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Central Michigan Chippewas vs Western Michigan Broncos football preview: Talkin sMACk

Western Michigan and Central Michigan face off for the 86th time on Saturday in a game that has big implications for the MAC West

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

It's the moment we've all been waiting for. The Battle for the Victory Cannon. Central Western week is always entertaining, and both teams have plenty to lose this week. Central Michigan comes in following a win over Northern Illinois for a second year in a row, while WMU is coming off of a bye week at 1-3. Talking sMACk today will be James Jimenez fighting for CMU and Justin Coffin for WMU. Now sit back, relax, and enjoy our semi intelligible banter.

Justin: Alright, I've won the coin toss and elect to receive. Look, I know the road team has won the previous three match ups in this series, but that doesn't scare me. You know why it doesn't scare me? WMU's iffy run defense doesn't have to take on Devon Spalding on Saturday due to injury, meaning CMU's already non-terrifying 78 yards per game has become even less so.

On Western's side, you have a rushing attack just starting to hit its stride, rushing for 169 yards against Ohio State two weeks ago on the road. And as if Jarvion Franklin wasn't enough to handle for the Chips, WMU added red shirt freshman Jamauri Bogan to the mix, a former three star recruit from New Jersey. Looks like double trouble for the school from up north.

James: That's nice. I'm always more of a second half person anyways.

And it's great to see you're ​taking in that Fleckian Kool-Aid about calling Central "that school up north." It's too bad he's gonna row out of town in a life boat laden with cash with the new wifey in a year or two.

I notice that you mentioned CMU's 78 YPG rushing. The Chips have seemingly found their answer in Jahray Hayes, who has already been a consistent runner since his arrival from City College of San Francisco. Hayes is a lighter, quicker form of Zurlon Tipton, with better hands, and he had a reputation for running ramshackle in JUCO, gaining over 2000+ yards and 30 touchdowns in two seasons.

Ignoring the run game could prove to be dangerous for the Broncos, especially since they don't understand the concept of the fact that they have to stop the ball as well. What you called an "iffy" defense is actually kinda bad. The Western Michigan running defense has given up twelve touchdowns and 895 yards, which boils down to an average of 223.8 yards per game, 6.1 yards per carry (third-highest in the nation),and three touchdowns a game (eek). It's a fairly wonderful Eastern Michigan impression.

What you also fail to acknowledge is that CMU has a fantastic running defense, which is averaging 155.4 yards per game and until last week vs. NIU, hadn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 12 consecutive games. The transition to a 4-3 setup under new defensive coordinator Greg Colby has looked flawless, and he has found new stars in Malik Fountain and Tim Hamilton, who had 11 tackles and a forced fumble against the Huskies last week to earn the #21 jersey this week. Jarvion Franklin was somewhat limited in the match in Mt. Pleasant last season, gaining only 77 yards; Dareyon Chance had more yards per rush than him.

Moving on from pointing out the flaws in your argument, though. I am fairly confident in Cooper Rush to expose the weaknesses in the passing game. especially in Ronald Zamort. Unlike last season, the Chips have an actual receiving corps (not just Titus Davis) that Rush utilizes to surgical efficiency. On the season, Rush is a top 15 quarterback in total passing yards, with 1,450 yards and eight touchdowns, and has weapons to boot in possession receiver Jesse Kroll, deep threat Anthony Thomas, and speedster Corey Willis. Need I go on?

Justin: It's funny you should mention the fantastic run defense of CMU. Each team has the luxury (or misfortune) of sharing a common opponent on the season in Michigan State. That porous rushing defense of WMU gave up 4.9 yards per carry while the stout front seven of the Chips gave up just 5.02. Wait, hold on, which one is higher?

You also can't ignore the strength of WMU's schedule with Ohio State and Georgia Southern, two teams great at rushing the ball. Of the FBS competition the Broncos have faced this season, Central Michigan will be worst rushing football team. An already poor rushing attack going against a team that's already seen some of the best ground games in the country? I'm sure the Broncos aren't overlooking the run game, just game planning a bit harder for Cooper Rush.

Speaking of which, I will concede that Rush is having a great year, and could very well be the best quarterback the Broncos have seen this season, depending on what you think of Cardale Jones (I think Rush is better than Connor Cook). But the secondary for Western Michigan will be aided by the lack of need for committing bodies to the run game, as well as a familiarity with this quarterback. I'm glad you brought up last year's game. Aside from loving pretty much every second of it, Rush through three interceptions at home and now has the unfortunate task of going against a WMU secondary that features Darius Phillips. Phillips is known for his return game and being a beast on special teams, but the Sophomore has three interceptions including a touchdown, and could be one of the more athletic corners the CMU receiving corps has seen on the year.

