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2020 Mid-American Conference Football Week 4 Game Preview: Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles

It’s a meeting of amicable in-state MAC rivals when EMU and CMU meet up in Ypsilanti on Black Friday.

New Mexico Bowl - Central Michigan v San Diego State Photo by Sam Wasson/Getty Images

Last week didn’t quite go the way either Eastern Michigan (0-3) or Central Michigan (2-1) expected, with both teams taking tough losses that put their respective seasons in peril.

EMU, with their third loss in a row, falls out of the title race, and will likely have to win out to even be considered for the postseason. CMU lost to bitter rival WMU last week, forcing them into a situation where they must win out to have a chance at the MAC West crown— with help from other MAC West teams, of course.

Bth teams were roundly embarassed in the early going before coming back to make the final score more respectable, so it should be interesting to see how the dymanics of this particular game turn out.


Game Info

  • When: Friday, November 27, at 4 p.m. EST
  • Where: Rynearson Stadium (also known as The Factory) in Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Watch/Stream: CBS Sports Network (valid cable subscription required for both.)
  • Weather: Cloudy and 45 degrees at kickoff, with a brisk 11 MPH northwesterly wind, per Weather.com. There will be a 24 percent chance of precipitation, increasing into the night.
  • Odds: CMU is a seven-point favorite on the road, with over/under at 59 as of Thursday afternoon, per OddsShark.

Series History

Central Michigan owns the edge in the all-time record in this in-state rivalry, with a 61-30-6 margin on Eastern Michigan. The rivalry has been continuously played since 1972, while the first recorded meeting was in 1902, in Mount Pleasant, Michigan.

That first meeting between the Michigan State Normal College Normalites and Central Michigan Normal School Normalites took place in 1902, with CMNS coming away with a 10-0 victory. (Central’s football team had no official name until 1926, but the team and student body were unofficially called Normalites.)

Last season, the Chippewas defended home turf in their second conference game of a young season, picking up a 42-16 victory over the Eagles, thanks in part to an impressive offensive attack, which racked up 587 total yards (including 308 yards on the ground.)

This has been a fairly back-and-forth rivalry recently, with both teams alternating wins over the last five seasons.

Largest margin of victory:

  • Eastern Michigan: 63-0 (1917)
  • Central Michigan: 63-14 (1981)

Longest win streak:

  • Eastern Michigan: 5 games (1926-1930)
  • Central Michigan: 8 games (1937-1947)

Current streak:

  • Central Michigan (2019-present)

(All series history courtesy of Winsipedia)


The Chippewas

Quick Facts (2020 stats, through Week 4):

  • Points per game: 38
  • Points allowed: 29.67
  • Total yards: 422 (208.6 passing, 213.3 rushing)
  • Yards allowed: 405.7 (262.3 passing, 143.3 rushing)

The Chippewas raced out to a quick 14-0 lead against WMU last week, but then would never see the lead again, allowing a stunning 35-0 scoring run to let a winnable game fall out of their hands.

It was especially a struggle in the passing game, as Daniel Richardson was held to 157 yards, 71 of which came in the final offensive drive of the game. It was the first game where Richardson couldn’t get going, finishing with only 19 pass attempts all game, most of which came in the final drive; CMU had very clearly installed new packages focused on getting the run game going. But the struggles were extremely evident, as Richardson consistently overthrew receivers in key stiuations or had passes batted.

It forced CMU to rely on the running game, which isn’t necesssarily the best for making a quick comeback. Kalil Pimpleton was the talisman for the Chippewas this time around, with 108 rushing yards and three touchdowns operating primarily out of the WIldcat formation. Kobe Lewis also ran for 114 yards and two touchdowns going bvetween his traditional tailback spot and the Wildcat look. Overall, Central picked up 219 yards and five touchdowns on the ground against one of the better defenses in the conference. That makes the EMU defense look like a mighty treat, as they give up an impressive 239 yards per game on average up to this point in the season.

Defensively, the Chippewas didn’t have an answer for Kaleb Eleby or D’Wayne Eskridge, who tore apart the secondary with three 70+ yard touchdown passes. Eleby threw five touchdowns on the day, and ran for another, really establishing his presence early after a bad interception to start the game. The biggest indicator of how strong a beating this game turned out to be was that CMU’s total yards average balloned from 294.5 pre-game to 405.7 afterwards.

They might have an easier time around with EMU, whose immense struggles runnin gthe ball could force them into being dependent on the pass, making defensive playcalling easier. CMU has shown the propensity to pick up takeaways when necessary, as they’ve hauled in an average of one interception per game, and recovered five fumbles in the past three games.


The Eagles

Quick Facts (2020 stats, through Week 4):

  • Points per game: 27.3
  • Points allowed: 36.7
  • Passing Yards Per Game: 246
  • Rushing Yards Per Game: 118
  • Passing Yards Allowed Per Game: 249
  • Rushing Yards Allowed Per game: 239

After losing two close games to Kent State and Ball State, the Eagles pretty much got blown out by Toledo last week. Toledo focused on shutting down the Eagles run game and managed to do that by holding the Eagles to 34 net yards gained. Eastern quarterback Preston Hutchinson was serviceable in the game by going 25-of-39 for 244 yards but he threw one interception. He did a good job in distributing the ball around by the fact there wasn’t one receiver that stood out amongst the group.

So what do I expect this week? I think the Eagles face a pretty tough team in the Chippewas and will have to bring their A game. If the Eagles can establish their run game, they will do well. Last week saw them rush for only 34 yards, which simply won’t do the job. If Central Michigan stifles them like Toledo did, it’s going to be a long day in Ypsilanti.


Prediction

Both teams come into this game with their egos bruised, which provides a great opportunity to try and re-seize momentum.

After sitting around for a week or so, stewing over the losses, both staffs will have to go to the drawing boards and find motivations for both their squads in this one. Adversity has a strange way of taking hold, especially in a shortened season like this, and getting a bunch of 18-24 year olds to buy in to a potentially busted season will be difficult.

But both CMU and EMU are perfectly capable teams in their own ways, who have faced very tough seasons up to this point.

What will ultimately win the day is the matchup between CMU’s defensive backs and EMU’s receiving corps. The Eagles like to spread it around between at least five different targets, and it’s hard to pin down on a conistent basis who the primary target will be. CMU, though they were toasted by Eskridge last week, is still a solid unit looking for vengence. The CB unit is talented, if still green due to the unique offseason. With Preston Hutchison quickly establishing himself as one of the MAC’s purest passers, it’ll be a tough test for CMU.

Bettors have this as a seven-point game, and that’s probably a wise play; EMU has a tendency to play opponents close, and Central hasn’t proven to be a team that can hold a firm lead so far.