Posts Tagged ‘Chippewas’

M&GB staff predictions: Central Michigan

Friday, August 30th, 2013


Every Friday throughout the season last year we submitted our staff predictions, which involved a long-winded breakdown and then a score prediction from each of us. This season, we’re doing the same, but toplining the breakdown. We feel that while we aim to provide one consistent message throughout the site, the variety of opinions of each individual writer is important, so this is their opportunity to present those. We make it a contest internally, and we hope the varying opinions help make your viewing experience on Saturday more well-rounded.

Justin: Like I said earlier, I really like Central Michigan as a season opening opponent this season. Don’t get me wrong; the anticipation leading up to the Alabama game last season was fun, but the result wasn’t. I’m not opposed to season openers against high quality opponents, but let’s get back to that level ourselves first and then bring on all comers.

Central provides a matchup with a very solid running back and a receiver that will be tough to stop, which means Michigan will receive a bit of a challenge. But aside from that, there isn’t much else that can compete with the kind of depth and speed Michigan has. Throw in a quarterback making his first career start, and a retooling offensive line, and it’s a great opportunity for Michigan’s front four to get started on a high note.

Michigan will have the game well in hand by the third quarter, allowing Shane Morris and the rest of the young guys to gain some playing time. Expect a heavy dose of Fitz and the rest of the running back group. I’m most excited to see the rest of the backs, as well as Jehu Chesson’s debut.

Staff Predictions
Michigan Central Michigan
Justin 41 17
Chris 40 14
Josh 42 17
Sam 45 10
Derick 41 14
Katie 48 10
M&GB Average 43 14

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

Chris: Has been out of the country for the week, so no breakdown, but did provide a score prediction.

Michigan 40 – Central Michigan 14

Josh: Refer to yesterday’s Friend vs Foe for my full game breakdown.

Michigan 42 – CMU 17

Sam: This Saturday at the Big House, as Michigan kicks off its 134th season of college football, two in-state non-rivals will be breaking in two full-time starting quarterbacks – redshirt junior Devin Gardner for the Wolverines and junior Cody Kater for the Central Michigan Chippewas. The Maize and Blue figure to march up and down the field against a Central defense that gave up a putrid 32.4 points per game last season while playing a schedule peppered with MAC teams and just one ranked squad – Michigan State.

For Gardner, it’s a chance to prove that his five successful outings at quarterback to book-end last season were no fluke, and the matchup is seemingly perfect for him. Sophomore tight end Devin Funchess should be next to unguardable for the Chippewa defense, and will find the end zone twice on the day. Michigan’s stable of running backs, led by Fitzgerald Toussaint, will also get plenty of light work, and highly-touted freshman Derrick Green figures to see a handful of carries as well. Pay special attention to redshirt freshman wide receiver Jehu Chesson, who will get the start opposite Jeremy Gallon in Amara Darboh’s year-long absence, and on defense keep a close eye on the play of the safeties. Sophomore Jarrod Wilson was being talked up all spring before nearly losing a starting spot recently to the now-injured Courtney Avery. If Michigan gets burned deep more than once, Brady Hoke will have a quick leash.

On Central’s side, there simply is not much to talk about other than running back Zurlon Tipton, who rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns last season, and Titus Davis, the leading receiver on last year’s team with 860 yards and eight touchdowns on 43 catches. Both of those guys should figure to eclipse the 1,000-yard marks in rushing and receiving, respectively, but expect the bulk of their production to come after Greg Mattison’s defense shuts down the Central attack and forces three turnovers this weekend. Michigan will score first and never look back on the way to a rout.

Michigan 45 – Central Michigan 10

After an impressive freshman season Devin Funchess earned the #87 Legends jersey and is expected

Derick: Central Michigan gets the honor of showing the world what Michigan’s post-Denard offense can do. With the night game against Notre Dame on the horizon, Borges will likely want to use week 1 to test his new arsenal and prepare for that much bigger challenge. Devin Gardner will hopefully spread the ball around his receiving core, including new receiver Jesu Chesson and tight end Devin Funchess.

