Get to know an opponent: Central Michigan

The Bulls return home to take on the Chippewas

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Coming off a 21-0 victory over Akron, the Bulls return home to Amherst to take on Central Michigan Saturday.

The Chippewas are 5-3 following a 38-20 victory over Bowling Green.

When the Chippewas hired former Florida head coach Jim McElwain last winter, fans expected 2019 to be a transition year for the program. But Central Michigan exceeded those expectations and needs only one more win to qualify for postseason play.

Central Michigan went 2-2 in non-conference play, with losses to Wisconsin and Miami-FL, and wins over Albany and New Mexico State. The Chippewas were projected to finish last in the West Division, according to the 2019 Mid-American Conference Football Media Preseason Poll.

Buffalo is 3-4 entering the Central Michigan game. The Bulls defeated Robert Morris, Temple and Akron, and lost to Penn State, Liberty, Miami (OH) and Ohio.

Here’s what to expect when the Bulls take on the Chippewas Saturday afternoon:

COACH: Jim McElwain, 49-31, first season at Central Michigan

LOOKING BACK

The Chippewas had one of the most unique — and unproductive — offensive arrangements in college football last season.

Central Michigan averaged 254.7 yards per game in 2018, ranking No. 128 in Division I-A. On the ground, the team had the 14th fewest yards per game in college football. They were even less productive through the air.

Quarterback Tommy Lazzaro completed just 48.2% of his passes for 711 yards, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He had a little more success running the ball, ranking second on the team with 381 yards on 97 carries.

Tight end Tony Poljan was one of five non-quarterbacks to take snaps under center last season — he completed 51.7% of his passes for 625 yards, two touchdowns and five interceptions. Central Michigan had one running back and two wide receivers attempt passes in 2018.

The Chippewas were shut out on offense in the 2018 MAC Postseason Awards. Things were different on defense, where they led the way with four First-Team selections.

Linebacker Malik Fountain was named first-team All-MAC after recording 155 total tackles, 2.5 sacks and two interceptions. He is considered a fringe NFL Draft prospect, and HustleBelt named him the 19th best player in the conference prior to the 2018 season.

Mike Danna, a weak-side defensive end, anchored a highly effective pass rush. He had 66 total tackles and a team-leading 9.5 sacks. He joined defensive backs Sean Bunting and Xavier Crawford on the 2018 First-Team All-MAC squad.

The Chippewas’ defense allowed 27.3 points per game, ranking No. 7 in the MAC. On Oct. 6, 2018, they held Bulls quarterback Tyree Jackson to just 10 completions and one touchdown in a 34-24 loss in Mount Pleasant. Bulls running back Kevin Marks ran wild that night, finishing with 167 yards and one touchdown on 18 carries.

The 2018 Chippewas finished with a 1-11 record, leading to the fourth-year head coach John Bonamego losing his job.

LOOKING FORWARD

Through five games, quarterback David Moore has completed 57.3% of his passes for 1143 yards, five touchdowns and four interceptions. After transferring from Memphis as a junior, Moore has earned the trust of McElwain, who named him the starter prior to Week One.

The NCAA suspended Moore on Oct. 8. In the interim, the Chippewas have gone with senior Quinten Dormady, who has completed 62.4% of his passes for 750 yards and six touchdowns.

Central Michigan had nine players named to the Athlon Sports MAC Football 2019 All-Conference Team, including Sean Adesanya, who has six sacks and 21 tackles this season. The Chippewas are 5-3 and within striking distance of the MAC West crown.

McElwain will likely receive consideration for MAC Coach of the Year.

BOTTOM LINE

Central Michigan and Buffalo are both contending for MAC division titles, setting the stage for an important battle at UB Stadium. The Bulls are looking to build on a commanding victory over Akron, which included Jaret Patterson and Kevin Marks combining for 159 yards rushing and one touchdown. Meanwhile, the Chippewas are looking to win their fourth straight. Saturday afternoon’s game should help clarify both teams’ fates.

Sports desk can be reached at sports@ubspectrum.com.

JUSTIN WEISS


Justin Weiss is an asst. sports editor at The Spectrum