The Central Michigan Chippewas (5-4, 3-2 MAC) return home this Saturday where they’ll face off against the Northern Illinois Huskies (3-5, 2-2 MAC) in a battle that could go a long way in determining the MAC West winner.
The Chips had a chance to take the lead in the West last weekend but, after losing to Buffalo, they remained a half game behind Ball State, and are tied with WMU.
NIU is sitting right behind CMU and WMU and, with wins over both teams, could still find themselves in the hunt for the MAC West crown if they win out and get some help with some Ball State losses.
When: Saturday, November 2nd at 12 p.m. (EST)
Where: Kelly/Shorts Stadium — Mount Pleasant, MI
Weather: High 30s with possible rain and snow
Odds: CMU is a 1-point favorite but NIU has a 57.7% chance to win according to ESPN’s FPI
This will be the 55th meeting all time between the two schools. Central currently holds a 29-24-1 lead in the series that dates all the way back to 1939 and has been dominated by streaks on both sides.
The Chips started the series off strong, going 11-2-1 in the first 14 meetings before the Huskies would claim six of the next seven, narrowing the gap. But, in the 70’s and 80’s, CMU would surge ahead again winning nine of the next twelve games and setting them up with a 21-11-1 lead.
From 1998 to 2013 however, the Huskies would dominate the series, winning 12 of the 16 match ups, including a streak of nine in a row, which narrowed the lead to 25-23-1. Since 2014 though, the Chips have been NIU’s kryptonite and have won four of the last five.
The Huskies have faced off against the Chippewas more times than any other FBS school and the second most in team history (facing only Illinois State mores times - 57 times).
CMU has only played EMU (97 meetings) and WMU (90 meetings) more times than the Huskies.
Largest margin of victory:
NIU: 49-0 (49 points), 2002
CMU: 69-7 (62 points), 1975
Longest win streak:
NIU: 9 games (1998-2006)
CMU: 8 games (1952-59)
NIU - 1 (24-16, 2018)
As of writing this on Tuesday, quarterback Ross Bowers is still questionable for the game and is still undergoing concussion protocol so Marcus Childers might be getting the nod once again.
Last week in relief of Bowers, Childers didn’t throw much but he made the most of his attempts. He completed seven of his nine throws for 71 yards and three touchdowns as the Huskies pounded the ball on the ground and rolled Akron.
Tre Harbison is continuing to put up good numbers against MAC foes. In the past four games he’s scored all seven of his touchdowns and has powered his way to 500 yards (including a season-high 158 yards on 31 attempts last week). He’s closing in on the 1000-yard mark for the season, as he now has 724 yards on 158 carries (4.6 yards per rush).
Sophomore receiver Cole Tucker has exploded this season, leading the team with 29 catches and 408 yards. Behind him, tight ends Mitchell Brinkman and Daniel Crawford have also had big years. Brinkman has 360 yards and two TDs on his 26 catches while Crawford has 27 snags for 346 yards. Wide outs Spencer Tears (279 yards, TD) and Tyrice Richie (276 yards, 3 TDs) are also threats, especially on the deep ball.
Defensively, the Huskies have finally found a way to work around all the injuries as they posted their first shutout since 2012 last weekend.
Linebacker Vinny Labus has come on strong in place of Antonio Jones-Davis and now has 35 tackles, 3.5 TFL, two sacks, two pass break ups, a QB hurry, and a fumble recovery.
The Huskies still have a strong secondary with Mykelti Williams, Treyshon Foster, and Jalen McKie netting nearly half of all Huskie pass break ups. Williams leads the team with 55 tackles (3.5 TFL), while Foster’s 31 tackles ranks fourth and McKie is fifth in stops with 30.
Quinten Dormady will once again take the snaps for the Chips in place of David Moore, starting his fourth game in a row. Dormady has completed 63.7% of his passes this season for 1022 yards and has an 8-4 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
Kalil Pimpleton has been the most targeted receiver for Chippewa quarterbacks. He has 603 yards and five touchdowns and his 57 receptions nearly doubles the next CMU player - JaCorey Sullivan.
Sullivan now has 30 catches for 456 yards and three TDs. Most of that has come recently though, as he has exploded for 240 yards and two scores on 15 receptions in the past two games.
Wide out Tyrone Scott and tight end Tony Poljan are also threats in the passing game. Scott has 22 catches, 355 yards, and two scores while Poljan is right behind him with 273 yards and two TDs on 23 snags.
On the ground Jonathan Ward is one of the best running backs in the MAC. He’s averaging 6.8 yards per carry and has 725 yards and nine touchdowns on the season. Last week Buffalo held him to just 64 yards, which snapped his streak of four straight 100+ yard games (he ran for 130+ in three of those four games). Behind Ward, Kobe Lewis has been a solid second back. Lewis now has 645 yards and eight touchdowns this season.
On defense, the Chips are led by a pair of linebackers - Troy Brown and Michael Oliver. The duo has combined for 115 tackles (61 by Brown and 54 from Oliver), 17.5 TFL, two interceptions, two fumble recovers, a sack, and a forced fumble.
Devonni Reed and Da’Quaun Jamison patrol the secondary for CMU. Reed has 55 tackles, two TFL, and a pass break up. Jamison has been all over the field, tallying 42 stops, four QBH, 2.5 TFL, two interceptions, two breakups, and a sack.
Up front, look out for Sean Adesanya. The defensive lineman leads the team with six sacks and nine of his 23 tackles have been in the backfield. He also has a forced fumble and an interception he returned 49 yards.
This game is a toss up and could easily go either way.
The Chips offense has been prone to self-inflicted mistakes this season, turning the ball over 21 times (only Hawaii and New Mexico State have more). The 13 lost fumbles and eight interceptions has led to a -8 turnover margin, which is 121st in the NCAA. They’re also 101st in the country in penalty yards per game, giving up nearly 70 free yards per game.
If the Huskies can capitalize on those mistakes and force a few turnovers, NIU will walk away with the victory.
But if Childers struggles to throw the ball effectively and the Huskies aren’t able to force some turnovers, the dangerous Chippewa offense could slice through the injury-laden NIU defense.
I think the Huskies force a late interception and sneak away with a close win.
NIU Huskies - 28
CMU Chippewas - 24