Michigan will showcase multiple running backs in this contest, as the preseason depth chart seemingly has four backs that could be anywhere from #2-#5 on the list. Along with starter Fitzgerald Toussaint, Drake Johnson, Thomas Rawls and De’Veon Smith will apparently receive carries before 5-star recruit Derrick Green. No matter who is on the field, the Michigan running game will be crucial this year, and they should be able to run over the Chippewa’s defense on Saturday.

Though Hoke, like many Michigan coaches before him, will probably refuse to run up the score, I think Michigan will put a pretty good beating on CMU with a balanced offensive attack. Hopefully the defense can hold a MAC offense off the board until the second string comes in.

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 14

Katie: Great to be back for another season of Michigan football.  I can’t wait to see what our Wolverines have in store for us this year.

Now to the home opener against an instate foe, the Central Michigan Chippewas. I know that they aren’t ‘Bama by any stretch of the imagination, and that most of us take for granted that this will be an easy tick mark in the win column. But the Chippewas could put up a few touchdowns if junior Cody Kater (who replaced last year’s starter Ryan Radcliff) can show that his skill is palpable even against a Big Ten secondary, a task I’m not sure he’ll be up to.

They beat the Iowa last year, but the Hawkeyes had already lost to Iowa State and would also lose to Indiana before going 4-8 on the season. So while Central has some firepower, the loss of Radcliff will hurt, and a Michigan defense that includes a fifth-year senior strong safety in Thomas Gordon, another fifth-year senior outside linebacker in Cam Gordon, and a sophomore safety with a lot of potential in Jarrod Wilson, won’t likely help them heal.

That being said, Central Michigan does return Zurlon Tipton, a senior running back who put up just under 1,500 yards rushing last year, and a wide receiver Titus Davis who averaged 71 yards a game. With two touted starters in the  offensive line, a powerful center and left guard, Central could look to keep Michigan on their feet.  And with the Chippewa defense seeing the return of three top play-makers, one of whom, Justin Cherocci, a linebacker, had 132 combined tackles last season to put him at 19th nationally, the visitors could cause some trouble for the Wolverines offense.

Some trouble. As in keeping the Wolverines under fifty points trouble. With Devin Gardner starting this season, protected by 6’8″ fifth-year senior left tackle Taylor Lewan, with fifth-year wide receiver Jeremy Gallon and an up-and-coming tight end Devin Funchess as targets, as well as a long list of potential running backs, I’m not seeing the offense having trouble finding a comfortable rhythm and staying in it. If Gardner could amass 1,200 yards passing in five starts last year, there’s no telling what he may be able to accomplish as the designated leader of the Michigan offense. It’s a lot of pressure I realize, but from what I’ve seen he has a level head, and from backing up Denard Robinson, I assume he also picked up that winning spirit of never being down and out.

Michigan shouldn’t have a problem beating the Chippewas in their opener.

Wolverines 48, Central Michigan 10

Michigan-Central Michigan game preview

Friday, August 30th, 2013


Unlike last season’s opener, the national attention isn’t centered around Michigan’s game, but that doesn’t mean Brady Hoke will prepare any less for Central Michigan than he did for Alabama. As he said in his Monday press conference, it’s the fist chance to see where the team stands after a long offseason, with a new quarterback, and plenty of youth to go around.

After all, Central is the team that finished last season with four straight wins, the team that won its bowl game, the team that had the first overall pick in April’s NFL Draft, and the team that has a running back who has seven consecutive 100-yard rushing games. No other opponent on Michigan’s schedule can lay claim to more than one of those feats.

Quick Facts
Michigan Stadium – 3:30pm EST – Big Ten Network
Central Michigan Head Coach: Dan Enos (4th season)
Coaching Record: 13-24 (Overall and at CMU)
Offensive Coordinator: Mike Cummings (4th season)
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Tumpkin (4th season)
Returning Starters: 15 (8 offense, 7 defense)
Last Season: 7-6, 4-4 MAC (4th West)
Last Meeting: UM 41 – CMU 17 (2006)
All-Time Series: Michigan leads 3-0
Michigan vs. MAC: 31-1
Michigan in Season Openers: 109-21-3
Michigan in Home Openers: 110-18-2

The last time these two teams faced off was the second game of 2006 when Michigan won convincingly, 41-17. Coincidentally, that game preceded a matchup with Notre Dame, which Michigan also won.

