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Countdown to CMU

OTP Countdown200I remember 2008 like it was yesterday. The dread, the worry, the nervousness that surrounded that season’s CMU game was at a threshold we haven’t seen since around OTP. Between Dan LeFevour, what that game meant for what we assumed was a walk to the MAC Championship, and the like combined in a perfect storm of awesome. Hell, that game is what spawned the OTP tradition of breaking out Dancing on the Ceiling from Lionel Richie for big wins. So CMU has had a special place in the collective OTP heart for a little while now.

But this CMU team is not the CMU team of old. After Brian Kelly and Butch Jones left, the reigns were handed to Dan Enos, and short of last season’s one-game-above-.500 finish and a Little Ceasars Bowl berth, the Enos era in CMU has been quite different from the two before it. When Butch Jones took over for Brian Kelly, it was assumed that the Chips would fall back to Earth. They didn’t. Then the worry changed that they never would. So thank God for Enos reminding us all that not all coaches are created equal, some are better than others, and it only takes one person to ruin a decade’s worth of success. That might be a good epitaph to remind Bill Scholl of when it comes time to find the next man to steer the ship.

Tonight, a 3-5 CMU Chippewa team comes to Muncie with hopes of pulling the upset and making some noise in advance of the OH MY SWEET MOTHER OF GOD, BIGGEST GAME EVER next week between BSU and NIU. But hopes are a dangerous thing when traveling to the snake pit known as Scheumann Stadium. Time to count you down to CMU…

5 Things You Should Know

  • Though many fans remember the neck and neck feeling that BSU & CMU had in 2008, since then, the Cards have owned the Chips. The overall series the Cards lead by one (12-11-1) but BSU has one four of the last five against Central. The only loss was in 2009 as CMU was en route to a MAC Championship and BSU was in season one of the Parrish era.
  • CMU will certainly be well-rested at kickoff. The Chips haven’t played since October 19th. Their bye week was the Saturday before the off Saturday before mid-week play started and that calendar oddity means that the Chips will either be rusted or rested, or perhaps a combination of both.
  • Home may be where the heart is but CMU may have forgotten that fact. Tonight’s BSU contest is the 4th road game in a 5 game stretch for the Chips. Though the MAC footprint isn’t huge, they also had a trip to NC State thrown into trips to Oxford, Athens, and now Muncie. Hope they got frequent flier points for all that travel.
  • The Chips may have three wins, but could easily have lost them all. Central Michigan’s three wins this season include an FCS victory and were by a cumulative total of 18 points. Their FBS wins (Miami and Ohio) have a combined record of 6-12 with all 6 of the wins belonging to Ohio who just got bludgeoned on national television last night against Buffalo.
  • CMU’s staff and roster is all about the mitten. 73 of their players hail from the state of Michigan, and 7 members of their coaching staff went to college in the state. It does raise an interesting question of how CMU has fallen off so quickly after the departure of Butch Jones. Dan Enos did go to the Little Ceasars Pizza Bowl last year with a 7-6 overall record, but his first two seasons were 3-9 debacles and this season is off to a 3-5 start. With a recruiting base like Michigan you’d think the Chips would at least be somewhat better on a more consistent basis.

