NIU @ Central Michigan Preview: Not your Dad's Chippewas

Did I say dad? I mean older brother.

It's really hard to put a finger on what has gone wrong at Central Michigan. Okay let me start: No more Dan LeFevour (former NFL draft pick). And... no more Butch Jones (Current Cincinnati HC). Before him was Brian Kelly (Notre Dame HC) and throughout this span CMU has won three MAC titles in 2006, 2007 and 2009. NIU's last was in 1983. Oh, how the Chips have fallen since then. Where is the sustainability in Mt. Pleasant?

Dan Enos is the new head man and considering all of the turnover in coaching in the MAC, was considered one of the weakest candidates to become head coach in the conference. At least Don Treadwell (Miami) was offensive coordinator for Michigan State last year. Enos' most recent credit was that he was an assistant coach at Michigan State. He coached both the RBs most recently and the QBs the two years before that and QBs at Cincinnati the two years before that. His OC experience has been limited and his current OC is Mike Cummings who ran Marshall's offense during their not-so-good years from 2005-09.

So after the loss of a MAC superstar, there have been some serious growing pains for the Chippewas, especially on the offensive side of things. Four games in we can finally look at some of the statistics and CMU ranks 114th in the nation in total offense. So far the biggest opponent on their schedule has been Michigan State with the #1 defense in all of college football. But other than the Spartans, CMU has faced South Carolina State, Kentucky and Western Michigan which aren't your murderer's row of opponents.

Offense

Ryan Radcliffe has been disappointing this season completing only 191 ypg with a 50.4% completion pct and a 4-6 TD to INT ratio. Passing efficiency is ranked 114th and last in the conference.

At RB, Zurlon Tipton was a spark early on, but he'll be missing the rest of the season with a broken foot. Taking the reigns will be incumbent Paris Cotton and scat back Tim Phillis (5'5" 162) who has taken the reigns this year productivity-wise with 44 rushes for 177 yds and a TD so far this season.

At WR Cody Wilson has sure hands and 17 catches and 201 yds and a TD already this season. Jerry Harris is a playmaker and has 12 catches and 133 yds. Both of these players have been productive, and it seems like the biggest problem on this team is at the quarterback position.

At offensive line, three starters return from last year: LT Erik Fisher, C Darren Keyton and RG Rocky Weaver.

Defense

Defense has been less of an issue for the Chips as they rank 54th in the nation, but still 9th in the conference.

CMU's defensive line has just been hammered recently because of injuries. Only one starter from last year will be suiting up against NIU because of injuries. Both DE Kashan Fraser an DT John Williams will miss the game because of knee injuries suffered before the MSU game.

CMU only has one returning starter at LB and that is Armond Staton at SLB for the Chips who has 14 tackles on the season. MLB Mike Petrucci also has 29 tkls and 4 TFL.

The Chips should be the strongest in their secondary, where FS Avery Cunningham and SS Jahleel Addae are standout players. Both players have 31 tackles to their name. Addae is a potential All-MAC player.

If you add that up with injuries, that's four starters from last year that will be playing against the Huskies. It's almost like playing ourselves except our offense is on the complete opposite end of the spectrum.

Special Teams

K David Harman is only 2 of 4 this season with a long of 30. Last season he was 9-12 with a long of 41. New punter Richie Hogan has his hands full as CMU is 109th in net punting.

Cody Wilson is also a solid punt returner, but the loss of Tipton has hurt kickoff returns.

NIU's Strategy

It's going to be a lot of the same on the offensive side of things. Just spread these guys out and confuse them. I liked what NIU did against Cal Poly with the running game and they should continue to build on that part of the offense against CMU. The Huskies are going to have to get over being on the road and this being the conference opener. Against Wisconsin this offense fluttered and NIU can't afford another meltdown like that in conference play. NIU just needs to play level-headed and not turn the ball over in a touch Mt. Pleasant environment.

On defense, this will be the biggest test of the season and will be a gauge for the rest of the season. Central Michigan is a traditional offense, unlike the option attacks vs. Army & Cal Poly. They are the worst offense in the conference, so if the Huskies can't put it together against these guys for a full game it is going to be one roller coaster ride of a season. Kent State has a bad offense too, but the road starts here if NIU wants some sort of redemption and focus for the rest of the season.

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