With only three games remaining in the regular season, Central Michigan sits on the cusp of bowl eligibility at 5-4 overall and 2-3 in the Mid-American Conference. The Chippewas are coming off back-to-back conference losses against Toledo and Kent State but won their previous two contests against Ball State and Northern Illinois.
After opening the year with six consecutive losses, Miami (Ohio) has rattled off three straight victories against Kent State, Bowling Green and Eastern Michigan. Thankfully for the RedHawks, three of their opponents during the win streak were of the conference variety, so Miami currently sits at No. 3 in the MAC East.
This series is as close as it gets, with Central Michigan owning a 13-12-1 advantage over the years. The Chippewas have not lost to the RedHawks in Oxford since 1996. The last meeting between these teams was in 2014, a 34-27 home win by Central Michigan.
Central Michigan at Miami (Ohio)
Kickoff: Friday, Nov. 4 at 6 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Central Michigan -4
Three Things to Watch
1. Central Michigan QB Cooper Rush
Rush has been a spark plug in the Chippewas’ offense this season. The Charlotte Mich., native has already thrown for 2,533 yards and 21 touchdowns. His noteworthy season isn’t an aberration. Last year, the signal-caller threw for a gaudy 3,848 yards and 25 TDs. During his career, Rush has tossed 88 touchdown strikes and has tallied 11,887 passing yards.
Rush, this year, owns two 300-yard passing games and he shelled Virginia for 402 yards in September. The Chippewas enter this game 25th in the FBS in passing yards per game at 283.4.
2. Revamped Miami rushing attack
The RedHawks’ coaching staff went all the way to Tallahassee, Fla., to pluck sophomore running back Kenny Smith. But the return on the investment as of late has been lucrative. Smith gashed Bowling Green’s defense for 118 yards on just eight carries two weeks ago, and last week against Eastern Michigan, Smith ran for 58 yards and a touchdown on only four carries. He’s proving himself to be a capable pass catcher, as well, as he turned one reception into a 55-yard touchdown against Kent State on Oct. 15.
Smith has amassed 385 rushing yards and a touchdown on 63 carries, good for 6.1 yards per carry. The speedy backfield threat should find success in this game against a Central Michigan run defense that ranks 56th in the nation.
3. Rock-solid Central Michigan defense
The Chippewas’ defense might be the MAC’s best-kept secret. The unit is tied for second in the FBS in defensive touchdowns with four. Central Michigan’s defense has 11 interceptions (tied 13th in the nation), with nine of those coming courtesy of the secondary. Tony Annese, a senior safety, has snagged eight interceptions throughout his college career and has returned three of those for touchdowns.
Miami’s red-hot offense (834 yards, 68 points over last two games) will meet its match when it faces off with Central Michigan’s vaunted defense, and the results should make for good viewing Friday night in Oxford.
Friday’s game promises to offer viewers another exciting matchup between two teams that have formed quite the rivalry. Miami (Ohio) has turned the proverbial corner as of late and enters with momentum. Central Michigan, however, on paper, at least, has been more consistent throughout the course of the season. Precision passing from Cooper Rush, coupled with stout play from the Central Michigan defense, should be enough to ensure that the Chippewas emerge victorious in Oxford, Ohio.
Prediction: Central Michigan 28, Miami (Ohio) 21
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.