for him, it just wasn't meant to be. I still think the Rockets have the best chance to beat CMU this year.

6. Bowling Green Falcons (1-2 overall, 0-0 MAC)
The Falcons enjoyed a bye week following two disappointing performances. Does a 27-17 "upset" over Pittsburgh really give you a two-week hangover? Let's hope they respond well against Wyoming this coming weekend.

7. Akron Zips (2-2 overall, 0-1 MAC)
Finally, a change - the Zips are coming off a good 23-3 win over Army. Sure, it's not all that impressive, but they are just the fifth MAC team to win two games so far... which sounds about right for a typical MAC season four weeks in. That is sad.

8. Northern Illinois Huskies (1-2 overall, 0-1 MAC)
Coach Jerry Kill gets his first win at NIU, and it took a pretty pitiful Indiana State team to accomplish it. It's not that the Huskies look all that bad - they really don't, after close losses to Minnesota and WMU - but nobody's really expecting much, either. I do expect them to beat EMU this weekend and make it 2-2. Then they get to play at Tennessee!

9. Ohio Bobcats (0-4 overall, 0-1 MAC)
Poor Bobcats. They lost another tough one, 16-8 to Northwestern. Realistically, this team is four plays away from being 3-1, and about 10 good minutes away from a landmark upset over Ohio State (even if the Buckeyes do stink right now) - unfortunately, though, Ohio just can't get over the hump. VMI should do the trick this weekend.

10. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-3 overall, 0-0 MAC)
11. Temple Owls (1-3 overall, 0-1 MAC)
12. Miami RedHawks (1-3 overall, 0-0 MAC)
13. Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-3 overall, 0-1 MAC)
I would get a lot less lazy and just write my own capsule for each team, but I'm afraid it's the same story told four times. All of these teams are very ordinary and probably won't win much more than four or five games this season, each. Ball State has to feel lucky getting three of these guys.


Check back later this week for preview coverage of CMU and Buffalo!

Monday, September 22, 2008

UPDATE: Love's career likely over


The Associated Press reports that Dante Love's career is likely over.

Ball State officials said injured receiver Dante Love will probably never play football again. Love was hurt during the second quarter of a game Saturday night at Indiana and underwent a 5-hour operation Sunday for a broken spine and an injury to his spinal cord.

The university had said after the surgery that Love could move his arms and legs.

"Due to the injury Dante sustained, his football career is expected to be over," coach Brady Hoke told reporters during his weekly news conference Monday. "He should have normal and healthy functions for the rest of his life. He touched a lot of lives, and he will continue to do so."

Love entered Saturday's game as the nation's leader in yards receiving per game (144.3), and the fleet 5-foot-10, 179-pound senior was considered an NFL draft prospect.

~
Although I am happy to hear he is doing well in terms of mobility after such a terrible injury, this is a very sad story. For people like me who cover not only CMU football, but MAC football in general, it is so disappointing to know that a talent like Love probably won't see the NFL.

I'm going to write more on this in Wednesday's edition of CM Life. I think it's important to put in perspective just how much injuries like these make you reflect on how much we should cherish the opportunities life gives us. I can only imagine how that carries over to the football team.

For now, I hope all of you keep Dante Love in your thoughts and prayers. This is a man who had something taken away from him last weekend.

Update on Ball State's Dante Love


I meant to get to this earlier. As some of you know, Ball State wide receiver Dante Love, who entered Saturday's game at Indiana as the nation's top receiver in yardage per game, suffered a cervical spine injury early in the second quarter. He was on the field for several minutes before he was taken to Bloomington Hospital, then to Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis.

I was on the MAC teleconference this morning, and here's what coach Brady Hoke had to say:

On the latest update of Love's injury:
"They've upgraded him to ... where he's getting better by the hour. Obviously this is a pretty traumatic injury, one that I think the people of Indiana at Methodist Hospital have done a great job with. Spirits are up and he has a great attitude ... it's a day-by-day situation."

On how the team is reacting:
"I thought we tried as much as possible to stay with our routine that we've had throughout the year. Obviously there's a point of grieving when there's an injury of that nature, but the kids showed a lot of resiliency (Saturday), stayed together, focused and circled the wagons together."

On how much the team will miss Love's playmaking ability:
"He was one of those guys that we'd like to put the ball in his hands, to use his ability ... I think just like any other injury that happens to some degree, there's guys that have to step up and do a great job."

For those reading this, keep Love in your prayers and hope that he makes a full, swift recovery. It's always upsetting to hear a player go down this way.

Since this was kind of a quick update... you're looking for the burning questions, check the next entry. Sorry it didn't get posted until about 10:30 this morning! Expect a new poll question later this afternoon, as well.

Five Burning Questions

1. What's the overall consensus after Central's disappointing 32-25 loss to Purdue? Is this a moral victory for the program?
Not by any means. The team fought as hard as it had all season, and looked a lot like the team we saw in the second half of the Motor City Bowl last year, but let's put it this way: In that game, Central lost by 3. In this game, they lost by 7. No matter what environment you're playing in, you cannot look at it as a victory for the program, nor can you look at it as the team making strides- it lost! Was it easier to watch for Chippewas fans instead of a 45-22 blowout? Sure- but you cannot look at it as a victory on any sort of level. The team lost. The only thing it can do now is move on to Buffalo.

2. Was coach Butch Jones' call for a two-point conversion to go for the win a good move?
I would say yes, even if the team didn't get it. I think the call said a lot about Jones' coaching ability after already playing Purdue three times in 18 games. Going for two was a huge confidence boost for the Chippewas' offense and it caught the Boilermakers off guard. It instills that belief that Jones talks about, that they can be as good as they want to be. The call was by far Jones' riskiest, but it was a game-defining call and this time, it paid off.

3. With Ball State beating Indiana 42-20 over the weekend, is CMU no longer the team to beat?
I guess it depends who you ask. They're still the two-time defending MAC champions, and teams all over the MAC are still going after what they have. At the same time, though, the Cardinals, at 4-0, are looking as strong as they have in their history. I do think that right now, they're the best MAC team. The loss of Dante Love is huge, but at the same time, Ball State pulled away from Indiana without him playing. I'm sure they will miss his playmaking ability in the coming weeks, but the Cardinals are still going to pack a punch, and like I said, could enter the CMU game 9-1 or better. Watch out.

4. As a preliminary analysis, what do you expect from Buffalo this weekend?
Nothing that we expected from CMU's last game against Buffalo (W 55-28 in 2006). This team is much, much improved. Their offense has a lot of great players, particularly in quarterback Drew Willy and running back James Starks. Honestly, I think the Chippewas are going to need a similar defensive performance this week as they had the last. Expect a close game, but I think after the Purdue outcome, CMU's going to come our energized for its first home game in a month.

5. How excited are you to get off the road?
You wouldn't believe. Add up 28 hours of driving to Georgia and back, 14 hours of driving to Ohio and back, and 10 hours of driving to Purdue and back... that's 52 hours of driving in three weeks. I haven't had a good night's sleep since the beginning of it. The players and coaches have got to be relieved that they get to stay here for a month. No more Friday bus trips or plane flights for awhile!

Saturday, September 20, 2008

CMU-Purdue: Postgame reaction

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - What a game... again.