But times are different. Michigan is on its second different coach than the one who won that game, Lloyd Carr, and has suffered its first ever defeat at the hands of a team from the Mid-American Conference. Alas, MAC teams can no longer be taken for granted. Or can they?

Central returns 15 starters and both specialists from last year’s 7-6 squad, but this is still a team that finished fourth in the MAC West. Yes, the Chips finished the season with four straight wins, but they came against Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio), UMass, and Western Kentucky – teams who finished with a combined record of 14-35. That sentence above about the claims to fame CMU carries into this game? Not looking so hot right now.

Let’s take a look at how the teams match up.

Michigan defense vs CMU offense: When Central Michigan has the ball

Eight starters return on offense, but the three that don’t are pretty big losses. As we discussed in Monday’s First Look, 99.6 percent of last year’s passing yards are gone with the departure of quarterback Ryan Radcliff. The man who represents the other 0.4 percent is junior Cody Kater who completed 2-of-4 passes for 12 yards last season. But he does have some college experience, albeit in a much smaller capacity. After spending a redshirt freshman season at Cincinnati, he transferred to Grand Rapids Community College, leading GRCC to an 11-0 record. Last season he transferred to CMU where he backed up Radcliff and now has won the opportunity to make his first every FBS start in the Big House.

At 6'2" Titus Davis will test Michigan's secondary (Tim Fitzgerald, CMU Athletics)

Another key departure was receiver Cody Wilson who finished second on the team with 840 receiving yards, which means Kater has one less proven target to throw to. The good news for him is the leading receiver, Titus Davis is back, and the 6-2, 190-pound junior from Wheaton, Ill. has big play ability. He averaged 20 yards per catch in 2012 with a long of 92 and caught eight touchdowns. He had a monster game against Western Michigan, catching 10 passes for 208 yards and a touchdown. Against a similar opponent, Michigan State, he caught four for 64 yards.

The third big loss from the CMU roster was left tackle Eric Fisher, who was the first pick in the NFL Draft. He helped pave the way for what was actually a mediocre running game, but a very talented running back. Zurlon Tipton rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. He surpassed 100 yards in each of the final seven games, including a 243-yards performance against Michigan’s Week 3 opponent, Akron. Against Michigan State, he rushed 11 times for 62 yards, and while he averaged 19.4 carries per game throughout the season, his workload went up to 25.3 in the final six games.

Central was a very balanced team last season in terms of plays run with 415 rushing attempts and 413 passing attempts, but the passing game was much more successful. That might not be the case this season with a new quarterback, however, Kater did complete 68.3 percent of his passes for 2,218 yards and 19 touchdowns for GRCC last season. Yes, quality of competition is a major caveat, but this isn’t simply a kid straight out of high school.

With questions about Michigan’s defensive line yet to be answered, look for Central to feed the ball to Tipton early and often. In that same vein, expect Michigan to gear up to stop the run, forcing Kater to try to beat them with his arm. The matchup with Blake Countess or Raymon Taylor on Titus Davis will be one to watch. Phil Steele put Davis among his top 25 receivers in college football and CMU receivers coach Mose Rison compares Davis to Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown. At 6-2, he’ll have a good four inches on any of Michigan’s corners.

Michigan offense vs Central Michigan defense: When Michigan has the ball

The Central Michigan defense is led by its duo of returning linebackers, Justin Cherocci and Shamari Benton, who combined for 258 tackles a year ago. Chrroci ranked 19th nationally with 132 and led the nation with 89 assisted tackles. Benton ranked 24th nationally with 126 and led the team with 54 solo tackles.

