Let's Try This Again -- Central Michigan at Michigan State Preview

LEXINGTON, KY - SEPTEMBER 10: Cody Wilson #11 of the Central Michigan Chippewas runs with the ball during the game against the Kentucky Wildcats at Commonwealth Stadium on September 10, 2011 in Lexington, Kentucky. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)




First, a couple notes on the mini-masthead.  I've made a compilation of the East Lansing Visitors' Guide, and you can click on the appropriate link to get there.  And the tickets link?  SB Nation has partnered with TiqIQ to sell Michigan State tickets!  Click on the appropriate link to get there as well, you can also click on the "Tickets" link near the top of the page.

Reviewing the 29-27 debacle two years ago -- Dan LeFevour, onside kick , field goal, 10 points in 32 seconds, ball game.  Caught up?  Good?  Good.  After that season Butch Jones left for Cincinnati, and Central Michigan is now under the leadership of former Spartan assistant Dan Enos.  The Chippewas are a far cry from their MAC glory days of yesteryear, going 3-9 last year and 1-2 this year, although one of those losses was close to Kentucky.   After the jump:  a look at Central's units, and how Michigan State can go about thwarting them.


First, the offensive line.   They've got 80 combined starts between the five of them, with the least being eight and most being 30; they may know how to work together a bit.  What this experience hasn't translated to is anything remarkable, especially in the running game.  Quarterback Ryan Radcliffe has taken five sacks on the season, and the Chippewas are averaging 3.4 yards a carry.  Central's rushing average has improved each week though. It started at 2.4 ypc against SC State, rose to 2.7 against Kentucky, then ballooned to 5.1 against Western Michigan last week.  Hope this trend does not continue.

The carries are mainly split by redshirt sophomore running backs Tim Phillips and all-name candidate Zurlon Tipton.  Phillips and Tipton have a Ringer-Caulcrick vibe, as Phillips is listed at 5'5" and 166 pounds, while Tipton is 6'1" and weighs in at 222 pounds.  The carries have been split almost evenly between the two this season (Phillips has 34 to Tipton's 31), and the stats are what you'd expect out of their sizes -- Phillips has the longest run and the higher average (28 and 4.1), while Tipton has fewer negative yards (4 to Phillips' 14). Senior back Paris Cotton will get a few carries as well (Edit -- Tipton will be out for this games and many more with a broken foot, I'd guess Cotton will most likely get his carries.  Thanks to A Beautiful Day for Football with the catch - Ed).

Ryan Radcliffe is the quarterback, and is having a meh year so far -- 58-108 (53.7%) for 678 yards, with three touchdowns against four interceptions.  The low completion percentage is a bit perplexing, as Radcliffe completed 60.5% of his passes last season for 3358 yards.  Four of the top five receivers returned from last season, including the receiver who got the lion's share of passes last season, Cody Wilson.  Wilson had 83 catches for 1,137 yards last year, but is only on pace for 56 so far this season.  Be a little concerned because the passing game is better than what they've shown the past few games, but don't worry too much -- MSU's pass defense has been far from their biggest deficiency this season.


The CMU defense runs a 4-3 base and returns six starters from last season but loses their top two tacklers in linebackers Matt Berning and Nick Bellore.  Three of those six starters are on the defensive line, but they lost their top player in 2nd All-MAC nose tackle Sean Mumane, who led the team in tackles for a loss last season.  The defensive dynamo for the Chippewas so far this year looks to be linebacker Mike Petrucci.  He leads the team in tackles (23) and tackles for a loss (4.0). 


Where to attack the defense though? Kentucky beat CMU on the ground (averaged 6.4 yards a carry), while Western Michigan triumphed through the air (355 passing yards, 9.3 yards per attempt).  It looks like the Chippewas are vulnerable either way, and Michigan State will have to decide how long they want to stick with the run if it was as ineffective as it was against Notre Dame.  Then again, I doubt we'll see a guard on one side of the center and the entirety of the offensive line on the other side as well.

The kicker is David Harman.  He had a decent year in 2010, going 9-12 on his field goals (perfect from inside the 40), but has only gone 1-3 this year, making one inside the 20 and missing two from between 30 and 39 yards.  Another strange note about Harman's 2010 year -- he missed as many extra points (23-26) as he did field goals on the season.  The punter is Richie Hogan; he averages 39.1 yards per punt.  As Detective Homer Simpson would say, "That's the end of that chapter."


I'm not too worried about MSU's defense.  They were only at fault for 21 of Notre Dame's 31 points last week, held them to under five yards a play, and had a few big plays.  Kurtis Drummond is now the third cornerback when MSU is in a five defensive back set, and will most likely be an upgrade over Mitchell White at that position.  If consistent breakdowns happen on defense, be very afraid.

The offense?  Who knows.  The good news is that new right tackle Fou Fonoti played there in camp, and Travis Jackson was in heavy competition with Blake Treadwell to start at center.  I'm 98% sure Michigan State is going to win this game, but I'm not sure how they're going to win it.  I could see the offensive line coalescing to the point where Baker, Bell, and Caper can consistently move the ball down the field.  I can also see the line struggling to the point where Kirk Cousins attempts more than 40 passes to win the game.  Either way though, I believe MSU wins.  I'm just not sure how comfortable I'll be.


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