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2019 MAC Football Week 7 Game Preview: New Mexico State Aggies vs. Central Michigan Chippewas

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The Chips have one last dance in their out-of-conference slate, as they take on the winless Aggies.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Miami Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

The Central Michigan Chippewas (3-3, 2-1 MAC) take on the New Mexico Aggies (0-6, independent) for a Homecoming Weekend tilt in Mt. Pleasant.

It’ll certainly be quite the environment at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, as fall has come into full bloom in Mid-Michigan, exposing the leaves thanks to brisk winds, crisp air and a familiar haze. The 2009 MAC championship team will be honored at halftime, and Homecoming kings and queens will be crowned, of course.

There’ll also be uncertainty surrounding the home team, as talisman quarterback David Moore was recently suspended by the NCAA for a positive test for a banned substance, thrusting double transfer Quinten Dormady, the Week 1 starter, back into the limelight again.

It’ll certainly be an interesting game to take in from that standpoint, as NMSU is looking to get off the snide after several close games, while CMU looks to prove they will be able to survive without a key piece of the offense.


When CMU has the ball

The main question heading into Satuday is what’s going to happen at the quarterback position.

Quentin Dormady was throwing during warmups last week, and dressed in full uniform on the sidelines for the EMU game, even though he wasn’t listed on the depth chart. There was speculation even before the Moore suspension that Dormady could get some reps against NMSU. Now with Moore gone, Dormady will take over the starting job (once again) for the foreseeable future.

In his one full game against Albany, Dormady had a respectable statline, going 27-of-37 for 285 yards and three passing touchdowns, with no interceptions. He did have two fumbles as a result of strip sacks, which should definitely be noted, but those fumbles were more a result of unprotected rushers getting to Dormady than anything else.

The offense, all told, likely won’t change with Dormady at the controls. It didn’t when Moore took over after Dormady left the Wisconsin game with injury.

They’ll continue to be reliant upon the running duo of Jonathan Ward and Kobe Lewis to maintain possession and break off big plays in the ground game. Ward had an electric performance in Week 6 vs. EMU, totalling 205 yards and three total touchdowns to outscore EMU on his own. He’s now rushed for over 100+ yards in three of the four games he’s been healthy for, after missing a handful of games due to an injury sustained vs. Wisconsin. Lewis is a spell back who, like Ward, has dual-threat ability, amassing 445 yards and five touchdowns so far this season.

At receiver, Kalil Pimpleton has been the most versatile weapon of all at the Z position, comiling yards in receiving, rushing and passing stats. He left last week’s game with 112 yards and a touchdown on five receptions, pushing his season totals to 40 receptions for 410 yards and three receiving touchdowns and one rushing score. JaCorey Sullivan (a season-best 76 yards on five receptions last week) and Tony Poljan (a six-foot-seven tight end with 18 catches for 177 yards and one score) have opened up as other primary receiving options for Moore over the last couple weeks as well.

New Mexico State would be wise to try and create turnovers in the backfield, as the Chippewas have shown a propensity to fumble in the backfield during the course of the season. Between the three primary backs and Dormady, CMU have put six fumbles on the ground. NMSU will have to take advantage at the tackle positions to make that happen, as Albany showed in Week 1.

Xander Yarberough, a converted tight end-turned-defensive end, will be key to causing such trouble. On the season, he has 16 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and one sack in his first year on defense. The linebacking corps will also be expected to put the kabosh on the running game, which CMU uses to open up the outside. Rashie Hodge Jr. (47 total tackles, seven tackles-for-loss) and Devin Richardson (44 tackles, 2.5 tackles-for-loss, two sacks) will be crucial in limiting CMU time of possession.

That’ll be a tall order for the Aggies, as they’re one of the worst teams in the country at yards given up on the ground, with 1,353 yards allowed over six games. That’s an average of six yards per rushing attempt and 225 yards per game. The Aggies have also allowed 14 touchdowns on the ground, which isn’t the best news seeing as Ward and Lewis have both collected three-touchdown games at least once so far this season.

