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November 6, 2013

Staff Predictions: CMU-Ball State

Corey Dull, Staff Writer

As CMU heads to Ball State for a primetime MAC matchup against Keith Wenning and company, they need to win three of their next four to make back-to-back bowl appearances. The Chippewas have had over two weeks to prepare for this tough matchup. They are coming off a game in which they allowed the most rushing yards in a single game for a quarterback in FBS history, with NIU's Jordan Lynch running for 316 yards and three touchdowns. On Wednesday they will face the best passer in the MAC in Wenning, who has thrown for over 300 yards in eight of nine games this season. Against Akron, he only threw for 240 yards, but he got five passing touchdowns. CMU will need a big days from Saylor Lavallii, Titus Davis and Cooper Rush. I expect the game to be close early with the emotions of playing in front of a national audience, but I see the Cardinals pulling away in the second half.

Prediction: Ball State 37, Central Michigan 20

Jeff Horodeczny, Staff Writer

The Chippewas are finally back in action Wednesday night against the 7-1 Ball State Cardinals on ESPN2. CMU faces another top MAC quarterback this week in Keith Wenning. In Wenning's last game, against Akron, was the first time this season that he didn't throw for over 300 yards in a game, but he had a season high in touchdowns, with five. With over two weeks to prepare, look for the CMU offense to come out firing on all cylinders. Ball State ranks in the middle of pack in total defense and rushing defense during MAC play. CMU will look to give the ball the Saylor Lavallii to open up the play-action game for Cooper Rush.

I believe this game will be closer than the experts think, as the showdown with NIU looms next week for the Cardinals. CMU should be able to score on the Ball State defense with the extended time to put together a game-plan, but I believe Wenning will once again be too much to overcome for the Chips.

Prediction: Ball State 40, Central Michigan 30

Steve Livingston, Publisher

CMU has been a massive underdog in each of their two games. Against Ohio, they were an 18.5-point dog and against NIU, they were a 15.5-point dog. I felt like the Chippewas could give Ohio trouble, but didn't have the stones to call for the upset, which I did a week later against NIU. Maybe somebody told Jordan Lynch, because he went crazy in Kelly/Shorts Stadium, setting a new single-game quarterback rushing record with 316 yards and breaking the Kelly/Shorts record for total yards in one game. Needless to say, I picked the wrong week to go for the upset.

All that said, CMU did play the Huskies close. Early in the fourth quarter, they trailed by just seven and took the ball past midfield before giving up a sack on 3rd-and-7, forcing a Chippewa punt. NIU scored six plays later to take a commanding lead and ending up winning by three touchdowns. That's the spread in this game. CMU is a 21-point underdog as they head to Scheumann Stadium.

Ball State has a porous run defense. I'm expecting a big day from Saylor Lavallii. Won't be surprised in the least if he eclipses 150 rushing yards. The key with the offense, as usual, is Cooper Rush and if he can take care of the ball. He's been better the past few games, with a 5-2 combined touchdown-to-interception ratio against Ohio and NIU. Ball State is seventh in the country in takeaways-per-game. Keep Rush's pass attempts in the 20s and the offense should be just fine. The defense is another story. In my mind, this is just as difficult of a matchup as the NIU offense. It's completely different: NIU pounds the rock, whereas Ball State chucks the pill. And they should. They've got an All-MAC quarterback, three All-MAC receivers and an All-MAC tight end. That doesn't even include their All-MAC running back. The path to success is similar to what worked at Ohio: contain the rushing game, put pressure on the quarterback and force a couple turnovers. I think CMU puts points on the board, but I just don't how they can get enough stops to win the game.

Prediction: Ball State 38, Central Michigan 28

Tyler Parsons, Publisher

Quite frankly, I think this game comes down to the line of scrimmage. CMU has recruited the past three years to win those battles, and they have had their ups and downs. I said it in my Five Keys, but CMU gives up over 258 yards rushing in losses, and just 129 in wins. That is as telling of a stat as you will get.

On the other side, CMU will have to establish the run because Cooper Rush is not ready to win games by himself yet. As just a R-Freshman making his seventh start, he needs to lean on a running game to set up the play action and provide clear passing lanes. If CMU can't run the ball effectively, it will be very hard for them to win this game.

Out of all the predictions I've made this year, this one is the toughest. A large part of me see's many similarities between the Ohio team CMU beat earlier this season, and this Ball State squad. That makes me thing the Chippewas have a good shot to win. Another part of me see's a veteran QB in Keith Wenning and an offensive line that has had their way with the CMU defense the past three years.

While I like CMU to keep this one close, Ball State has too much experience and knows this is a must win for the MAC West in preparation for their showdown vs. Northern Illinois last week. Wenning goes for 300+ through the air, and CMU has a costly turnover late in the fourth.

Prediction: Ball State 35, Central Michigan 24

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