The line returns both on the interior, including sophomore Jabari Dean, who amassed 28 tackles, a sack, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery as a freshman in 2012. Both ends have to be replaced, but Central got a transfer from Michigan State who will contribute right away. Senior Jeremy Gainer recorded 13 total tackles and two forced fumbles in 28 career games played for the Spartans, mostly on special teams, but he’ll be an instant upgrade for the Chippewas.

Shamari Benton forms a solid linebacking duo along with Justin Cherocci (CMU Athletics)

In the secondary, two starting corners and free safety Avery Cunningham are back, but the main guy who has to be replaced is All-MAC safety Jahleel Addae, who signed with the San Diego Chargers as an undrafted free agent. Cunningham tallied 88 tackles last season, while the other returnees, Jarret Chapman and Jason Wilson recorded 51 and 50, respectively. Wilson added a pair of interceptions.

The 4-2-5 defense that Enos runs relies on good play from the back seven, and that’s what they got last season. But the rush defense was the weak spot, giving up 192 yards per game, which ranked 93rd nationally. That means Michigan will feature a heavy dose of Fitzgerald Toussaint and the rest of his running mates.

However, Michigan State was a very run-heavy team in 2012 and only gained 173 yards on 4.2 yards per carry against CMU last September. Le’Veon Bell was held to 70, his third lowest output of the season behind Ohio State (45) and Michigan (68). Conversely, the Spartans torched Central’s secondary for 322 yards on 25-of-37 passing. It was quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s third-highest total of the season.

Central clearly doubled down on the run after seeing Bell run 44 times for 210 yards against Boise State the week before, and that allowed the Spartan passing game to go off. Expect similar results on Saturday, though Michigan’s offense figures to be a bit more balanced.

The other third: Special Teams

Kicker David Harman is gone, and the replacement hasn’t been named as of yet. Redshirt freshman Ron Coluzzi and sophomore Matt Cotiguala are battling it out. Senior punter Richie Hogan is back after finishing fourth in the MAC with a 41.8-yard average per punt. Titus Davis is the main man returning punts, while Courtney Williams will handle the kick return duties.

Prediction

Central will test Michigan’s defense with Tipton on the ground and Davis through the air, but don’t expect the Chips to hang around for more than a half. Michigan’s defense will flex its muscle, forcing Kater to try to beat it through the air. We’ll get a nice look at the ability of Frank Clark, Keith Heitzman, Chris Wormley, and Taco Charlton to get to the quarterback.

Offensively, Michigan will use a balanced attack, perhaps more balanced than Hoke would normally want in this type of game. The reason is that instead of simply running the ball at will against an inferior opponent, it will be important to work on the passing game with an unproven receiving corps (outside of Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo) before Notre Dame comes to town next weekend. Look for Gardner to give Jehu Chesson some targets to get him involved and see what he can do.

The Wolverines will put this one away by the third quarter and get Shane Morris, Derrick Green, and DeVeon Smith some playing time.

Michigan 41 – Central Michigan 17

First Look: Central Michigan

Monday, August 26th, 2013


It’s finally here. We’ve been waiting seven months for Michigan football to return, and come Saturday we’ll get to watch the Maize and Blue run out of the tunnel, leap up and touch the M CLUB SUPPORTS YOU banner, and take the field. Unlike last season’s opener against Alabaman, which Michigan fans looked forward to with a nervous anticipation and ultimately received a letdown when the first Saturday was done, this one figures to be more like the openers of old when the Wolverines work out some of the offseason rust, put up a bunch of points, let the youngsters get some playing time, and ultimately close the first weekend feeling good.

But is that what we can expect? Central Michigan is a Mid-American Conference team, yes, but let’s not forget that Michigan lost to Toledo just five years ago. Do the Chippewas have a Toledo-like shot to upset the Wolverines? Or is this Michigan team light years beyond that 2008 squad? Let’s take a look at CMU’s 2012 stats and how they compared to Michigan’s.

