With bowl eligibility secure, the Central Michigan Chippewas will look to add to their win total when they head to Ohio to take on Kent State in one of two MAC games that kick off Week 12 of the college football season. CMU (6-2, 4-2 MAC) picked up its all-important sixth win last week by beating Eastern Michigan 42-30 while Kent State (2-8, 1-5) dropped its third in a row in blowout fashion, losing to at Western Michigan 48-20.
A key part of the Chippewas’ success this season has been the play of the secondary. Central Michigan is leading the MAC and is top 20 nationally in passing defense at 181.0 yards per game. The Chippewas also are tied for third in the FBS with 16 interceptions, including five last week against the Eagles. Amari Coleman returned one of those five picks 32 yards for a touchdown.
Not much has gone right for the Golden Flashes this season, who are second to last in the nation in both total offense (256.2 ypg) and scoring offense (11.6 ppg).
Central Michigan at Kent State
Kickoff: Tuesday, Nov. 14 at 7 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Central Michigan -17.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Will Kent State be able to move the ball?
Central Michigan’s success against the pass has already been referenced, and the Golden Flashes are 125th out of 129 FBS teams in passing offense at just 106.7 yards per game. Not only has Kent State completed fewer than half of its passes on the season (48.1), the quarterbacks have thrown more than twice as many interceptions (12) as touchdowns (five). That’s not a good sign entering a matchup with a defense that has already picked off 16 passes. In his last two games, Golden Flashes quarterback George Bollas has thrown five interceptions and no touchdowns. Kent State may be better off trying to run the ball, since that’s been the most successful part of its offense (149.5 rushing ypg, seventh in the MAC), and the Chippewas have been vulnerable to the run (197.6 ypg, ninth) at times. They have given up 190 yards or more on the ground to three different conference foes – Western Michigan (315), Toledo (310), and Ohio (190).
2. CMU’s Shane Morris peaking at the right time
After getting off to a slow start, Morris has come on and is playing his best football as the regular season winds down. The graduate transfer from Michigan started out by throwing nine touchdowns and eight interceptions through September but has since put together a 12:3 TD-to-INT ratio over his last five games. He hasn’t thrown a pick in three straight games and currently leads the MAC with 21 touchdown passes. His three touchdown passes last week against Eastern Michigan gave him three straight games with at least two and he’ll look to continue this hot streak against a Kent State defense that’s not giving up a ton of yards through the air (197.4 ypg) but is allowing opponents to complete 57 percent of their passes and hasn’t recorded an interception in three straight games.
3. Capitalizing on turnovers
Given the discrepancy in records, it should come as no surprise that Central Michigan is tied for MAC lead in turnover margin at plus-seven (with Western Michigan) while Kent State is near the bottom at minus-five (tied for 10th). Besides an opportunistic secondary that has 16 interceptions, the Chippewas also feature defensive end Joe Ostman, who is tied for third nationally with 10 sacks in just eight games played. On top of the picks, CMU has recovered 11 fumbles to give it 27 takeaways, tied for the most of any FBS team. The Golden Flashes have turned it over 21 times and know that they must hang onto the ball if they have any hope of staying close to the Chippewas.
Central Michigan is riding a three-game winning streak, has already punched its postseason ticket, and hasn’t been completely eliminated in the MAC West race just yet. Kent State has won two games all season and has been outscored by an average of more than three touchdowns (22.1 ppg) in conference games alone. The Chippewas come into this game full of confidence, while it’s questionable if the Golden Flashes have any whatsoever.
Prediction: Central Michigan 38, Kent State 13
(Top photo courtesy of cmuchippewas.cstv.com)