And I haven't even gotten to WMU's passing attack, which, despite virtually imploding against Georgia Southern is still averaging 288 yards through the air and features the nations leading pass catcher, Daniel Braverman, who has caught double digit passes in each game this season. It's been needed, too, as Corey Davis has been off to a slow start with some nagging injuries, but should be getting to full strength just in time to take on CMU. There's little chance Central has seen a receiving corps as good as this one through five games.

James: Yeah, about strength of similar opponents... Central played State a lot closer. On the road. Western was forced to rally from behind at home. Just look at the box scores. As for Georgia Southern, that team wasn't even at full strength; their starting QB was out of that matchup and Western STILL lost a game they were favored to win.

Darius Phillips is a great player, acknowledged, but he is also your entire pass defense, accounting for all three interceptions. Last I checked, one corner covers one receiver, not four. Daniel Braverman has also had a great season (and I forever curse Matt for having him in our HB Fantasy League), but without Corey Davis at full strength, there isn't really a lot there for Zach Terrell to throw at, especially with Phillips (last season's third-leading receiver) running with the defensive backs now. Who else is getting touches... Mullineaux? Boyden? Goulbourne? TOM FLACCO? WHO?

Cooper Rush has shown considerable improvement against an underrated non-conference schedule, which saw him force OT in the road (Syracuse), lead a fantastic effort before a fumble (State), and score a go-ahead run against a Top 25 defense (Oklahoma State), while dispatching NIU's stout defense in the second half despite a lacking running game. This isn't a developing 2014 Cooper Rush dependent on two playmakers for yard. Now, he IS the playmaker, and Coach Bono shows a lot of trust in him, something Coach Enos never did. Speaking of that, the last six CMU coaches to coach in their first Battle for the Victory Cannon? They all won. (Yes, including Dan Enos.) The streak goes all the way to Herb Deromedi. You know what they say about history repeating itself, right?

Justin: I like history, but I don't like that version, so I will take a page out of the Texas School board's book and just pick out the parts I like. For example, since 1995, the Chips and Broncos have squared off before the second weekend in October just twice. I like this stat because A.) Both of those games were in Waldo Stadium (1999 and 2011) and B.) Both times the Broncos were victorious - by a combined margin of 82-30.

I also know that WMU has won three of the last four contests, and is the only team in the last four years to win by double digits. Oh, and do you really feel good about beating that 2013 team?

You're right. Central sans Enos is a much better Central, no matter how many recruits the team may have lost out on, and Bonomego knows what he's doing. He's proved as much. But Bono is up against a better Western Michigan team and program than the others faced (yes, including Bill Cubit), and could be over matched in talent at the skill positions. We haven't even talked about Zach Terrell, who with time in the pocket can pick apart any defense. Hell, he threw for 365 yards against MSU and was even sacked seven times. I'm not sure Central is willing to bring pressure and leave players single covered, either. That's a recipe for disaster when taking on Davis, Braverman and company. To answer your question about the "and company" portion of that statement, WMU has worked in some tight ends this season including Jerimiah MULLINAX, who caught a big touchdown pass against the Spartans. Carrington Thompson has been a good weapon for WMU this season and is a more than viable third option for Terrell, although I'm sad Kadeem Goulbourne hasn't panned out yet, I really hated releasing him from my fantasy team.

James: CMU only lost two recruits (one to Miami and one to Kansas), so I think we'll be just fine in that department.

As for the receiving corps, I'm confident in a secondary that is greatly boosted by Josh Cox's coverage ability, Stefon Armstead's toughness, and Tony Anese's ballhawkishness (I made that up just now). to the point where I am fairly expecting less than 200 yards.

I'll take any win over Western. A win is a win is a win, and Coach Bono should know how to do that: he was 4-0 as a player against ya'll back in the 1980's. But enough argumentations! I want some #STONE #COLD #LOCKS

Central could be off to a slow start, but will be motivated and ready to prove themselves again; this game is just to oimportant for their MAC West division hopes. CMU 21-14 WMU.

Justin: This is a must win for the brown and gold. I'm picking Western Michigan to #BeatCentral by a score of 35-24. Rivalry games are fun, and nobody wants to lose one, but WMU will have more urgency. A loss to Centrol would be P.J. Fleck's 20th loss at the elm. That can't happen. Not yet.

James: Enjoy that 10-2- record, yo. #SinkTheBoat #BeatWestern #FireUpChips

Justin: *11-19 #RTB