The Central Michigan Chippewas (9-4 in 2021) and the Oklahoma State Cowboys (12-2 in 2021) are set to do battle for the first time since Saturday, September 10th, 2016, when the two teams meet up in Stillwater this week.
It was an important day in college football lore, as the upset-minded Chippewas were given one last chance to take home a victory on the road against the Cowboys due to an intentional grounding penalty on Mason Rudolph on fourth down to end the game.
Take home victory they did, with Cooper Rush finding Jesse Kroll down the field and Kroll immediately shovel passing to Corey Willis, who then outraced the OK State defense to the endzone, stunning the homestanding crowd— and the rest of the college football world.
Now, six years later, both teams find themselves in similar positions to where they were on that fateful day, looking to get their 2022 campaigns off on the right foot— and take home the rubber match win for a series which started in Mt. Pleasant all the way back in 2015.
- Time and Date: Thursday, September 1, 2022, at 7 p.m. Eastern time.
- Network: FS1 (A valid cable subscription is required for viewing.)
- Location: Boone Pickens Stadium in Stillwater, Oklahoma
- Spread/Total: Oklahoma State is a 21-point favorite, with an over/under spread of 58 points, per OddsShark.
- All-time series: Third all-time meetings between CMU and OK State. CMU won the last matchup in 2016.
Getting to know the Cowboys
The Cowboys come into 2022 as a team on the upswing after a 2021 campaign which saw them go 12-2, with an appearance in the Big 12 title game and a win against Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl on New Year’s Day to end the season, and were ranked #12 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 poll.
Curiously, OK State accomplished it all by playing defense, something the program hadn’t been know for in years past under current head coach Mike Gundy. The ‘Pokes finished last season as the fifth-best defense overall, allowing 297.9 per game to opponents. They were also a Top 10 unit in both scoring (18.1 points per game, ninth in NCAA) and rushing (87.6 yards per game, fifth in NCAA), while featuring the second-best passing defense in the Big 12, with just 201 yards allowed per contest.
Their offense is still nothing to sneeze at either, scoring 31.1 points per game (45th in NCAA), while picking up 417.4 total yards per game (55th in NCAA.)
This will certainly be CMU’s toughest test of the season on both sides of the ball, and getting it right off the bat will be a great challenge for a team with MAC West title ambitions.
OK State graduated their top receiver and top running back to the NFL in the offseason, but they still return Brennan Presley (50 receptions, 619 yards, five touchdowns) on the outside and Dominic Richardson (79 rushes, 373 yards, four touchdowns) in the backfield to push the program forward.
Other receivers to return include John Paul Richardson (23 rec., 168 yards, two scores) and Blaine Green (21 rec., 314 yards and a score), while four-star freshman running back Ollie Gordon (six-foot-three, 230 lbs.) and Jaden Nixon (14 rushes, 122 yards, one touchdown) could push for starting time with Dominic Richardson.
They’ll be led on the field by Spencer Sanders, who grew into one of the steadiest QB prospects in the country in 2021, throwing for 2,839 yards, 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, while also showing dual-threat ability as OKST’s second-leading rusher (146 rushes, 668 yards, six touchdowns.)
Their terrifying defense will lost a major cog in linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez, who was drafted in the sixth round by the Detroit Lions, and will also have to deal with losing six of their top eight tacklers and the loss of their defensive coordinator, but it should still be a stout unit in 2022.
The 4-2-5 defense does return a lot of underclassmen contributors who saw playing time in 2022, highlighted by freshman end Collin Oliver, who had 11.5 sacks in 2021 to earn Freshman All-American honors. They’ll be bolstered by some upperclassmen at key positions, with seniors Tyler Lacy (34 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss, 3.5 sacks at end) and Brock Martin (41 tackles, 14 tackles-for-loss, nine sacks at linebacker.)
The secondary could be a weak spot once again for the ‘Pokes, as it was an Achilles heel in 2021, and will now have a lot of movement of pieces, with only safety Jason Taylor II (48 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, 2.5 sacks, two interceptions) returning to his starting position at strong safety. Jabbar Muhammed and Korie Black project as starters at corner, with Thomas Harper and Sean Michael Flanagan potentially joining Taylor at safety.
OK State’s defense relies on forcing unfavorable situations, as opponents faced an average of 7.52 yards to go on third down whenever facing the Cowboys, while converting only 31.3 percent of the time. They are similar to CMU in havoc fundamentals as well, topping the country in team sacks (57) and placing second to CMU in total tackles-for-loss per game (8.1), and should match up the Chippewa running game up favorably, after allowing opponent run success rate to just 30.7 percent.