Central Michigan 2012 Statistics & Michigan Comparison
CMUMichigan Rank Opponent Rank
Points Per Game 28.8 | 29.8 63 | 57 32.4 | 19.8 94 | 20
Rushing Yards 1,9522,389 2,492 | 1,957
Rush Avg. Per Game 150.2 | 183.8 72 | 41 191.7 | 150.5 93 | 51
Avg. Per Rush 4.7 | 4.8 4.9 | 3.8
Passing Yards 3,1702,591 3,129 | 2,203
Pass Avg. Per Game 243.8199.3 51 | 94 240.7 | 169.5 73 | 5
Total Offense 5,1224,980 5,621 | 4,160
Total Off Avg. Per Game 394.0383.1 63 | 78 432.4 | 320.0 89 | 13
Kick Return Average 22.5 | 22.0 47 | 58 19.6 | 23.2 47 | 96
Punt Return Average 2.6 | 8.8 115 | 60 12.4 | 9.7 115 | 93
Avg. Time of Possession 29:2530:10 76 | 56 30:35| 29:50
3rd Down Conversion Pct 39.0% | 50.0% 72 | 6 44% | 36% 96 | 30
Sacks Allowed-Yards/By-Yards 18-127 | 22-184 T-17 | 28 15-101 | 18-131 100 | T-78
Touchdowns Scored 47 | 48 54 | 28
Field Goals-Attempts 15-2018-21 15-16 | 21-30
Red Zone Scores (42-48) 88%43-46 93% 16 | 3 (49-57) 86% | (34-42) 81% 89 | 51
Red Zone Touchdowns (30-48) 63% | 29-46 63% (38-57) 67% | (19-42) 45%

Zurlon Tipton eclipsed 100 yards rushing in each of the final seven games in 2012 (Tim Fitzgerald, CMU Athletics)

The main numbers that stick out are that Central was a pretty bad running team, averaging just 150.2 yards per game on the ground, and awful at returning punts, averaging just 2.6 yards per return. The good news for Central is that the vast majority of the ground game is coming back, led by Zurlon Tipton, who accounted for 76.4 percent of the rushing yards and 19 of the 22 touchdowns, averaging 5.9 yards per carry. It was the rest of the backfield that struggled.

On the other hand, the Chips were a pretty good passing team, throwing for about 600 more yards than Michigan did. In total, CMU averaged 11 more yards per game than Michigan, but will have to replace quarterback Ryan Radcliff, who accounted for 99.6 percent of those passing yards and all 23 of the passing touchdowns.

Defensively, Central simply wasn’t very good, allowing 32.4 points per game – nearly two touchdowns more than Michigan allowed – and a full 112 total yards more per game than Michigan. The Chips gave up third down conversions 44 percent of the time, which ranked 96th nationally, and recorded just 15 sacks all season – barely over one per game.

While looking at last year’s stats tells part of the story, we need to also see how much of that production is returning, so let’s take a look.

Passing Yards
Returning Lost
Cody Kater 12 Ryan Radcliff 3,158
12 3,158
0.04% 99.6%
Rushing (RB only)
Returning Lost
Zurlon Tipton 1,492
Saylor Lavallii 263
Anthony Garland 189
Tim Phillips 18
Tyler Lombardo 4
1,966 0
100.0% 0.0%
Receiving (WR & TE only)
Returning Lost
Titus Davis (WR) 860 Cody Wilson (WR) 840
Andrew Flory (WR) 340 Caleb Southworth (TE) 113
Courtney Williams (WR) 260 Jarrett Fleming (TE) 44
Deon Butler (TE) 84
Ben McCord (TE) 81
Connor Odykirk (TE) 36
Mike Kinville (TE) 31
Jesse Kroll (WR) 23
1,715 997
63.2% 36.8%
Scoring
Returning Lost
Zurlon Tipton (RB) 120 David Harman (K) 88
Titus Davis (WR) 48 Cody Wilson (WR) 20
Andrew Flory (WR) 24 Jarrett Flemming (TE) 6
Saylor Lavallii (RB) 12 Curtis Huge (P) 1
Courtney Williams (WR) 12
Connor Odykirk (TE) 12
Deon Butler (TE) 6
Ben McCord (TE) 6
Anthony Garland (RB) 6
Jason Wilson (DB) 6
Kavon Frazier (DB) 6
258 115
69.2% 30.8%

It’s apparent that a large majority of Central Michigan’s offense is returning, with the exception of quarterback. With Titus Davis back at receiver and Tipton in the backfield, if head coach Dan Enos is able to find a suitable replacement for Radcliff, the offense could be at least as good as it was last season. What isn’t represented on the charts above is the offensive line which returns just two starters, left guard Andy Phillips and center Nick Beamish, the latter being just a true sophomore who started all 13 games as a freshman last season. The main loss is obviously left tackle Eric Fisher who was drafted first overall in the NFL Draft.

