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August 31, 2013

Staff Predictions: CMU-Michigan

Corey Dull, Staff Writer

Coming off of a four game winning streak and bowl victory, the Chippewas head into Ann Arbor to start the 2013 season looking to play Cinderella. They will be taking on the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines, led by head coach Brady Hoke. After the graduation of three-year starting quarterback Ryan Radcliff, junior Cody Kater will get his shot as starting quarterback. Zurlon Tipton, a 1500-yard rusher, will be the focal point in the CMU offense this season. After the loss of No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft, Eric Fisher, the offensive line may have a few question marks in filling his shoes. Titus Davis is arguably the best wide receiver in the state of Michigan and he will have to prove it Saturday in a matchup against UM cornerback Blake Countess.

The Wolverines have yet to lose in any home games under Brady Hoke. Senior Devin Gardner will be the signal-caller as the team takes the field. Preseason All-American offensive tackle Taylor Lewan will be lined up over the young, athletic defensive line of the Chippewas and will be a fun matchup to watch. The Wolverines running back depth could also be an issue for CMU.

This will definitely be a good learning experience for the Chippewas as they start the year in a very tough place to play. They can really build off this game for the rest of the season. One thing to watch is how Kater plays in the first couple series in a big environment for his first career start. Michigan is bigger, faster and stronger than CMU and I think they prove it on Saturday.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Central Michigan 7

Jeff Horodeczny, Staff Writer

College football is finally back and the Chippewas head south to start the season at the No. 17 Michigan Wolverines. CMU enters this game with a four-game winning streak, which was capped off by a thrilling 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky in the Little Caesar's Pizza Bowl. The Chippewas return two of their top weapons on offense: running back Zurlon Tipton and wide receiver Titus Davis. Look for Dan Enos to try to get the ground game going early to calm down new starting quarterback Cody Kater. Kater beat out Alex Niznak and Cooper Rush for the starting nod in this one. Kater only has 12 yards passing in his career at CMU and asking him to lead the offense into The Big House is a tall task. Devin Gardner returns for Michigan after starting the final five games at quarterback for Michigan. Michigan has the advantage in quarterback play, with Gardner poised to have a breakout season. The Wolverines will also have starting running back Fitzgerald Toussaint back from injury and All-American Taylor Lewan at offensive tackle. I believe Michigan's depth on both sides of the ball will overwhelm the Chippewas. That advantage, along with CMU's inexperience at quarterback could turn this into a long afternoon for CMU.

Prediction: Michigan 35, Central Michigan 10

Steve Livingston, Publisher

Central Michigan has a lot of good things going for it as we enter the 2013 season. They have talent all over the offense, with All-MAC players in several position groups and a talented quarterback, who beat out two other talented signal-callers, taking over under-center. The Chippewas are riding a four-game winning streak and enter the year with some nice momentum. There is even some hope for the defense, entering its second full season with the 4-2-5 as its base formation. Linebackers Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton could be all-conference talents this season, the defensive line is as big and as deep as its been under Dan Enos, and there are potential playmakers in the secondary. But there are still too many questions to feel good about going into the biggest stadium in the country and pulling off an upset against a top 20 team from the Big Ten. Yes, Toledo did it against Michigan in 2008. This Michigan team isn't going 3-9. Yes, CMU went into Spartan Stadium in 2009 and shocked Michigan State. This Chippewa squad doesn't have a four-year starter at quarterback that had one of the best careers in college football history, nor do they have a two-time All-American and future Pro Bowler at wide receiver (unless Titus Davis blows up this year and sticks around for his senior year). This CMU team has promise, a lot of promise, but I think they still have a ways to go before they're back in the top 25 and competing with one of the top teams in the Big Ten.

Prediction: Michigan 42, Central Michigan 20

Tyler Parsons, Publisher

What CMU has done under Enos has been consistently competitive with BCS opponents. Outside of the two lopsided losses to Michigan State (where Enos previously coached), the Chippewas have battled the likes of NC State, Northwestern and Virginia Tech. And last year the finally broke through, topping Iowa 32-31 in one of the craziest games of the year.

So CMU knows they can come into this game and compete, and that win over Iowa should help the psyche of their team in a hostile environment. The problem with this matchup: Michigan is pretty darn good.

Not only is Michigan good, they present a legit dual-threat quarterback, which might as well be listed as "CMU Kryptonite" on the depth chart. Devin Gardner will be able to move the ball and he will make some big plays, the key for CMU will be limiting those and hoping UM makes some mistakes.

I think CMU will be able to move the ball on the ground with Zurlon Tipton, but they absolutely cannot get down early if they want to stay in it. Defensively Michigan has some youth, and I don't think they are giving due respect to some of CMU's talented playmakers on offense. I don't think it's any stretch to say WR Titus Davis is the best player on either offense.

But ultimately, I don't see CMU winning this game, as much as the homer in me wants to see it happen. Gardner presents too many problems on offense, and CMU does not have the pass rushers to disrupt him. The 31.5 spread is an absolute slap in the face to the Chippewas and I think it's a lot closer than that, but a Michigan victory nonetheless.

Prediction: Michigan 38, Central Michigan 24

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