For the second consecutive game between the two teams, it all came down to the final minute. And for the second consecutive game, it ended in heartbreak for the Chippewas.

Coach Butch Jones made the riskiest call of his young coaching career by going for two with 1:18 remaining when he easily could have tied the game at 24 apiece. I thought he made the right call- go for it and give your team the best chance to win. We all know what happened at the Motor City Bowl last year when CMU elected to tie - quarterback Curtis Painter had his way with the defense and set up Chris Summers' 40-yard field goal to win the game.

Speaking of CMU's defense, it was the best I've seen it in the past two years. To hold Purdue's offense to 25 points (seven came off the interception return) has to be inspiring for that group, especially after all the negativity it gets from the media and the fans. Only 344 yards of offense from the Boilermakers today and a lot of key stops, one on fourth and one, gave CMU a huge chance to win this game.

But- Central finds itself on the losing end for the third time in two years. I've never seen the team as disappointed as it was after the game today. Coach Butch Jones had his head down almost the entire time the media spoke with him, and each of the players had the look on their faces. They know they can beat Purdue, and they showed it. But give the Boilermakers credit for staying on their toes, too.

The bright side of all this: CMU goes back home for almost a month. They open a three-game home stand against Buffalo, which is looking strong early in the season. When it comes down to it, I think they'll feel pretty good after the game today and take a lot heading into next Saturday.

Check this blog for more updates on Sunday and Monday, and be sure to look at our coverage in CM Life's Monday edition!

CMU-Purdue: Halftime Notes

CENTRAL MICHIGAN 10, PURDUE 10

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Five keys from the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium:

  • Excellent defense. The Chippewas are playing some of the most disciplined defense I've seen in the last two years covering the team. They're getting pressure to Curtis Painter. They're shutting down Kory Sheets (9 yards!). They're making great open-field tackles and preventing big plays. True freshman LaVarus Williams is having the game of his life so far, picking off one pass and making several critical tackles. He could've had another interception late in the half, but was flagged for pass interference. Either way, holding the Boilermakers to 10 points is a huge success, even if Painter continues to make good throws (16-for-21, 151 yards).
  • LeFevour's legs. Dan's on the run so far, with 63 yards on 12 carries. He made several critical runs on third down, including one on a fourth down to move the chains. That's what CMU needs to keep the offense on the field and continue to keep the defense fresh.
  • Little to say about the passing game. LeFevour's accumulated just 69 passing yards. He especially was shut down in the second quarter, mainly because Purdue's putting on a good pass rush. The team should try to get Anderson involved a little more, as he just has one catch for 10 yards. He's too good to not throw to.
  • Give Justin Hoskins some carries. Ontario Sneed is just not running very effectively. Hoskins should give CMU a fresh runner from the backfield in the second half should Butch Jones employ him. He could give the offense the spark it needs to score points the next half.
  • Start the second half off right. CMU gets the ball to open the second half. Almost the same situation as it was at Georgia: Get a touchdown and maintain momentum heading into the final periods. They'll just need a better defensive performance this time around.

CMU-Purdue: Pregame notes

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Over the last year, I forgot just how massive Ross-Ade Stadium's press box is. You can see it from 10 miles away!

We're about 30 minutes from game time- the weather's nice, in the low 80's or so, and it looks like it's going to be just as packed here as it was last year.

Some keys for the Chippewas in today's game:

  • Start fast. At least keep up with Purdue instead of fall behind 31-0 by halftime, like last year at Ross-Ade. If CMU gets the ball first, get a good drive going, even if it amounts to only 3 points. Set a tone for the offense and give the defense something to work with.
  • Turnovers. CMU has yet to intercept a pass, but picked up two critical fumble recoveries to beat Ohio last week. Very few defenses are good enough to rely on forcing fourth downs, and in this game, when you're facing a guy like Curtis Painter, you're not going to force a punt out of Purdue regularly. Take some opportunities - just make sure you don't get burned.
  • Big plays. This works both ways: Dan LeFevour needs to throw deep a little more often for a big game like this, and on the other hand, the defense and special teams have to prevent the big play. The Bobcats scored half of their points off of plays 40 yards or longer, and had another drive go for a touchdown after a 45-yard pass completion. If any team on CMU's schedule can rip big gains, it's the Boilermakers.
  • Breakout games? LeFevour was good last week, but not the LeFevour we saw last year, especially late. Same with Bryan Anderson- he hasn't really had anything going, but did show some flair against Ohio. This would be the perfect game to get that connection going, just in time for the thick of the MAC schedule, which starts next week.

We're now about 12 minutes until game time, so I'll cut it off here. Check back at halftime for notes and keys to the game!

Friday, September 19, 2008

CMU-Purdue: NCAA 09's Prediction

Just for some background, here's the comparison between NCAA 09's predictions of the past two games and the actual outcomes:


CMU-Georgia
NCAA 09: Georgia 54, CMU 27
Actual: Georgia 56, CMU 17

CMU-Ohio
NCAA 09:
CMU 23, Ohio 21
Actual: CMU 31, Ohio 28

Not only is the game 2-0 so far, it's also pretty accurate in determining the scores and the winning margins. The stats are a different story - the game predicted tailback Ontario Sneed to rush for 200+ on Georgia, and that didn't happen at all.

So we're just going to do a score this time, with a few stats.

PURDUE 38, CMU 21

A little less offense than I thought there would be. Purdue's Curtis Painter threw three TD passes and two interceptions, while running back Kory Sheets ran for two more. Meanwhile, Dan LeFevour had one touchdown throw to Kito Poblah and a one-yard rushing touchdown. Cornerback Josh Gordy had an interception for a touchdown, too.

My drive to Purdue starts at 5:15 a.m., then we should get there by about 11 a.m., an hour before kickoff. I'm not sure if I'm going to get pictures, but definitely expect pregame, halftime and postgame notes, as usual.

Check back here, and also cm-life.com, for scores, updates, analysis and more!

Thursday, September 18, 2008

CMU-Purdue: In the news (UPDATE)

  • Mark Hasty on NCAA Football Fan House has CMU losing 42-31 to Purdue. That's a realistic prediction - if one thing is for certain, this game's going to have offense. The teams average a combined 80 points per game. That's ridiculous. Another interesting note: Hasty has Ball State beating Indiana, as well.
  • Jeff Chaney of the Grand Rapids Press writes about Dan LeFevour vs. Curtis Painter, two of the NCAA's most prolific passers. According to coach Butch Jones, "The thing we must do is not let him set his feet in the pocket."
  • Who's not hot? Painter, reports Tom Dienhart of Rivals.com. He notes Painter's 11th-ranked quarterback rating in the Big Ten, hitting just over 52 percent of his passes.
  • The Journal and Courier reports a sunny day Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. Temperatures will be in the low 80's.
  • MAC Report Online has a similar pick to Mark Hasty: Purdue 43, CMU 31.

UPDATE: Hey, everybody- I'm going to update this blog tomorrow (Friday) with NCAA 09's prediction of Saturday game, as well as other notes concerning Week 4 in CMU's schedule. In the meantime, though, I encourage you to pick up a Friday copy of CM Life, or perhaps check out cm-life.com if you get a chance. There's a lot of coverage for the game, including breakdowns, previews, and predictions, as well as an online video of SportsLine featuring me and fellow reporter Justin Berndt.