The early analysis looks like it should be a big day for Michigan’s defensive line to take advantage of a brand new quarterback and three new linemen. Expect Central to try to get the running game going with Tipton.

Defensively, the interior of the Chippewa line is back, but both ends are being replaced. Three linebackers have starting experience, led by senior Shamari Benton who led the team with 126 tackles a year ago. Both starting corners and free safety Avery Cunningham also return, although CMU has to replace All-MAC strong safety Jahleel Addae. That’s a pretty good cast of starting experience on defense, but Enos better hope his team is better at stopping the run than it was last year. We could see a heavy dose of Fitz Toussaint and the rest of the backfield.

In my opinion, this is the perfect season opener. There’s very little chance for a loss, but it’s not a complete pushover like the week three opponent, Akron, will be. Central has enough talent with a solid running back and a good quality number one receiver to give Michigan’s defense a good challenge, and enough returning starters defensively to make Michigan work on offense. But in all reality, the game will be over by the fourth quarter and the young guys should be able to get some work.

2013 opponent preview: Central Michigan

Thursday, July 11th, 2013


The second MAC snack on our countdown is the first opponent Michigan will face when the season opens on August 31. The Central Michigan Chippewas will be a better test than Akron, but not by much, and represent what we feel the second easiest opponent on the schedule. Let’s take a look.

Overview

Central no longer has Eric Fisher to pave the way up front

The coaching staff will never admit as much, but Central Michigan presents a welcome sight when the season kicks off on Aug. 31. In other words, they aren’t defending champion Alabama. But the Chippewas do lay claim to something Michigan can’t, and that’s entering the season with a winning streak – a four-game winning streak that includes a 24-21 Little Caesars Bowl win over Western Kentucky.

Because of that, Dan Enos’ squad faces relatively high expectations in 2013. However, he’ll have to deal with the loss of left tackle Eric Fisher who became the first player in Mid-American Conference history to be picked first overall in the NFL Draft.

Offense

Taking over for Fisher is senior Jake Olson who slides over from right tackle where he started a total of nine games over the last two seasons before injuries ended his seasons early. He also has center Nick Beamish, who started all 13 games last season, to help with cohesion.

The most talented returning player for Central Michigan is running back Zurlon Tipton. The senior broke out in 2012, rushing for 1,492 yards – fourth best in Chippeway history – and 19 touchdowns. He rushed for at least 100 yards in his final seven games, including a 243-yard performance against Akron. He also averaged 5.6 yards on 11 carries against Michigan State’s stingy defense.

With quarterback Ryan Radcliff out of eligibility, Enos is looking for someone to step up. He wouldn’t name a frontrunner in the spring, but said the team’s most important position battle will depend on which of the five contenders is able to “sit in the pocket and throw the football” most effectively. Junior Cody Kater and senior A.J. Westendorp are the only ones with game experience, but each has just four career passes to his credit.

Whichever quarterback wins the job will have the fortune of throwing to Titus Davis, who hauled in 43 passes for 860 yards and eight touchdowns. His 20.0 yards per catch was tops in the nation among receivers with 40 or more receptions. Courtney Williams caught 24 passes for 260 yards and two touchdowns, but Cody Wilson, who caught the most passes (74), is gone.

Defense

Defensively, it all starts with senior linebacker Shamari Benton. He’ll be looking to build on his performance as the team’s leading tackler last season with 126. Fellow linebackers Cody Lopez and Justin Cherocci also have starting experience.

