The (4-7) Central Michigan Chippewas and (7-4) Eastern Michigan Eagles take the field on Friday for a matchup between MAC West division opponents. CMU lost 12-10 to Western Michigan last week, and EMU defeated Kent State 31-24. Kickoff between the Michigan directional programs will be at noon EDT. Eastern opened as a 1.5-point spread favorite, but the line has shifted to two points in favor of Central. The game total is 55 points scored.
CMU needs a win to erase doubts of its directionCentral Michigan was picked to finish third in the MAC West this season, receiving four first-place votes. It hasn't gone to plan for the Chippewas, who kicked off 2022 with a 1-5 record, with the lone victory over FCS program Bucknell. Since then, CMU has managed to win three of its past five, yet the loss to Western last week likely puts it out of bowl consideration. Central led 10-7 late in the fourth quarter, but WMU stole the win with a safety and field goal in the last four minutes.
The two teams traded 50-plus-yard touchdown runs in the first quarter, but those were the only visits to the end zone for either team. Central Michigan was outgained by over 100 total yards, lost the time of possession battle, and turned the ball over twice in the defeat. WMU stuck to the ground game on a snowy field, rushing 47 times for 255 yards (5.4 yards per carry). CMU attempted fewer passes than WMU, but freshman quarterback Jase Bauer completed only six passing attempts for 94 yards and an interception. With the weather in mind, CMU decided to play the mobile Bauer in place of sophomore Daniel Richardson (1,988 pass yards, 15 TDs, and 5 INTs).
Central Michigan averages 159.0 rush yards, 220.8 pass yards, and 25.3 points per game. Sophomore Lew Nichols III leads the team with 596 rushing yards and 6 TDs on the ground, and senior Carlos Carriere paces the receiving unit with 509 yards and 2 TDs. The defense is surrendering 27.3 points, 148.9 rush yards, and 220.8 pass yards per contest. CMU's -1.5 turnover margin per game is second-worst in the country, besting only Rice (-1.8). While he has yet to intercept a pass, sophomore DB Donte Kent has been a standout in pass defense.
EMU is flying high with coach Creighton at the helmEastern Michigan, winners of two straight, has been a new team since head coach Chris Creighton took over. The Eagles were a combined 11-46 under the previous coach Ron English, but have turned a corner since the start of the 2016 season, with a record of 41-40. Aside from the COVID-shortened 2020 season, EMU has won six or more games every year since 2018. That's quite a turnaround for a program that consistently ranked as one of the worst in the FBS prior to his arrival. Now in his ninth season, Creighton has an opportunity to win eight games for the first time at Eastern Michigan.
Last week at Kent State, EMU trailed 17-7 at halftime but rallied to score 24 second-half points. The Golden Flashes did not score again until Marquez Cooper rushed for a touchdown with 41 seconds left. It was a dominating second-half performance by the Eagles, who controlled time of possession 39 minutes to 20 and outgained the Golden Flashes 459-357. It was a program win, too, as senior quarterback Taylor Powell passed for 315 yards and 3 TDs, senior running back Samson Evans toted the rock 33 times for 94 yards and a TD, and senior wide receiver Dylan Drummond caught seven passes for 97 yards.
The Eagles are scoring 28.0 points and averaging 141.2 rush yards and 213.6 pass yards per game. Powell leads the EMU passing game (1,547 pass yards, 11 TDs, and 7 INTs), Evans paces the ground attack (949 rush yards and 12 TDs), and senior Tanner Knue (543 receiving yards and 8 TDs) is the top receiving option. The defense is surrendering 29.5 points, 157.4 rush yards, and 221.6 pass yards per contest.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
Central has dominated this rivalry 63-30-6, winning eight of the series' past ten and three consecutive games. This will be the 100th meeting between these schools on the gridiron but don't expect the Chippewas' celebrations to continue in 2022. Eastern Michigan earned its win last week with a strong comeback performance and has something to play for with an eighth victory in the cards. The last time the Eagles won eight or more games was in 1987 when they finished 10-2.
To win the Michigan MAC Trophy, Eastern must control the time of possession and run the football. These are evenly-matched teams, so limiting turnovers will be key too. The Chippewas have been on the wrong side of the turnover battle all year, and I don't expect that to change in the season finale. I'll take the home team winning outright, sending Creighton and the Eagles to their fourth bowl game in the past five seasons.
Full-Game Total Pick
On a snowy field last week, the Chippewas reached the end zone once. While the conditions don't call for blizzard-like conditions at Rynearson Stadium, I expect the under to be the best bet again in this MAC matchup. The under is 4-0 in the Chippewas' last four games after allowing more than 200 yards rushing in their previous game and 4-0 in the Eagles' last four games after accumulating more than 280 yards passing in their previous game. I believe that these offenses will stall out a bit throughout the game, causing a couple of turnovers. These Eagles have some momentum, but these teams are evenly matched, as well.
I'll take the under bet in the 100th battle for the Michigan MAC Trophy.