The video part is what I want to especially emphasize. We're going to employ this to each game, whether it's doing a highlight video or a recap video with Berndt and I discussing what transpired. This is an example of what to expect from a highlight video. We also shot this video for Friday's issue. Especially for road games, since it's not always easy to follow a game just through an ESPN play-by-play, we're going to make sure we provide excellent video coverage within 24 hours after the game. Check us out, and let us know what you think.

Also, be sure to check out the Sports Weekend centerpiece on backup quarterback Brian Brunner. It was a long time coming, so I hope you enjoy it! Feel free to leave any feedback you have, or any general comments.

In the meantime, I will see you all tomorrow!

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MAC Power Rankings

I apologize for not updating the past couple of days. For one, there hasn't really been much going on besides the usual stuff: Practice, preparation, and the typical news stories about what to expect Saturday. There's nothing new to report on the injury front as of right now, either. No starting positions in jeopardy or anything.

It's just been uneventful so far, hasn't it? The first three games turned out just like we expected, and the only position that's been switching is the running back, which senior Ontario Sneed still has a grasp of, as of now. Justin Hoskins is still coming back from injury.

So, in an attempt to make something out of this blog post, I have my first Power Rankings. I hope to do this every week at around this time, maybe earlier in the week. If you're a frequent traveler of ESPN.com and CNNSI.com or the like, you know the drill.

1. Ball State Cardinals (3-0 overall, 1-0 MAC)
I don't think any team is scarier in the MAC than Ball State. Nate Davis and Dante Love have given opposing defenses nightmares already, and probably will put a dent into Indiana on Saturday. If this team wins, we could be looking at a 10-0 team heading into the Nov. 19 showdown at Kelly/Shorts.

2. Central Michigan Chippewas (2-1 overall, 1-0 MAC)
Overall, CMU is picking up where it left off last week. But again, there are serious questions about the defense. It didn't look very good against Ohio even with its late stand to preserve the win. It has to get better, especially this weekend when it plays Purdue. The Boilermakers averaged more than 580 yards of offense in their two games against CMU last season.

3. Buffalo Bulls (2-1 overall, 1-0 MAC)
The current dark horse candidate to win the MAC. For a Hail Mary to work like it did against Temple, this team has to be on its way to great things this season. Everything just seems to click. Running back James Starks is a beast, among the best in the conference. Consider this: Fox Sports has quarterback Drew Willy at the No. 10 spot in its Heisman race. While I certainly wouldn't go that far, it just goes to show what kind of respect the Bulls are getting despite being one of Div. I-A's worst a few years ago.

4. Western Michigan Broncos (2-1 overall, 1-0 MAC)
The Broncos looked pretty good against Idaho last week. But it was Idaho. Running back Brandon West has 299 yards to begin the season, a good start. Big test this week, though: Tennessee Tech should give them a scare. That, obviously, was a joke.

5. Toledo Rockets (1-1 overall, 1-0 MAC)
The 42-17 win over Eastern Michigan would tell you that this Rockets team is back to their glory days just a few years ago when they made the AP Top 25 and were among the MAC's best, with Marshall and sometimes NIU. But that first-week drubbing to Arizona doesn't help their case. This week's home game against No. 25 Fresno State should provide some perspective. Can these guys be the second MAC team to beat a ranked team this year?

6. Bowling Green Falcons (1-2 overall, 0-0 MAC)
It's interesting to note the Falcons get all their non-conference games before they take on any conference competition. I liked what I saw out of these guys against Boise State, considering how difficult it is to play on that blue grass against the Broncos, but what happened against Minnesota? I know its' a Big Ten team, but it's the same team that beat NIU by only four points! Like many MAC teams, the jury is still out on the Falcons. I still like them to represent the MAC East. Time will tell, though.

7. Kent State Golden Flashes (1-2 overall, 0-0 MAC)
KSU's got a dual threat in the running game: Eugene Jarvis is looking good as usual (40 rushes, 207 yards), but quarterback Julian Edelman isn't looking too bad either (40 rushes, 168 yards). The losses against Boston College and Iowa State weren't too bad. The Golden Flashes get the Ragin' Cajuns next.

8. Temple Owls (1-2 overall, 0-1 MAC)
This team's got a real case this season. It took Connecticut to overtime and lost on a Hail Mary to Buffalo... otherwise, we'd be looking at another 3-0 team to accompany Ball State. Coach Al Golden has this team playing very well for a 1-2 squad. Although it plays at No. 16 Penn State this weekend, it gets Central in a few weeks, so the Chippewas better come prepared. The Owls are dangerous.

9. Ohio Bobcats (0-3 overall, 0-1 MAC)
The Bobcats are probably the best 0-3 team you could have right now. Every loss of theirs was close, and they came pretty darn close to beating the then-No. 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. Quarterback Boo Jackson was on fire last Saturday, but he did face CMU's defense, which had to have felt better than the Buckeyes.

10. Akron Zips (1-2 overall, 0-1 MAC)
You can't blame these guys too much for the 41-24 loss to Ball State. At least the Zips took care of a BCS team the week before, even if it was Syracuse. They go to Army next- that's a game I wouldn't watch if it went on TV.

11. Miami RedHawks (1-2 overall, 0-0 MAC)
I'm not quite sure how the RedHawks almost lost to Charleston Southern. They kept the running game in check, but they let Tribble Reese throw all over them! Funny thing, though: It's amusing to see Charleston Southern score 27 on Miami when Michigan could only put up 16. I know the Wolverines are going through tough times, learning a new offense and all, but really.

12. Northern Illinois Huskies (0-2 overall, 0-1 MAC)
Sure, the Huskies are winless, but they could just as easily be 2-0 right now. Coach Jerry Kill had his team put up a valiant effort in road games against Minnesota and Western Michigan, both tough teams in their own right. I still think it's going to be a long first year for him, though. The guy is known for turning teams around after the first season and all.

13. Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-2 overall, 0-1 MAC)
Yeah, this team's at the bottom, even with a win. A 52-0 win at that. But let's be honest- any win against a I-AA doesn't count, even if it is 52-0. What about the blowout losses to Michigan State and then Toledo? What about surrendering 27 points in the blink of an eye in the third quarter last week? Maryland has to be salivating over this weekend. I guess running back Terrence Blevins doesn't look that bad (45 carries, 251 yards, four TDs).


Keep checking in here throughout the week. I hope to update with something tomorrow, provided I have something to write about. Maybe the NCAA 09 prediction, early? Speaking of which, take a look at my breakdown prediction and the final score last week:

My prediction: CMU 31, Ohio 27
Actual: CMU 31, Ohio 28

Not bad, huh? I'm 3-0 to begin the year, although it was all quite predictable.

I will see you all soon!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Top 25 Polls: Ball State earns votes

It's been a busy day here at the office. I got back into town at about 2 a.m., so I had no time to write the recaps and other tidbits for Monday's paper, which means I had to write everything today. It's about 5 p.m. and I'm still going!