Getting to know the Chippewas
The Chips come into this matchup looking to replace one of the country’s most balanced lineups on both sides of the ball, and will have to do so under great fire. CMU was a Top 25 offensive unit in 2021, with 443.4 total yards per game in 2021, while also ranking 35th in average scoring (32.3 points per game.) The defense was just as capable, coming in as the 18th best rushing defense in the country (118.5 yards per game) and third-best in the MAC with a points allowed average of 25.8.
The heart of CMU’s offense is in running back Lew Nichols III, who will seek to defend his title as MAC Offensive Player of the Year in 2021 after a campaign which saw him pick up 1,848 yards and 16 touchdowns on an incredible 341 attempts, which made him the country’s leading rusher by a good margin. He’ll have to replicate that performance once again in 2022, as the depth chart behind him is unsettled with the departure of Kobe Lewis, whose injury in 2021 was partly responsible for Nichols’ snap count, to Purdue in the offseason.
Daniel Richardson (191-of-316, 2,633 yards, 24 touchdowns, six interceptions) returns as the undisputed starter under center after inexplicably having to re-earn his starter status in 2021, leading CMU to a 7-2 record after taking over from Washington transfer Jacob Sirmon (now at Northern Colorado) in Week 5. He’s got all-MAC potential at the position, with an arm capable of throwing passes 50+ yards downfield, while also having the touch for timing passes despite his diminutive stature (five-foot-10, 204 lbs.)
He’ll certainly have a choice of receivers to throw to, even with the departures of recent Hard Knocks star Kalil Pimpleton and JaCorey Sullivan. Dallas Dixon (45 receptions, 701 yards, eight touchdowns) returns as the leading receiver and will likely operate out of the slot as he did in 2021. Maryland transfer Carlos Carriere, who stands at six-foot-five, 203 lbs., is set to be the primary outside target after picking up five touchdowns as a Terrapin last season. Ball State transfer Jalen McGaughy has also picked up a lot of hype in spring camps as an outside speed option at six-foot-four, 225 lbs., while tight end Joel Wilson (31 receptions, 367 yards, six touchdowns) presents another vertical threat.
The defensive front seven was a top-five unit in the country in both sacks and tackles-for-loss in 2021, and the majority of contributors will return in 2022, as CMU seeks to replace former 2020 MAC Defensive Player of the Year Troy Hairston (graduation) and Amir Siddiq (transfer to Charlotte) after their departures.
Jacques Bristol (36 tackles, seven tackles-for-loss, three sacks) and key rotational option John Wesley Whiteside (22 tackles, 7.5 tackles-for-loss, 6.5 sacks) return in the interior, while Robi Stuart (74 tckles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss, four sacks in parts of four seasons) reclaims his starting role inside the interior.
Thomas Incoom (28 tackles, 8.5 tackles-for-loss, 4.5 sacks), formerly of D-II power Valdosta State, also returns to set the defensive edge after an emergent 2021 campaign. Opposite Incoom, the Chips have opted to go young, with a pair of promising freshman prospects in Michael Heldman and Jonah Pace, who have impressed in spring and fall camps enough to move senior contributor (and former 2019/20 starter) LaQuan Johnson out of the two-deep.
At linebacker, we’ll see three new starters, with Nick Apsey (related to former CMU LB Trevor Apsey), Justin Whiteside and Kyle Moretti. The latter two were especially effective in tandem down the stretch, replacing the since-departed George Douglas and Troy Brown in rotation work, with 75 tackles, 11.5 tackles-for-loss and four sacks combined, and should be a centerpiece at the second level of the defense this upcoming season as full-time contributors.
The secondary sees a flurry of change after a struggle-filled campaign in 2021, giving up 263.3 yards per game through the air, a mark which placed them 112th of 130 programs.
Donte Kent returns after a breakout campaign, which saw him emerge as an excellent man-to-man corner in the second half of the season, picking up 55 tackles and 14 pass break-ups as a redshirt freshman in 2021. His brother Ronald transfers in from FCS Western Carolina as well after accumulating 162 tackles, seven tackles-for-loss, two interceptions and 28 pass break-ups (second all-time in Catamounts program history) in four seasons, and should provide depth.
Rollian Sturkey starts opposite Donte Kent at corner, with 36 tackles and four pass break-ups, and also has some experience at safety. Trey Jones, JUCO transfer Jayden Davis and Caleb Spann will likely see work at the safety spots after all of CMU’s 2021 starters depart the program due to graduation or transfer.