Along the line, both of the interior tackles are back, Jabari Dean and Leterrius Walton, but the Chippewas have to replace both ends. Senior Alex Smith will likely man one of the end spots while the other is up for grabs.

Schedule
Date Opponent
Aug. 31 at Michigan
Sept. 7 New Hampshire
Sept. 14 @ UNLV
Sept. 21 Toledo
Sept. 28 @ NC State
Oct. 5 @ Miami (OH)
Oct. 12 @ Ohio
Oct. 19 Northern Illinois
Nov. 6 @ Ball State
Nov. 16 @ Western Michigan
Nov. 23 Massachusetts
Nov. 29 Eastern Michigan

All-MAC safety Jahleel Addae is gone, but senior Avery Cunningham, who ranked fourth on the team in tackles last season, returns. Jarrett Chapman and Jason Wilson, both juniors, are back at corner after combining for 101 tackles and two interceptions in 2012.

The defense dominated Central Michigan’s spring game, though much of that can be attributed to inexperience on the line and at quarterback. However, Enos praised the job that new defensive line coach George Ricumstrict has done.

“We’ve had more passes batted down this fall,” Enos said. “He does a great job teaching those guys to get in there, as they’re getting their rush, keeping the eye on the quarterback and trying to disrupt things.”

Special Teams

Kicker Ron Coluzzi will replace David Harman, while senior punter Richie Hogan returns from a season in which he averaged 41.8 yards per punt.

Outlook

After going 6-18 in his first two seasons, Enos got seven wins out of his Chippewas last season and has high hopes of improving on that this year. Whether or not his team is ready to contend for the MAC title is yet to be determined, but one thing that is for sure is that it will only get easier after his week one trip to the Big House.

What it means for Michigan

The season opener will be much more enjoyable than it was a year ago. It will provide a nice tune up before the showdown with Notre Dame in Week 2, but the good thing is that with 15 returning starters and a four-game winning streak to end the season, CMU won’t be a complete pushover. They did take down Iowa last season in Iowa City and feature a proven running back that will test Michigan’s defense. But that doesn’t mean Michigan should worry. It will be over by halftime and Michigan will run away with it much like the Wolverines did with season openers prior to 2012.

Michigan vs Central Michigan quick thoughts

Saturday, December 29th, 2012


#2 Michigan v. Central Michigan
Saturday, Dec. 29 | 7pm ET | BTN
12-0 Record 7-5
Slippery Rock 100-62
IUPUI 91-54
Cleveland State 77-47
Pittsburgh 67-62
Kansas State 71-57
NC State 79-72
Bradley 74-66
W. Michigan 73-41
Arkansas 80-67
Binghamton 67-39
West Virginia 81-66
E. Michigan 93-54
Wins Olivet 76-62
Wright State 59-55
Idaho State 54-52
Niagra 66-64
Pepperdine 80-77
Texas State 92-80
Arkansas-Pine Bluff 62-45
Losses Iowa 61-73
Utah 51-67
Bradley 65-82
Charlotte 66-78
Nebraska 75-89
79.4 Points Per Game 67.2
57.2 Scoring Defense 68.7
354-for-693 (51.1%) Field Goal % 258-for-641 (40.2%)
265-for-670 (39.6%) Def. Field Goal % 317-for-682 (46.5%)
101-for-246 (41.1%) 3-point % 97-for-282 (34.4%)
72-for-236 (30.5%) Def. 3-point % 77-for-217 (35.5%)
144-for-196 (73.5%) Free Throw % 194-for-269 (72.1%)
12.0 FT Made/Game 16.2
38.1 Rebounds Per Game 33.8
28.1 Opp. Reb. Per Game 35.2
16.0 Assists Per Game 13.4
10.3 Turnovers Per Game 13.9
5.3 Steals Per Game 7.4
2.7 Blocks Per Game 2.8
G – Trey Burke (17.4)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (15.8)
Leading Scorer G – Kyle Randall (15.9)
F – John Simons (9.7)
F – Glenn Robinson (6.2)
G – Tim Hardaway Jr. (5.8)
Leading Rebounder F – John Simons (5.3)
F – Oliver Mbiagoto (4.2)