In the meantime, though, I caught up with the latest Top 25 rankings. The biggest change was Georgia's drop to No. 3 after "only" beating South Carolina 14-7. This is starting to get ridiculous- the Gamecocks are a bitter rival and were playing at home, so it's pretty obvious they're going to play the Bulldogs tough to the end. This is the second time Georgia's fallen in the rankings despite winning. It makes absolutely no sense to me, and I don't care how badly Oklahoma beat Washington. They really didn't do much more to leapfrog Georgia!

But, I'm getting ahead of myself.

The real reason why I'm posting the rankings is because Ball State earned votes in both polls: One in the AP and two in the Coaches' Poll. Granted, coach Brady Hoke could've put one of those votes in, but it brings up another interesting observation. 

Ball State is 3-0 after beating Northeastern, Navy and Akron pretty handily. And outside of next week's game at Indiana, the Cardinals really don't play any teams that are much better than those guys until CMU. I suppose one could make a case for the game at Toledo in a few weeks, but BSU is still a favorite in that matchup and it doesn't get Western until after that. You heard it here first: Ball State will enter its Nov. 19 game at CMU with a 9-1 record or better and a Top 25 ranking in either or both polls. 

The tradeoff for the Cardinals is that they don't get the same amount of money as a team like Central because they really didn't schedule any tough opponents. This is their non-conference schedule: Northeastern (of the FCS), Navy (at home), at Indiana and Western Kentucky (which becomes a full-blown FBS school next year). Compare that to CMU, who also gets Indiana, but faces Georgia and Purdue, too, for almost an extra $1 million in their athletic department. 

Should Central have taken a similar path in scheduling easier non-conference foes and having a better chance at a two-loss season or better? Tough to say. A couple of coworkers and I discussed it on the way home from Ohio last night. CMU makes more money playing a Georgia than an Indiana, but obviously has a lower chance of winning and a higher chance of getting blown out and losing all Top 25 consideration. Sure, people weren't expecting much else out of Central against Georgia, but you really cannot look at it as, "Well, it's not so bad because people expected you to lose." People expect CMU to lose to both Purdue and Indiana, too, anyway!

I think the way CMU scheduled its non-conference foes is a good balance between healthy competition for the Chippewas and making sure the athletic department earns money. But I don't think they should keep scheduling teams like Georgia. What would've been better is a decent team outside of a BCS conference - for example, Fresno State. What would've been perfect is a Pittsburgh, a Syracuse or even a Rutgers out of the Big East. The payout probably isn't as high, but at least a 3-1 non-conference record or better is a possibility rather than a near-impossibility in Georgia. 

After all, it's Butch Jones that wants a Top 25 team, right? That's not going to happen with a Top 5 team on your schedule. In the MAC, you need room to lose one or two good, close games, and CMU really doesn't have it if it wants a ranking.

Feel free to comment on what you think. I do thank those of you that do leave comments, I hope you continue to do so! My biggest goal is to make this a nice, open forum where a few people can discuss issues involving CMU and the MAC. Fire away!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

CMU-Ohio: Postgame Notes

ATHENS, Ohio - In a continuation of last season, CMU somehow squeaked out another MAC win. It was the fourth consecutive regular-season conference game that was decided by 3 points or less for Central. And really, Ohio could've had this game in the bag had it not been for quarterback Boo Jackson's fumble in the end zone, which a touchdown could've given Ohio a 35-31 lead with just minutes to play.

But, in the end, CMU starts the MAC season 1-0. How it really happened:

  • Holding the rope. This is a line used frequently in CMU's locker room. Despite the defense's struggles early and late, it held together when it counted, doing just enough for the Chippewas to maintain the lead. Fumble recoveries by linebacker Matt Berning and defensive tackle Sean Murnane were huge. They kept their heads together and took advantage of the few mistakes Ohio made.
  • Antonio Brown comes up big. Some of his kick and punt returns early in the season were skittish, whether it was his feetwork slipping up or his own linemen getting in his way. But his 75-yard punt return in the third gave CMU its first lead, which it never relinquished. That spark was what Central needed to get past Ohio, which had a fairly large crowd for a MAC school (18,268) supporting it.
  • Big third down plays. CMU put up two quick scores in the 4th quarter thanks to big third-down plays. LeFevour connected with wideout Bryan Anderson for 24 yards on a third down, setting up a three-yard Ontario Sneed touchdown run to make the score 24-14. Later, after Ohio made it 24-21, LeFevour found Jean Pitts for 27 yards on third down that brought CMU to the 2-yard line. That set up CMU's final score.
  • Buuut... the defense got exposed. Today was really the first time this season CMU's secondary let up. Boo Jackson threw for 365 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. A third of those yards came on two long TD's, 45 yards and 77 yards to tailback Chris Garrett. On both of those plays, Jackson had more time than usual to throw the ball and Garrett found holes in the coverage. CMU needs to keep its eyes on all parts of the field, even on the running back out of the backfield.
  • A good win to take into Purdue. A loss here would've put CMU in a possible 1-3 scenario to start the season, possibly worse because of how good Buffalo is playing. A good, emotional win could be just what Central needs to take into West Lafayette, Ind., next week to face a Purdue team it's eager to finally beat. (Although they are playing Oregon well at the moment... currently tied at 20 in the third quarter)

I'll definitely have more coverage for you tomorrow and Monday, as well as stories in Monday's CM Life and currently on cm-life.com. I'm back on the road for now, hopefully getting into Mount Pleasant at 1:30 a.m. if I'm lucky. Take care!

CMU-Ohio: Halftime notes

OHIO BOBCATS 14, CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS 10

ATHENS, Ohio - Quick snaps from the game at Peden Stadium:

  • Post-Georgia lag? The start of this game reminded me of CMU-Kent State last year, one week after the 70-14 loss to Clemson. Central started out slow coming off of a disappointing loss to a BCS team and Kent State got its running game going, particularly Eugene Jarvis. That would bode well for CMU because it won that game 41-32, but Ohio has a better defense and is playing in its home opener. Speaking of which...
  • Fast start. Ohio had 14 points on the board within the game's first seven minutes. The defense looked lost at points and gave up many big runs to quarterback Boo Jackson and running back Chris Garrett. The Bobcats have 89 rushing yards so far. The second score, the 45-yard touchdown pass between the two players, was a great example of giving the quarterback way too much time to make a play. Anytime a defense leaves a quarterback sitting in the pocket for more than 4 or 5 seconds, something is going to open up in the secondary. Garrett was left wide open and with nobody in his way.
  • Momentum. Despite losing 14-10 at the half, CMU does have 10 unanswered points on the scoreboard right now. The offense is starting to move a little bit after a couple three-and-outs to begin the game. LeFevour's already accumulated 205 passing yards, 58 to Antonio Brown. Bryan Anderson HAS to get going at some point - he's way too talented of a receiver to struggle this much.
  • The defense needs a takeaway. CMU is missing that game-changer on defense - it has yet to intercept a pass and has just one fumble recovery in three games. It's going to be difficult to keep stopping the Ohio offense on downs.
  • Boo Jackson is out, Brandon Jones is in. We haven't determined how long Jackson is out, but he left with a shoulder injury late in the first half. We'll see how that plays out in the second half, because Jackson's running ability opened things up for the Bobcats in the first half.

Stay tuned for more notes after the game!

