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 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 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


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 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 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, 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

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. 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


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, 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.

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

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!