For the first time since the Dan Lefevour era, there is genuine excitement surrounding the Central Michigan football team. After a big comeback against FCS Chattanooga, and then going down to West Lafayette and thrashing the Purdue Boilermakers in their own home, Dan Enos has his team, and many of the fans, believing that this Chippewa squad is the real deal.
We will know for sure this saturday when Syracuse comes into Mt. Pleasant. The Orange are the second of three "Power Five conference" schools the Chips have in their non-conference schedule. After beating up on Purdue the Chippewas seem to have all the momentum coming into a game against a Syracuse team who just barely escaped with a win in double OT against Villanova.
Thomas Rawls has proven to be an invaluable pickup for the Chippewas. The transfer running back has bowled over opposing defenders in his first two games wearing maroon and gold. Rawls has gained 276 yards on the ground in his first two games and is averaging almost 5 yards per carry. He has also been an asset to Cooper Rush and the passing game catching the occasional pass out of the backfield, including a 40 yard gash against Purdue last week. Rawls' contributions have been invaluable to the Chips early success, particularly due to the injury to senior superstar receiver Titus Davis.
Coach Enos has been keeping quiet with regards to Davis status for this Saturday. When asked by CM Life whether Davis would play this week he only said, "Hopefully. We'll see." Chippewa fans will be anxious to hear an official word one way or the other, but until then all of Mt Pleasant remains on #DavisWatch.
Should Davis be able to play, he could be a huge weapon against a Syracuse defense that at times struggled against the passing game of Villanova. The real struggle for Syracuse however was stopping the run. The Orange allowed 190 rushing yards in their opening game. Jay Bromley was the star of the Syracuse defensive line until he was drafted in the 3rd round of the NFL draft last year. This is a Syracuse defensive front that could be pushed around by the Chippewas talented offensive line, and run over by Thomas Rawls.
The Syracuse secondary struggled at times, but is capable of making big plays. The Orange like to bring pressure on the quarterback and if Cooper Rush starts to feel the rush, he is prone to making mistakes. There were no turnovers in the opening game between Syracuse and Villanova, but between the Chips Ballhawks of Tony Annese and Brandon Greer, and the Syracuse secondary if Rush starts making mistakes, there could be quite a few interceptions thrown by both sides in this game.
The Chippewa defense has looked very solid the first two games, but Syracuse will by far be their biggest challenge yet. Central has been known to struggle against mobile quarterbacks, and the Orange will be bringing a mobile quarterback to Mt Pleasant. Terrel Hunt only had 3 rushing attempts against Villanove before he was ejected for throwing a punch at an opposing player. Hunt will be back on the field and in the spotlight on Saturday.
This will be the most important game the Chippewas have played in a long time. The 2-0 start of a big comeback and a thrashing of a B1G school has many fans drinking the Dan Enos Kool-Ade. Others are still skeptical, as they should be. This game will be a huge test for this Chippewa squad. It's sure to be a great atmosphere in a packed Kelly-Shorts Stadium. Chippewa fans everywhere will want to see this game. The question remains, which Chippewa team will run out of that tunnel on Saturday at Noon? The team that played a terrible first half against Chattanooga, or the team that came out, played loose and beat up on Purdue? If the latter comes to play, we should be in for a hell of a game.
The Chippewas success will come down to the defense, and the play of Cooper Rush. You know what you're going to get from Rawls. If Rush can avoid mistakes, and the defense can contain a mobile quarterback on Saturday afternoon, I see no reason why the Chippewas can't be 3-0 by Saturday night.