CMU-Ohio: Inside Peden Stadium

ATHENS, Ohio - Kickoff for CMU-Ohio is about 20 minutes away. It's still early, but it seems like plenty of fans are showing up at Peden Stadium for the Bobcats' home opener. It's very hot here, too- on the way into Athens, my car temperature read 87 degrees. I can only imagine

And Athens, Ohio, is a beautiful area- unfortunately, I left my camera cord in Mount Pleasant, so I can't show you any pictures just yet! Ohio University is one of the older campuses in America and it shows with the structures and the overall feel. The stadium seems small in comparison to Kelly/Shorts, but it's still pretty nice. There's a hill area at one end zone for people to sit, and it looks like the other end zone has the marching band in it.

As for the seven-hour drive, it wasn't bad as it sounds, except for the talk radio in the Ohio area, which focused COMPLETELY on Ohio State's game at USC. There's only so much you can say about that game, as good as it's hyped up to be, especially with Chris "Beanie" Wells out. But there was some entertainment throughout all the overstatements, especially straight from a commercial for one of the talk radio hosts:

"Tonight, O.J. (Simpson) will witness a slaugher he isn't personally responsible for!"
"How on earth did Reggie Bush go from playing college football to playing in the NFL, yet still take a pay cut?!"
"If you guys want a bigger laugh than a replay of Michigan's loss to Utah, check out our radio show!"

Thousands of miles away, yet still cheap-shotting the Trojans. Welcome to Ohio State football, I guess! And many of these guys obviously picked the Buckeyes to win at the Coliseum. All I have to say is good luck. USC looks like the best team in the nation and missing your Heisman candidate isn't going to help.

Expect halftime updates, as well as postgame updates, on cm-life.com and right on this blog. Unfortunately, I can't get you pictures yet, but I'll update Sunday with a few, I hope. Take care!

Friday, September 12, 2008

CMU-Ohio: NCAA 09 Prediction, plus around the MAC

NCAA Football 09 predicts a close game this week.

CMU starts off fast, with Andrew Aguila kicking a 40-yard field goal on the first drive of the game. After defensive back Eric Fraser intercepts a Boo Jackson pass on Ohio's first drive, quarterback Dan LeFevour throws an 8-yard pass to Bryan Anderson to make it 10-0 CMU after one quarter.

Ohio fullback Mitch Morsillo opens up the second quarter with a one-yard touchdown run to put the Bobcats on the board. CMU halts another Ohio drive with an Eric Fraser interception. Aguila later kicks a 20-yard field goal as time expires in the first half to make the score 13-7 Chippewas at halftime.

The third quarter is rather quiet, except or one scoring drive. LeFevour connects again with Anderson on a two-yard touchdown pass, putting Central ahead 20-7 after three.

After a 52-yard field goal by Aguila in the fourth that bounced in through the left crossbar, making the score 23-7, the Bobcats mounted a comeback. Quarterback Boo Jackson, who threw three interceptions in the first three quarters, connects with wideout LaVon Brazill for a 21-yard scoring strike, then throws a 10-yard touchdown to Taylor Price. But the Chippewas recover the onside kick and get a first down to preserve the win.

CENTRAL MICHIGAN 23, OHIO 21

Interestingly, the game predicts a defensive battle, with CMU winning in total offense 248 to 242. LeFevour finishes 22-for-29 for 222 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. The running game, however, didn't get going at all. Sneed rushed for just 19 yards on 13 attempts, but did catch 7 balls for 70 yards as the game's leading receiver. No other receiver really got going on either side of the ball.

A few more notes before tomorrow's game:

  • Boo Jackson is actually quite relieved to start his first game - he said he's not as anxious, since he's not waiting on the sideline just incase he has to go in. Having the game of experience against Ohio State may make CMU seem refreshing for him. What CMU has to watch out for is his legs - neither Bodie Reeder nor Matthew Stafford were real threats running the ball, but both quarterbacks have made big scrambles against the defense. The Chippewas have to be on their toes if they want to contain Jackson.
  • One thing that had to have upset CMU fans last week ... if you watched the Georgia game, you would remember CMU's kickoffs in the second half. Very short, sometimes low kicks away from the returner, allowing a special teamer further up the field get the ball to around their 40- or 45-yard line. Central cannot do that against the Bobcats, even with Donte Harden back there. Harden's already returned a kick 100 yards for a TD, but there are times where they're going to have to kick to him and hope they can hold him behind the 30-yard line. Don't give up sure field position just to avoid that possibility of a TD.
  • One key for Ohio: Try to hold CMU to under 30 points. The Chippewas have lost six straight since 2006 when held under 30 points. Unfortunately for the Bobcats, though, the winning team in each of CMU's last 23 games scored 30 points or more.

The big trip's almost here... just a matter of hours, actually. Our trip takes us 7.5 hours, including through downtown Columbus, so hopefully traffic is okay. I will see you guys from the game!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Thursday notes

First of all, hope everybody's having a good Patriots Day! I only say that because it's September 11th, and ever since it was named Patriots Day, I never hear it called that. I guess it's just one of those things that never really panned out. It's just so much easier to say 9/11, seven years later.

There isn't much to report on tonight. Tomorrow, I will have a CMU-Ohio NCAA 09 prediction on here in the afternoon. Last week's prediction of 54-27 Georgia was pretty accurate, only missing by a total of 12 points. So we'll give it another shot. Also, expect coverage Saturday from Ohio - hopefully I will have photos up here, as well as pregame, halftime and postgame notes from Athens, Ohio. 

Some other notes...

  • We're about two days away from the MAC opener at Ohio, and sadly, the only thing most people continue to talk about is Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno's hurdle against CMU. Maybe this is wrong coming from a CMU football writer, but, really, we get it. It was a great play and deserves plenty of repeated views. YouTube definitely got a hit out of it. But can we move on, please? People, including coach Mark Richt, are still upset it didn't make a SportsCenter highlight reel Saturday or Sunday night - I didn't realize people cared that much about what makes or doesn't make SportsCenter highlight reels! What really aggravates me, though, is when announcers see a diving catch in baseball or a sweet slam dunk in basketball, and say right after, "We're going to see that on SportsCenter later!" ... or even when somebody brings a sign to a game, saying "SportsCenter is Next!" hoping they make the intro reel. Really? 
  • Speaking of ESPN's snub of the hurdle, here's what Jim Rome, from ESPN's "Rome Is Burning," had to say about it: "Or maybe, we did do our homework and decide that the dude your superstar jumped over plays for the Central Michigan Chippewas, so we just kept moving." Amazing what two consecutive conference championships still cannot get you: Respect. Besides, does the opponent really make a difference? I'm no anatomy major, but I doubt Vince Agnew is that much different from any other SEC defensive back. I stick by my current stance of the play: While it's not the most amazing thing I've seen in sports, even in person, it was still a great play, and we'll leave it at that. Let's move on to this week.
  • We go from Athens to Athens this week. No better way to follow up your longest drive of the season with the 2nd longest drive, right? According to MapQuest, it's about 7 hours, 20 minutes from Mount Pleasant to Athens, Ohio. The drive from Mount Pleasant to Bloomington, Ind., may be just as long, too, but at least that's later in the year. 
  • I know what'd be a good idea for the next road trip is to include some "hot stops" - you know, good places to stop and have a bite, or maybe sights to see around the area. But let's be honest - most of our trips are through southern Michigan, Ohio and Indiana, and there really is nothing to see in those states. Even if there was something to see, the only free time I have nowadays is the time I have in my car in between work and class, so, you get the picture.
  • Five random predictions for Saturday: Receiver Bryan Anderson will catch for more than 100 yards. Defensive end Frank Zombo will tally another 2.5 sacks. Kicker Andrew Aguila will miss his first field goal of the season. Ohio quarterback Boo Jackson will give CMU its first interception. More than 20,000 people will show up at Peden Stadium, which would be more than the season-opener at Kelly-Shorts Stadium. (Even though it was against Eastern Illinois) Now let's see how many of those are right.
  • Thanks to those who read my NCAA Football 09 pieces from yesterday's paper, considering that I had about four or five people message me on Xbox Live, some even sending friend requests. If you messaged me, sorry I haven't gotten back to you yet, I'll try to do that over the next 24 hours. Obviously I'm not online all that often since I have work and school to worry about! 
  • Remember to e-mail me at bmanzullo@cm-life.com if you have any comment, suggestions, requests, ideas, etc.! 
I will see you guys tomorrow and throughout the weekend as we prep for the MAC opener!

