The Central Michigan Chippewas (1-0) will travel to Camp Randall Stadium to take on the home-standing #17 Wisconsin Badgers (1-0) as both teams look to add a number to the left side of the win-loss column in this early season matchup.
The B1G-MAC matchup is a staple of out-of-conference schedules, and CMU certainly chose a hell of an opponent to go up against for their annual Big Ten opponent in Wisconsin, who has had their way with MAC programs in recent matchups, including a 54-10 destruction of Akron in 2016 and a 68-17 walloping of BGSU in 2014.
This will be the first meeting between both schools, but Wisconsin is not accustomed to losing to MAC schools, holding a 32-2 record all-time in such games.
CMU’s performance in this game could be an indication of any potential development in the offseason, especially ahead of an early conference game against Akron in Week 3.
When CMU has the ball
CMU managed to accumulate an impressive 528 yards of offense in last week’s victory against Albany, even despite the nearly two-hour kickoff delay and an initially shaky start, scoring 38 points and winning by 17. It was certainly a welcome sight for Chippewa fans, who had to watch as the offense struggled to generate an average of 254.7 yards per game and 15 points per game in the 2018 season.
Quarterback Quinten Dormady looked especially sharp in his first return to starting game action since 2017, finishing 27-of-37 for 285 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. He especially developed a rapport with Tyrone Scott, who had five receptions for 93 yards and two touchdowns, and Kalil Pimpleton, who led all receivers with eight receptions. Dormady only missed on one pass in the second half and looked very confident in leading the offense down the field, which is all you can ask for.
Jonathan Ward looked very healthy in his return to the gridiron after an injury-filled 2018, finishing with 211 total yards and two rushing touchdowns on Thursday night. Ward’s resurgence is a much-needed boost for the offense, which can now run a more balanced look thanks to his dual-threat ability as both a runner and receiver.
The Chippewas as a unit will be facing an extremely challenging defense, which pitched a shutout and forced three turnovers in their game against USF. The Badgers defense allowed only 157 yards of total offense against USF, with USF averaging a measly 1.1 yards per rush and 3.7 yards per pass in their efforts. Two of those three turnovers were forced through the air on interceptions, while the third was a forced fumble and recovery. CMU gave up three turnovers on four fumbles against Albany, so turnover margin will be extremely important, as it usually is, in this matchup.
Linebacker Mark Maskalunas led the Badgers defensively with six tackles, while four different Badgers collected sacks and two back-up defensive backs collected both INT’s. One of those backups, Eric Burrell, will get a start at safety due to injury against Central. Wisconsin’s 3-4 look will emphasize pass rushing, using the outside linebackers to try and create speed rush pressure, while the nose tackle and at least one of the interior linebackers will try to stop the run game up the middle.
It’s a look that will surely vex the Chippewas, as the offensive line struggled to hold up against Albany despite having a size advantage, giving up two sacks and six tackles-for-loss. Linebacker Zach Baun said in recent press remarks that CMU runs a similar offense to Wisconsin’s, which he says helps with their familiarity in preparation.
When Wisconsin has the ball
Wisconsin took care of business against USF, scoring seven touchdowns on the road to open the season, and it could have been much worse were it not for them being up 28-0 in the waning minutes of the second quarter.
The Badgers are known to run the ball, and run it hard. Nothing about that has changed for sometime, and certainly not this season. Jonathan Taylor was a major part of the team’s success on Saturday, running for 135 yards and two rushing touchdowns on the day, averaging an incredible 8.4 yards per rush. His backup Nakia Watson had a decent day as well, running for 80 yards and one score on 14 rushes.
New starting quarterback Jack Coan had a decent start to his college career, finishing 19-of-26 for 201 yards and two touchdowns, both of which belonged to Jonathan Taylor’s two receptions on the day. If there is one concern for the Badgers, it’s that the receiving corps as a whole didn’t look terribly together, as no primary receiver had more than 40 yards or four receptions. It certainly doesn’t help that Wisconsin is without three of their tight ends, as Luke Benzschawel, Zander Neuville and Gabe Lloyd are all out with leg injuries.
The Chippewa defense held Albany’s rushing attack to 45 rushing yards, but alas, Karl Mofor is no Jonathan Taylor. Albany as a whole was limited to 244 yards and two touchdowns on the day, averaging 4.8 yards per play. The Chips didn’t force any interceptions or get any sacks, but their ball-carrier defense looked very good, forcing one fumble and recovery and nearly getting another that was ultimately overturned by replay while also collecting six tackles-for-loss.
CMU will look to be aggressive in stopping the run out of a base 4-3 formation, with a front seven that will be focused on containing Taylor and forcing Coan to make poor decisions with contain looks. LaQuan Johnson and Jacques Bristol will be tasked with the unenviable job of trying to stop the Wisconsin running game. The defensive backfield will look to limit big plays on the outside and support the run when necessary on the inside in certain packages. Safety Devonni Reed is especially a great run-supporting DB to look out for if you’re a Wisconsin fan, as he is the leading returning tackler for the Chippewas.
- Where: Camp Randall Stadium in Madison, Wisconsin
- When: Saturday, Sept. 7, at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time (2:30 p.m. local.)
- Weather: Cloudy and 70 degrees at kickoff, with an increasing chance for showers and lower temperatures throughout, per the Weather Channel.
- TV/Streaming: The game will be televised on the Big Ten Network and streamed with adjacent services. A valid cable subscription may be required to view.
- Odds: Wisconsin is a 35-point favorite, with the over/under at 51.5, per OddsShark.