With an abnormally long Christmas break in the rearview mirror, the Michigan Wolverines have returned to practice in preparation for their non-conference finale tonight (7pm on BTN) against Central Michigan. Now sitting at 12-0 on the year, the surging Maize and Blue will look to enter Big Ten season undefeated for the first time in more than two decades. Here are three keys to the game that Michigan will have to focus on to maintain that record:

1. Defend the Floor: John Beilein pointed out in yesterday’s press conference that nearly every team Michigan has faced to date has provided some sort of unique challenge. Eastern Michigan played exclusively in a 2-3 zone defense, Pittsburgh, Kansas State, and West Virginia prided themselves on offensive rebounding, and Bradley provided a glimpse into true road games for this team. The Chippewas’ challenge will be on the offensive end of the floor, where they will often roll out five players that can step behind the three-point line, giving Beilein a taste of his own medicine from his West Virginia days with Kevin Pittsnogle. Michigan’s best shooting opponents so far had maybe three guys that could eye the long ball, so a team like Central will force Michigan to stay honest on defense and not collapse too heavily on drives. In all, eight Chippewas have attempted double-digit three-pointers, five of whom shoot 38 percent or better from distance. The good news for Michigan is that, while Central can shoot threes, they really struggle inside the arc, making only 44.8 percent of their two-point attempts. Beilein will likely have his team key on senior guard and UNC-Greensboro transfer Kyle Randall, who is the only player for coach Keno Davis to average double-digits in the points column, pouring in 15.9 per game in a team-high 31.1 minutes. Alongside Randall, who makes almost 40 percent of his threes, John Simons, Blake Hibbitts, Olivier Mbaigoto, and Spencer Krannitz are the guys to keep an eye on lurking behind the three-point line.

2. Take Advantage of Sloppiness: It’s no big secret these days that Michigan is one of the best fast-break teams in the country. Trey Burke is simply lethal in the open floor, Tim Hardaway, Jr. is no slouch in his own right, and Nik Stauskas provides that kick-out threat that any coach would die to have. This adeptness in the transition game makes opponent turnovers even more critical, and even though Michigan does not play a pressure-heavy style of defense, Beilein wants his team to run whenever they can. Central is just the team to do that against, as the Chips turn the ball over a whopping 14 times per game, led by Randall’s 3.1 giveaways. Central has disgracefully turned the ball over six more times than they have assisted their own baskets this year, and they will almost certainly lose the turnover battle again tonight, as Michigan gives the ball away only 10 times per contest. Look for Michigan to try out the 1-3-1 in spurts to create some easy fast-break opportunities and put Central away early.

3. Focus: It’s been said before and will be said again, but the closer this Michigan team gets to the conference season, the more they need to focus on the task at hand. Beilein does a masterful job of “framing” each game, as he put it, to maintain his players’ focus at a one-game-at-a-time pace. Everyone knows who the better team is in this game, but everyone also knows that in most cases the underdog is the team that puts forth more effort, which contributes to some big upsets in the college game. One of the reasons Michigan has not fallen prey to the upset this year is because of that focus that Beilein instills in his team, and because of how well the team buys into it. Tonight, Beilein and his fellow assistants will harp on the importance of finishing the non-conference season with a donut in the loss column and beating Michigan’s fourth and final in-state directional opponent.  Obviously Central Michigan is not viewed as Michigan’s rival, but don’t tell that to their fans in Mount Pleasant. The Chippewas will give everything they have to try to relive the last time these two teams met on the hardwood in Ann Arbor, when Central handed Michigan a 78-67 loss in Beilein’s first season leading the Wolverines. Try as they might, however, this game will likely see a much different outcome.

Prediction: With less than a week until Michigan begins Big Ten play in Evanston, the Wolverines should have no trouble dispatching their final non-conference opponent. Central simply does not have the players to match up with Beilein’s talent, and by halftime the game will be well in hand. Michigan rolls behind Trey Burke and the gang, 84-50.