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Some Wednesday notes

- We've been over this a few times here at CM Life, but I'll say it one more time: CMU gets a lot when they go on the road and play a team like Georgia: 1) They get money ($750,000). 2) They get exposure (FSN South, and whatever ESPN highlights come out of it). 3) There's a chance at a stunning upset.

Then again, there's risks involved, especially when you lose 56-17, including this. In particular, this line: "The Bulldogs have looked fantastic in their past two games, but South Carolina is an actual team while Central Michigan and Georgia Southern, well, they’re not exactly online football betting powerhouses."

It was all about putting up a respectable performance, and even though the game didn't play out like a normal 56-17 game, unfortunately, it has to show with the score. Nobody outside of Michigan or Georgia looks at anything but that. We'll see next week, when CMU travels to Purdue, a team it came three points away from beating in the Motor City Bowl last year (51-48).


- Incase you haven't looked much into Ohio yet: Theo Scott, their starting QB, is not playing Saturday because of a broken collarbone. I'll definitely get into how that will play a factor into Sturday's game over the next 48 hours, on here and in CM Life. All I can say right now is, they do have a dual-threat backup in Boo Jackson.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Knowshon Moreno vs. Justin Hoskins: An interesting comparison

It's been about four days since CMU's 56-17 loss at Georgia. What most of the nation remembers from that game is this - Knowshon Moreno's hurdle over defensive back Vince Agnew to complete a 29-yard gain on 3rd and 14.

Obviously, the play made Moreno a hit on YouTube, with more than 133,000 hits in less than a week. And that's not even the only version of the play up right now! The last time I saw that kind of jumping ability was watching a mix tape of current Michigan freshman tailback Sam McGuffie.

In person, though, it was CMU's very own Justin Hoskins last season, when CMU beat Ball State 58-38. I can't be the only person that thought of his jump at Ball State when Moreno made his:

Tailback Justin Hoskins going airborne in CMU's 58-38 win over Ball State last year. Credit to John Ehlke, CM Life Assistant Photo Editor.

I saw Director of University Recreation Stan Shingles recently, and we talked about the similarities between Moreno's jump and Hoskins'. Now, obviously, Moreno is going to get more hits on YouTube and more publicity (#3 on SportsCenter's Top 10 plays, anyone?) because it's No. 2 Georgia and he's a legitimate Heisman candidate. Nobody really gives credit to a CMU-Ball State contest, although they should, especially this year. But that's another topic we'll get to later this year.

In my seriously unbiased opinion, Hoskins' jump was more impressive than Moreno's. Notice the legs. Hoskins barely lifted his legs while going airborne - he straight-up jumped over defender Eddie Burk, who made a legitimate, albeit late, dive at him. I'll admit that my memory isn't the clearest on the play, because it was last year and some things are starting to run together nowadays, but it was a quick, fluid knee-jerk reaction by Hoskins. As for Moreno, he had to lift his legs nearly to his waist and hurdle over Agnew, who basically stood there, somewhat crouched over, just enough for a leap. NOT to take credit from Moreno's feat! It takes great athleticism for any ballcarrier to jump over a defender like that.

Feel free to leave your own comment on the jump comparison!

Despite what I or anyone else thinks, though, Moreno gets publicity for his stunt and not Hoskins. I would link you guys to video of Hoskins' jump if only somebody posted it. A real shame.

Expect another update tomorrow. We're going to get into CMU's game at Ohio very shortly, which is a tougher game than many think. See the Bobcats' 26-14 loss at No. 3 Ohio State, a game which it led as late as the fourth quarter. See you then!

Sunday, September 7, 2008

CMU-Georgia: Postgame Burning Questions, plus photos

First of all, apologies for not posting earlier like I promised. I went to bed at about 4 a.m. and had to get up three and a half hours later. It's been a tiring trip - next time, I'll take the plane! We finished a total of 28 hours of driving, and I'm now back in Mount Pleasant. Here's hoping to a more relaxing week.

Overall, though, I had a wonderful time in Athens, Georgia. Sanford Stadium is easily one of the best college football environments I've seen, with more than 90,000 screaming fans and excitement all over the campus around it. It reminded me of last year's October trip to Clemson, S. C., a similar drive south and a similar environment. But I never remembered Clemson Memorial Stadium getting as loud as Sanford did Saturday. That place gets deafening at times, especially when you're on the sideline and, dare I say, between the hedges - I can only imagine what it's like during a critical SEC showdown. There were a handful of Chippewas fans, too, that were either in the state or made the trip. Among them was former linebacker Red Keith, who finished up his college career last season as one of the most prolific defenders in school history.

Having the chance to spend time in the press box, as well as roam the sidelines taking photos of the game, is amazing in itself. Kind of makes me wonder how on earth I managed to land this job, even with the 28 hours of total driving! The funny part is, the trips are just beginning. My next drive takes me to Athens, Ohio, for the Bobcats, then to West Lafayette, Ind. for Purdue, so there's plenty to look forward to this season. But Georgia was a heck of an experience, hopefully one that I don't lose vivid memories of. Experiencing that place during the game is one of the biggest reasons why I will always love NCAA football over NFL football. The marching band, the pride, the heart and the high stakes are all there and in full tilt.

I do have some burning questions here, following the 56-17 loss at Georgia yesterday. I also attached some of my photos, with possibly more to come - These ones aren't cropped as of yet, but hopefully I'll have time in the next day or so to crop the rest and put them up.

(Former linebacker Red Keith, graduated last year)





Uga, the Georgia bulldog


BURNING QUESTIONS
Post-game burning questions

1. What's the final conclusion after CMU's 56-17 loss to No. 2 ranked Georgia?
The conclusion, to somebody that looks at the final score, is that CMU can't compete with the nation's best. But for those who watched the game, it's obvious that it can. But as I said before the game, the Chippewas couldn't give up the big plays if they were to stay in the game and they did. A 78-yard interception return, a 52-yard run and a 54-yard pass, all for touchdowns, were huge contributors in the Bulldogs' route. Without those plays, CMU keeps it at least a two-possession game and has a chance come the fourth quarter. Nobody was out of line thinking CMU could compete with Georgia heading into this game; it can. But it's those big plays, coupled with an inconsistent offense, that haunts Central in the end.

