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Game Preview: Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Michigan State Spartans

Central Michigan v Michigan State Spartans Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

Fresh off of its first Big Ten win of the season, the Michigan State Spartans football program (2-1) takes on the Central Michigan Chippewas (1-3) on Saturday at noon. This will be the first day game of the year for the Spartans, as MSU opened up the season with three straight night kickoffs.

Both teams will look to close out non-conference play on a high note. Michigan State looks to build off of an impressive (but expected) win in Bloomington against Indiana, while Central Michigan looks to earn back-to-back wins for the first time this season.

As usual at this point in the week, it’s preview time!

Tale of the Tape

Michigan State:
2018 Record — 2-1 (1-0 Big Ten)

Offense (per game basis)— 393 total yards, 273.33 passing yards, 119.7 rushing yards, 28.67 points scored

Defense (per game basis)— 356.3 yards allowed, 323.67 passing yards allowed, 32.7 rushing yards allowed, 22.67 points allowed

Current S&P+ Ranking: 18th

Central Michigan
2018 Record — 1-3 (0-1 MAC)

Offense (per game basis) — 258.5 total yards, 138.5 passing yards, 120 rushing yards, 15 points scored

Defense (per game basis)— 334.3 yards allowed, 140 passing yards allowed, 194.3 rushing yards allowed, 23.75 points allowed

Current S&P+ Ranking: 119th

Series History/All-Time Records

All-time head-to-head record: Michigan State leads 7-3
Last Michigan State Win: Sept. 26, 2015 (30-10)
Last Central Michigan Win: Sept. 12, 2009 (29-27)
Michigan State all-time record: 696-454-44
Central Michigan all-time record: 619-413-36

Previous Game Results (Quick Hits Recap)

Michigan State 35, Indiana 21

This was the bounceback game the Spartans needed, and a good way to begin Big Ten play with a road victory. There were still some mistakes made — Brian Lewerke threw two interceptions, the running backs group still couldn’t get anything going, the defense allowed some big passing plays late— but overall, the Spartans had a solid performance in Bloomington. Young players, such as true freshman Jalen Nailor and redshirt freshman Shakur Brown really stepped up and made big plays.

Central Michigan 17, Maine 5

It wasn’t pretty for the Chippewas, but they were able to secure their first win of the season. Granted, it was over an FCS team, and the offense continued to struggle with just 177 total yards. The CMU defense held the Black Bears to just 183 passing yards and 82 rushing yards, while also recording six sacks and forcing two turnovers. Both teams struggled on third down, but at the end of the day, CMU earned the victory.

Key Matchups

Brian Lewerke vs. CMU pass defense: While the Chips struggle to stop the run on defense, one thing to note is that CMU ranks in the top-five nationally against the pass. So, if you’re expecting an easy game for Brian Lewerke, you may be mistaken. Though, Lewerke is second in the Big Ten in passing yards with 271.3 yards per game, only behind Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins. CMU has not faced a quarterback of his caliber yet.

MSU Rushing offense vs. CMU front seven: This has to be the week where the ground game gets going. Michigan State’s rushing attack is so abysmal, it ranks 112th in the nation, which actually ranks one spot behind CMU. Central Michigan has had a difficult time stopping the run, though, as its defense ranks just 104th in the country against the rush. This is an opportunity for LJ Scott (if he plays), Connor Heyward and the rest of the MSU tailbacks to break out.

MSU offensive line vs. Central Michigan pass rush: As mentioned, the CMU defense is coming off of a six-sacks performance. Yes, it was against Maine, but defensive end Mike Danna broke out with four sacks. The MSU offensive line has struggled to say the least, and Lewerke has been sacked eight times this season — including three times in two of the three games. CMU has recorded nine total sacks on the season. Pass protection must be better for the Spartans.

Game Info

Time: Noon EST
TV Channel: FS1
Location: Spartan Stadium, East Lansing
Weather expectations: Mostly sunny, 53 degrees at kickoff with a high of 60 degrees, winds blowing west at seven-eight miles per hour


Michigan State seemed to get back on track against the Hoosiers last weekend. This week, I don’t expect CMU to get a lot going offensively. The Spartans have the No. 1 rushing defense in the nation and the Chips rank just 111th in the NCAA rushing the football. While the MSU passing defense has been exposed throughout the season, the Chippewas rank just 121st out of 129 teams in passing offense, though CMU brought in a new quarterback last week and hopes to improve there. For the Spartans, they must get the running attack going and the offensive line needs to play with some consistency. Red zone efficiency and the amount of turnovers in the red zone need to improve as well.

I am always somewhat torn when Michigan State and Central Michigan play each other, as I have ties to both schools, but the Spartans should be able to win this game handily.

For more on Central Michigan, check out Matt Hoeppner’s “Get to know the opponent” piece.

On paper, Michigan State should win by four touchdowns. But we know all too well that MSU doesn’t often run away with games. What do you think?


What do you predict happens?

This poll is closed

  • 67%
    Michigan State wins handily (by 20 points or more)
    (95 votes)
  • 17%
    Michigan State wins, but it’s closer than expected (by 14 points or less)
    (24 votes)
  • 10%
    Michigan State wins by somewhere in between (15-19 points)
    (15 votes)
  • 4%
    Central Michigan wins
    (6 votes)
140 votes total Vote Now