On the boundaries, the Aggies have only picked up two interceptions all season, both by safety Austin Perkins, who owns both Aggie interceptions. As a unit, they allow an average of 263.83 yards per game through the air, with 12.27 yards per catch. They’ll be led in part by Detroit, Michigan native Ray Buford Jr., who has 17 tackles, two tackles-for-loss and a bass breakup so far this year.


When NMSU has the ball

New Mexico State isn’t 0-6 for lack of trying. As matter of fact, their offense has largely hung in there in the way of total yardage in both the running and passing games with their opponents, as they average 351.3 yards per game on that side of the ball, including 102.8 yards rushing on average and 248.5 yards passing.

Where they seem to struggle the most is holding on to the ball. The Aggies have one of, if not the worst, turnover margin in college football, with a -11 mark between six lost fumbles (on 13 forced) and 11 interceptions.

The offense will be led by Josh Adkins at quarterback, where he has thrown for 1,475 yards on 149-for-236 attempts. He’s also picked up six touchdowns despite the 11 interceptions, though three of theose came in a wild rivalry game against New Mexico. He’s also a decent running QB, with 153 yards gained and four touchdowns, which certainly helps his efficiency at the position.

Lining up in the backfield behind him will be perhaps their best player in Jason Huntley. So far on the year, he has 375 yards on 57 carries and three touchdowns to pace the running game. He’s also shown skill in the passing game, with 21 receptions for 120 yards and two touchdowns.

On the outside, Tony Nicholson has three of the four receiving touchdown by primary receivers, on top of 380 yards on 35 receptions to lead the Aggies. OJ Clark (35 rec., 278 yards) and Naveon Mitchell (12 rec., 219 yards) are tops of the leaderboard as well. They tend to run the ball more than they pass, and it’s evident, as no receiver averages more than 63 yards per game.

CMU’s defensive gameplan during home games has centered on stopping the run, which just so happens to being key to being able to stop the Aggies. Chaos in the backfield happens to be a specialty for the Chippewas defense, as they’ve gotten into the backfield 49 times for tackles-for-loss and 18 times for sacks.

The Aggies average about 3.5 yards per rush, and are prone to giving up fumbles, with 13 on the year thus far. It’ll be up to the front seven to pop the ball out, something they’ve been able to do with regualrity, as they’ve collected six fumbles over six games of action, with six different players forcing said fumbles and four of them picking up recoveries.

If there’s one area where the Chippewas defense could potentially be exposed, its in the passing game, as CMU runs young at the defensive back position. They’ve actually given up an average of 267 yards per game, allowing 7.74 average per attempt, and 11 touchdowns to three interceptions. A lot of those numbers were a result of early uncertainty in the backfield, but they have tightened up in recent weeks.

NMSU will have to get extremely creative to get progress going; CMU has been impressive on “clutch downs” (third-and-fourth downs), giving up 33-of-92 attempts, for an impressive 35 percent conversion rate.


Game Notes

  • Where/when: Sat., Oct. 12, at 3 p.m. (1 p.m. MST) in Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan
  • Weather: At kickoff, temperature is expected to be 46 degrees, with no decrease. Winds brisk, at 16 MPH and partly cloudy, per Weather.com.
  • TV/streaming: Game will be broadcast exclusively on ESPN+. A valid subscription is required, and is separate from a cable subscription.
  • Radio: For a CMU-centric call, find 98.5 WUPS-FM. For a NMSU-centric call, find 99.5 KXPZ.
  • Odds: CMU is a 10.5-point favorite, with an over/under of 57.5, per OddsShark.

Prediction

The line has fallen a couple points since Moore’s suspension was announced, but that shouldn’t be a major distraction in this partiular game.

CMU is a perfect 3-0 at home, blowing out opponents by double digits in every defense of Kelly/Shorts Stadium. With CMU winning the advantages at most every position group, I don’t think there will be much of a game to be had here unless they can’t maintain discipline. NMSU is averaging 18 points of offense per game, while giving up about 42. You’re not going to beat CMU at home with 18 points; just ask Eastern.