2. What impact does a loss like this have on the football team's confidence?
Very little, if any. After losing 70-14 at Clemson last year, the Chippewas rolled off four wins in five games, including at Western and in the MAC Championship against Miami. I think a loss like this will motivate the team rather than hinder it, especially heading into the MAC opener against Ohio on Saturday. But that game's not going to be easy, either - the Bobcats did come one quarter away from knocking off No. 3 Ohio State over the weekend. Coach Frank Solich has that team heading in the right direction.

3. After seeing one BCS game, what does CMU need to do to beat either Purdue or Indiana later in the year?
As I said before, don't give up the big play... but also get quarterback Dan LeFevour on his feet and running. This doesn't necessarily mean scrambling when a hole opens in the offensive line. The Bulldogs had to deal with LeFevour's running ability just three times Saturday, so all they had to do was zero in on the occasional run and the plethora of pass plays CMU called. That makes stopping an offense so much easier and CMU was a victim of that. Purdue, up in a couple of weeks, had difficulty stopping LeFevour in the Motor City Bowl and surrendered 48 points. Establish that part of his game and CMU's got a huge shot at winning.

4. After two weeks of non-conference play, who's the biggest surprise in the MAC?
It's tough to say, because Bowling Green's big win over No. 25 Pittsburgh was negated by a 42-17 blowout loss at home to Minnesota, a subpar Big Ten team. I have to go with Buffalo for now, despite their 26-17 loss to Pittsburgh on Saturday. The Bulls, once a bottom-feeder not only in the MAC but in the entire NCAA Division I, destroyed UTEP 42-17 last week and played strong against a ticked-off Panthers squad. James Starks is one of the best runners in the conference and quarterback Drew Willy finally threw an interception after a nation's-best 284 attempts without one. I wouldn't be surprised at all if Buffalo represented the MAC East in the championship game.


Also, be sure to check out Monday's CM Life for more coverage from Saturday and a small look into next week's game at Ohio!

Saturday, September 6, 2008

CMU-Georgia: Postgame Notes (Coming Soon)

ATHENS, Ga. - So it's 8 p.m. and I'm just finishing up here at Sanford Stadium. We're heading back to Knoxville, Tenn., to the hotel room, so expect more postgame notes on the blog at around midnight tonight.

Sorry that's late, but it's been a long day and I've been running up and down, from the press box to the sideline! The consolation is I will have some photos from the game (at least I hope... my computer crashed in the fourth quarter, hence a delay in cm-life.com score updates).

Stay tuned, and make sure to check cm-life.com for more updates and CM Life's Monday issue for extended coverage!

CMU-Georgia: Halftime Notes

ATHENS, Ga. - GEORGIA 28, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 7

Five quick snaps from halftime at Sanford Stadium...

  • Communication issues. The Chippewas knew it was going to be loud in this place, but it didn't stop them from having problems early on. The team called two of its timeouts early in the first quarter and it just never seemed like they could get anything going. The good news, though, is that CMU was able to drive on Georgia late in the 2nd and get some points before the half. Buuuut...
  • The big play haunts CMU again. Right when CMU could've made the score 21-7, a tipped pass to Antonio Brown instead lands in the hands of Demarcus Dobbs, who proceeds to run the other way and make it 28-0 Georgia instead. Even though it wasn't a blatant mistake on LeFevour's part, CMU can't afford to have something like that happen if it wants to stay in the game.
  • The defense, despite allowing three touchdowns, is doing better than it looks. The key is to limit the damage that Matthew Stafford and Knowshon Moreno deal, because we know they're going to have good performances. Doing more of the same in the second half, assuming the offense can get it going, may help get Central back into the game. But third-down performances HAVE to get better (7-for-10 for the Bulldogs).
  • Dan LeFevour needs to use his feet. The big difference with CMU's last two drives was LeFevour using his running ability. The Chippewas need more of that out of him - that's what makes him such a special quarterback. Ontario Sneed isn't getting anything going and the Bulldogs are harassing wideouts Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown. Make them worry about Dan's running and that will open things up.
  • Start the second half off right. CMU starts the second half on offense. This first drive is absolutely key - make it a 28-14 game and give the defense something to build off of. Don't give up any big plays again and stay focused.

I spent the second quarter on the sidelines to take photos, and I'll probably do it again later in the third or fourth. I'll try to wear the weather for one more half and get you guys some postgame comments and photos, so stay in touch!

CMU-Georgia: Pregame photos











Well, we're about 10 minutes away from kick-off. What they say is right: This place is loud, and unfortunately this is the first press box I've been in that is outside, so I get to hear everything! It's very nice here, though, and field level is very hot, so both teams are going to have to keep cool.
I will update with more notes as the game goes on, so stay tuned!

Friday, September 5, 2008

CMU-Georgia: Burning Questions (Road Trip version)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. - Hello everybody!

I apologize for updating so late, but we finally made it into Knoxville, Tenn. for the night. The plan is to catch some Z's until about 8 in the morning, then we're back on the road for 4 more hours, straight into Athens, Ga. for the game.

There's one more update that I promised in dealing with tomorrow's game... plus I've uploaded a couple random photos from the Baymont Inn we're staying at. This place is Volunteer country, so we saw some people, particularly at the hotel, excited about tomorrow's home opener against UAB.

But anyway.... on to the questions. Not going to lie, these are made-up questions, but PLEASE e-mail bmanzullo@cm-life.com with some of your own questions heading into each game, and depending on their validity, I'll do my best to answer them. You can even send general questions and I'll take some time in the blog to answer them (maybe I can start a Mailbag feature of sorts. Send those questions in!)
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1. Considering the large spread, what kind of result from Saturday's game would you deem acceptable?
Obviously, the team is going to try to win, and everyone involved with CMU football will tell you they're in Athens to win the game. That's the attitude they need to have. But as for us, we're realists. This is the toughest team CMU has faced in years. The spread is just below 24 - I think any result where the spread is less than that is an acceptable spread. Remember, Georgia is a national championship contender, and we have to expect they'll play like that. If the Chippewas can play a close game into the second half, that's an easy success. The nation will take notice if Central plays Georgia down to the wire, and if Dan LeFevour has anything to do with that (which he would have to in a close game), he's going to get even more attention.

2. What is the key for CMU to stop Georgia's offense?
The Chippewas literally have to play perfect football. They can NOT take a play off or blow an assignment. Quarterback Matthew Stafford and running back Knowshon Moreno are big-time players and will make you pay in the blink of an eye if you're not focused, and they will get their points. It starts in the trenches - DEs Frank Zombo and Sam Williams have to find a way to get to Stafford and make him throw the ball quickly. He's not quite a running quarterback, so that's one less dimension to worry about. As for Moreno, I know the run defense was spectacular last week, but Moreno's one of the best in the nation and will break a few big runs in this game. If CMU can play damage control, especially when Georgia's able to march in CMU territory, that'll give the offense plenty of chances to stay in the game.

