Staff Predictions: CMU-NIU

Corey Dull, Staff WriterIt's Homecoming in Mount Pleasant this weekend and it could not come at a better time. CMU is hosting the No. 23 ranked Northern Illinois Huskies. The Chippewas are coming off a very surprising 26-23 win at Ohio University.
Saylor Lavallii had a career-high 184 yards on the ground and Cooper Rush threw for three touchdowns. CMU controlled the time of possession, controlling the ball for 35-plus minutes and were plus-three in the turnover battle.
Senior quarterback Jordan Lynch, who many call "Dan LeFevour 2.0," had almost 5,000 of total offense last season for the BCS-bound Huskies. Through six games this season, he has 1949 yards and 17 touchdowns.
The Chippewas proved me wrong last week and contained Tyler Tettleton somewhat and forced him to throw two interceptions. They will have to make Lynch make mistakes for a chance to win Saturday in front of a packed Kelly/Shorts Stadium. If the Chippewas can pull off the upset, it would be most likely the biggest win in Dan Enos' coaching career. The defense will definitely have to show up and force turnovers, while the offense will have to finish drives with touchdowns instead of field goals. I think NIU wins, but I do think it will be closer than the experts think.
Prediction: NIU 31, Central Michigan 21
Jeff Horodeczny, Staff WriterThe Chippewas return home after a three-game road trip that saw CMU win two out of three games, including an upset in the Ohio game. The offense came alive last week, racking up 432 total yards, with Saylor Lavallii rushing for 184 yards and a touchdown. The Ohio win is one of the best wins in the Enos era, defeating one of the MAC East favorites on the road, and snapped the Bobcats four-game winning streak.
It doesn't get any easier for the Chips as they a top-25 team in Northern Illinois. NIU comes into this one with two wins over Big Ten Teams, but haven't had the blowout wins against MAC teams that were expected. The Chips defense will have to come up with turnovers again this week after they forced four against a high-powered Ohio offense. The All-MAC first team quarterback Jordan Lynch has continued to put up huge numbers this year, throwing for over 200 yards in his last four games. CMU made great strides last week, winning the turnover margin and keeping Cooper Rush comfortable in the pocket. He threw for 224 yards and three touchdowns, but NIU will be looking for revenge from 2011 and CMU hasn't beaten a top-25 team since 1991.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 35, Central Michigan 27
Steve Livingston, PublisherNorthern Illinois hasn't lost a MAC game since they came to Mount Pleasant in 2011 and lost 48-41. They have one of the best offenses in the country, led by one of the best quarterbacks in the country. The Huskies are 15-point favorites in this game, which has moved from the original 18.5-point spread. At least Vegas likes Central Michigan to keep this game close, because not many are going to pick the Chippewas in this game. Defensively, CMU has a huge task in front of them. NIU is the ninth-best rushing offense and is ranked 14th in the country in total offense. They will need to force turnovers and put pressure on quarterback Jordan Lynch. CMU was able to do that last week at Ohio, but it's going to be tougher against NIU. Lynch is a better scrambler than Tyler Tettleton and NIU has a better offensive line, likely the best offensive line in the conference.
Where the Huskies have been suspect is on defense. They are 108th in the nation in total defense and teams that aren't good at running the ball (I'm looking at you, Purdue, and you, Idaho) have run the ball on NIU. CMU is averaging over 180 rushing ypg in conference play, with sophomore Saylor Lavallii running for almost 160 ypg in CMU's three MAC games. The Chippewas ran the ball all over the conference's best run defense last week, to the tune of 208 yards on 44 carries. I'm at the point where I'm confident that CMU can run the ball on anybody in this conference. If redshirt freshman quarterback plays like he did last week, the Chippewas are in this game late.
NIU is plus-seven in turnover margin this season. In their wins, CMU is plus-three and in their losses, the Chippewas are minus-five. Turnovers and big plays will likely win the day. NIU has played down to every team they have played that isn't in the Big Ten. I feel like they're due to get upset and they don't traditionally play well in Mount Pleasant. Call me crazy and I really hope I don't regret this, but I think the Chippewas come out at another level in front of a raucous crowd, force some turnovers and get solid play from Rush. I'm going to take Central Michigan for a late win that send the Chippewa faithful into a frenzy on Homecoming weekend.
Prediction: Central Michigan 41, Northern Illinois 38
Tyler Parsons, Publisher
Huge game for the Chippewas, and it sure is refreshing to see a meaningful conference game in October.
Central Michigan is coming off an amazing upset of Ohio on the road, and now they make a return to Kelly/Shorts for the first time in three weeks. This game will come down to Cooper Rush's ability to not turn the ball over, which he did vs. Ohio, and the CMU defense's play against the run. Dual threat QB's have historically given CMU fits, and you don't get much better than Jordan Lynch. If they can limit his "splash" plays and make him try to beat them through the air, I like the Chippewas chance to keep this close.
Hopefully it's a great crowd for homecoming, and CMU will be able to feed off that early. The last two times CMU hosted a Top 25 team they have walked away with a loss. Unfortunately, I think this one comes down to the wire, but Lynch was that "It" factor and always pulls out the close win.
Prediction: Northern Illinois 34, Central Michigan 24
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