4 Players You Should Know

  • RB Saylor Lavallii – Normally, I’m skeptical of people with consecutive multiples of the same letter in their name. With Lavallii it’s back to back so clearly we need to BURN THIS WITCH AT THE STAKE. Saylor is filling in for Zurlon Tipton who  broke his ankle earlier this season and has done so admirably well. He’s 11th in the country in carries and 6th in the MAC and 27th nationally in yards. He’s sort of a poor man’s Quake Edwards capable of 100 yards+ and multiple scores.
  • WR Titus Davis – Everyone remembers (or should) former Chip Antonio Brown who now suits up for the Steelers and their handsy QB, but Davis should pass Brown this season on the all-time scoring list at CMU. He’s a deep ball threat and is capable of torching BSU’s secondary if special attention is not paid to him.
  • QB Cooper Rush – Apparently the next version of Dan LeFevour without the legs, Rush is a passing threat that as a freshman has already put up a 300 yard game this season. He’s fourth in the MAC in passing for 2013 and considering the names above him, that’s impressive.
  • S Kavon Frazier – Frazier made a name for himself and earned MAC West Defensive Player of the Week honors in the process when the Chips upset Ohio. On two consecutive Bobcat possessions, he forced a fumble and an interception respectively, stopping the OU drives and allowing CMU the upset opportunity that they capitalized on. It would seem to me for CMU to pull a similar upset this evening, Frazier and the CMU defense will have to put the brakes on BSU’s offensive onslaught via the same sort of way.

3 Ways We Win

  • The offense plays like the offense usually plays – Though it sounds eerily simplistic, if the offense performs as it has all season with limited errors and virtually no penalties, the opportunities to pull an upset go down dramatically. Central isn’t a team that can go toe to toe with BSU, both at their best, and come out on the other side. Factor in the anticipated weather issues, and BSU cannot let CMU think they have a chance.
  • Pressure Rush and hope he cracks – I don’t think it’s a significant secret that BSU’s defensive unit can be a bit porous at times. As is often the case in the MAC, give receivers enough time to get open and QBs enough time to find them and pretty points ensue. It’s the definition of MACtion. How that’s stopped is pressure up front. The defensive front of BSU should have their chances tonight to create ill-timed and ill-advised throws from a redshirt freshman QB, one whom may find himself introduced repetitively to Messrs Newsome, Ollie, Cox, and Miles.
  • The weather gets ugly – I’ve heard fans today talk about how the poor weather impacts the passing game, and I don’t disagree with that. However, if it’s a slobber knocker of a mudbowl, that means rushing is the only way to move the ball with any sort of consistency. I’ll take the BSU offensive line and Edwards/Banks/Williamson over CMU any day of the week. It’s not an ideal solution, but it’s a good one all the same.

2 Cardinal Questions

  • If the passing game becomes a viable option tonight, which receiver steps up? Each game this season it seems like a different receiver has had a monster game, highlight catch, or statistical break out. Willie Snead is the easy choice, and Jordan Williams and Zane Fakes have had their moments recently, so tonight, I’m looking for Jamil Smith to blow the doors off via a punt return or a busted coverage deep route. Smith has been quiet for a bit, and it’s time he announce his presence with authority. Don’t write off the fact that CMU has a strong legged punter in Richie Hogan, who with the wind may outkick his coverage. Big chance for Jamil to bust one.
  • Who on defense is going to capitalize the most on an inexperienced QB with less than ideal conditions? Whether the front seven records sacks and tackles for loss or the secondary capitalizes on rushed throws or wet balls, someone on this defense has got to step up tonight for the Cardinals to avoid the upset. I’ll go with Ben Ingle having a monster night, as the offensive line for CMU will be so concerned with the defensive line he may get several free shots from the weakside.

1 Bold Prediction

On this week’s OTPcast, I predicted 48-30 and I’ll stick with that spread, but significantly reduce the total points. The rain isn’t going to help the MACtion get turned up to 11, and Jason’s prediction of 26-17 seems a bit more likely in terms of the points scored. I would expect the Cards to adapt quickly to whatever mother nature may throw on them, and utilize one of the many gameplans that Lembo and Skrosky have thought through given variables like wind and rain. If the weather truly does limit an offense’s attack, that benefits BSU’s defense considerably, as they can key on just the run. So given the deluge of cats and dogs it may dump in Muncie tonight, I’ll scale back the score but not the optimism. 35 – 17 Cards and isn’t really that close.

No Cardinal Liveblog tonight as it is a homegame, but you can follow our pithy commentary on the game via our Twitter feed, which you should be following already. It’s the best Twitter feed around. About Ball State football. Follow us here.

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