3. What is the key for CMU to drive on Georgias defense?
See #2. Central cannot afford dropped passes, turnovers or broken assignments on offense. Wideouts Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown are capable of getting open on any secondary when given the time, so the key again lies in the trenches and whether the offensive line can keep Dan LeFevour protected. It's not going to be easy whatsoever - remember last year's Sugar Bowl? Even Colt Brennan and Hawaii, one of the country's premiere offenses, couldn't get anything going. Running backs Ontario Sneed and Justin Hoskins have to build off last week's performance and give Central the running game it needs. But when given protection from the offensive line, this team is capable of scoring on any defense, even Georgia.

4. CMU lost to an unranked Clemson team 70-14 last season. Why should we expect something different here?
There are many reasons. If you remember, Clemson entered its game with CMU (which, by the way, was Homecoming for them) with two consecutive tough losses and a bye week. The Tigers had two weeks to prepare for Central and a huge chip on their shoulders. They were a ranked team at one point and really had the makings of a Top 10 program. Watching the Chippewas score a touchdown on their opening drive and intercept a Cullen Harper pass on their first possession was a wake-up call of sorts.
Now, as for the Georgia game, the Bulldogs do enter with a chip on their shoulders, coming off a week in which they blew out Georgia Southern but managed to lose their top ranking anyway. It'll be interesting to see if that plays any part in Saturday's game. But CMU enters the game with two days of extra rest (Thursday game) and Georgia has a huge game next week against South Carolina.

5. How would a win at Sanford Stadium compare to other great wins in CMU history?
It would be the biggest in program history, no question about it. Back-to-back wins over the Spartans in the early 90's was huge, too, but neither MSU team was as good as this Georgia team and the parity between the MAC and the BCS conferences is greater now. A win could single-handedly catapult Central into the AP Top 25, a goal coach Butch Jones has had since coming to Central. Problem is, like I said earlier, the Chippewas absolutely have to play near-perfect football to accomplish that. Part of why Clemson won so handily was the big play; CMU can't afford to throw interceptions, give up the deep passes or fall flat on special teams. The team has to give Georgia a kick in the teeth and show it can play with the big boys, something it really hasn't proved yet. Saturday is an excellent opportunity.

The Trip
I only got one picture from the drive because of the weather. It was raining since mid-Ohio, but there was a break in the rain in downtown Cincinnati, so I got a shot from the car. Nothing spectacular, but it was one of the first shots I got with my new lens, a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8. It's a very nice lens!
The rest are from Baymont Inn in Knoxville, Tenn. Notice the Tenessee "T" on the door, and the person in the third picture is my dad. The last picture I put up because of the rug of Neyland Stadium on the wall.





Please keep posted on this blog, though... Here's what you can expect Saturday:
  • PRE-GAME UPDATES: Photos around the University of Georgia campus (if I have time beforehand), photos of Sanford Stadium prior to the start of the game, and pregame notes and game-time injury updates.
  • MID-GAME UPDATES: http://www.cm-life.com/ will have real-time updates whenever a team scores and at the end of each quarter. PLUS, Chip Shots Weblog will feature halftime notes and hopefully photos from the 1st half!
  • POST-GAME UPDATES: Expect a quick recap on cm-life.com following the game, plus extra news and notes right here on the blog! I'll try to post photos, too, and whatever other good stuff I can provide.

I will see you all from the game!

Thursday, September 4, 2008

CMU-Georgia: What NCAA Football 09 is saying

Before we get into our first NCAA Football 09 simulation, it's important to note a couple of things:

1) If you haven't played the Xbox 360 version of this game (the one used for the sim), the AI tends to throw interceptions. A lot. The first sim I did on this game, both quarterbacks had four picks by the third quarter and very few of them were realistic. So I redid the sim with better AI control on interceptions.

2) The game's ratings are based mainly on preseason projections. Georgia's rated 99 across the board, and CMU's ratings, for some reason, are lower than that of Ball State's and Western Michigan's. Furthermore, for those new to NCAA Football video games, none of the following players' names are actually in the game because of NCAA rules, but their numbers and ratings are represented. (For example, CMU's Dan LeFevour is "QB #13" in the game)

NCAA Football 09 is a very good game that I recommend you at least renting, though. It does provide a realistic experience, particularly for the purpose of simming games, like what I'm doing now.

We saw a lot of this in NCAA Football 09's sim of CMU-Georgia.

GEORGIA VS. CENTRAL MICHIGAN: HOW NCAA 09 SEES IT HAPPENING

CMU starts the game with two three-and-outs, both of which led to big touchdown plays by the Bulldogs: a 52-yard passing strike from quarterback Matthew Stafford to wide receiver Kenneth Harris and a 64-yard touchdown run by tailback Knowshon Moreno. Quick 14-0 lead for Georgia.

The Chippewas eventually respond with a 74-yard drive that ends in a 23-yard field goal by Andrew Aguila. After that, they force Georgia to punt for the first time, but proceed to fumble in their territory to set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Stafford to receiver Mohamed Massaquoi. 

END OF 1ST QUARTER: GEORGIA 21, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 3

CMU does make it a one-possession game midway through the second quarter. A two-yard touchdown rush by Ontario Sneed makes it 21-10, then after a Georgia punt, CMU drives into Bulldog territory and completes a field goal to make it 21-13. But the Bulldogs finish the half with a Blair Walsh 37-yard field goal to extend their lead to 11.

END OF 2ND QUARTER: GEORGIA 24, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 13

Georgia, starting with its opening drive of the 2nd half, begins to pull away. A touchdown pass from Stafford to tight end Tripp Chandler makes it 31-13, then a quick LeFevour interception sets the Bulldogs up for the second touchdown, a two-yard run from Moreno. They miss the extra point to leave the score at 37-13.

The two teams exchange punts before Stafford completes a 52-yard touchdown pass to Chandler to make the score 44-13. CMU ends the quarter with virtually no offensive momentum.

END OF 3RD QUARTER: GEORGIA 44, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 13

CMU misses a field goal near the start of the fourth quarter, a 52-yarder. Georgia responds with a 4-yard rushing touchdown from tailback Caleb King, increasing the team's lead to 51-13. Sneed responds with a spectacular 79-yard touchdown run to shorten that to 51-20 before the Bulldogs hit a 35-yard field goal the following drive. With the game all but over, LeFevour throws a 26-yard touchdown strike to receiver Antonio Brown to end scoring.

FINAL: GEORGIA 54, CENTRAL MICHIGAN 27

Some stat lines from the game:
Dan LeFevour: 19-for-39, 293 yards, TD, INT ... also 19 carries, 44 yards
Ontario Sneed: 29 carries, 204 yards, 2 TD
Bryan Anderson: 6 receptions, 99 yards
Antonio Brown: 5 receptions, 101 yards, TD
Nick Bellore: 7 tackles

Matthew Stafford: 14-for-25, 258 yards, 4 TD
Knowshon Moreno: 18 carries, 176 yards 2 TD
Kenneth Harris: 6 receptions, 143 yards, TD
Mohamed Massaquoi: 3 receptions, 56 yards

REACTION: Not bad for a video game sim, which usually has things that need tweaking. Ontario Sneed had a huge game, though many of his yards came from a 79-yard touchdown rush when the game was virtually over. All the other totals look pretty realistic, including the final score.

This being the first week of the NCAA Football 09 prediction, it'll be interesting to see just how close the simulation was. If it goes too poorly, I'll refrain from doing this again. Be sure to leave feedback!