After opening the season with two straight losses, the Central Michigan Chippewas pulled off a big home win last weekend and now travel to State College, PA to take on the undefeated Nittany Lions of Penn State. Penn State is now ranked 14th in the country following an easy road win over Auburn on Saturday. The opening kickoff on Saturday is scheduled for 12:00pm EST.
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In the Win ColumnThe Central Michigan Chippewas desperately needed a feel-good win on Saturday when they met up with Bucknell, also winless heading into the game. Running back Lewis Nichols II assured that that would be the case with a breakout performance out of the backfield. Nichols exploded for 166 yards and two touchdowns and the defense pitched a shutout in a convincing 41-0 Chippewas' victory.
"I told them afterwards, 'Man enjoy the feeling,'" CMU coach Jim McElwain said after his team improved to 1-2 and posted its first shutout since Sept. 11, 2021. "I don't care who it is, getting a win is hard. When you get it, enjoy it, reflect on it. Make sure you really know what that feeling is and hopefully it becomes contagious moving forward."
CMU dominated the yardage category with 529 yards of total offense compared with just 174 for Bucknell. Quarterback Daniel Richardson finished the game 15-of-32 for 198 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Wide receivers Joel Wilson and Langford Lewis each hauled in a touchdown pass in the game. The offense did take a while to get going, leading just 7-0 at halftime before taking the game over in the second half. Defensively, the Chippewas had 13 tackles for loss and 3 sacks. In addition, they had a fumble recovery, interception and seven pass breakups in the resounding win.
For the season, CMU is averaging 36 points per game while allowing over 32 points per game. They are averaging over 160 yards per game rushing while allowing the opposition over 103 yards per game. Through the air, the Chippewas are averaging over 311 yards per game with seven touchdowns and two interceptions. The opposition is averaging 299 yards per game with seven touchdowns and two interceptions thus far through three games. CMU is converting on 35% of their third down plays while holding the opposition to just 29%. They are losing the time of possession battle by over three minutes per game and are a -1 in turnover differential this season.
Nittany Lions RoaringThe Penn State season has gone perhaps even better than head coach James Franklin could have expected. Heading into the season, the Nittany Lions had two tough road tilts sandwiching a relatively easy home game against Ohio. After dispatching of Auburn with an easy 41-12 win on Saturday, Penn State is sitting pretty at 3-0 to start the 2022 season.
"We won the field position battle. The story of the game was the turnover battle. Four turnovers to zero. We've got to get more points off of those turnovers. That had a huge factor in the game when you talk about time of possession and field position. We did not win the penalty battle. Then the explosive play battle. Although our offense reached their goal, we gave up too many on defense, specifically on third and long. Overall, there hasn't been too many Big Ten teams in the history of the Big Ten to come on the road and get a win in the SEC. So, we're very, very proud of that. I also think we've had a very challenging schedule to open the season. On the road in Big Ten then a home game and then on the road again. This team here has five home games to start the season. So proud of our guys. We will enjoy this win for a couple hours and then get back to work tomorrow." Franklin said in his postgame press conference.
After a tightly played first half in which Penn State led 14-6, the Nittany Lions pounded the Tigers with 17 unanswered points in the 3rd quarter on their way to the blowout win. Quarterback Sean Clifford went 14-of-19 with 178 yards and also ran in for a 7-yard touchdown run. Clifford's efforts took a backseat to the PSU running game led by budding star, freshman Nicholas Singleton. Singleton ran for 124 yards and two touchdowns on just 10 carries, including a 54-yard touchdown run. Kaytron Allen, another freshman back, had 52 yards rushing and scored a touchdown himself. Penn State finished with 477 total yards including 245 on the ground.
Defensively, Penn State had four takeaways in the game with two fumble recoveries and two interceptions. In addition, PSU had 11 tackles for loss and six sacks. They held Auburn to 5-of-14 on third down and held the Tigers' powerful running attack to just 119 yards.
Penn State has dominated the opposition thus far with a 42-18 aggregate score. They are averaging 485 yards of total offenses per game including 285 yards through the air. The Nittany Lions are holding their opponents to 368 yards per game. Penn State is +4 in turnover differential thus far and holds a two-minute time of possession average edge vs. the opposition. Led by their sixth-year quarterback, the Nittany Lions have converted on 35% of third downs and 50% of fourth down conversions. PSU's defense is holding the opposition to just a 31% third down conversion rate.
Best Bets for this Game
Full-Game Side Bet
The Nittany Lions are already winning by an average of 24 points per game and that includes road wins at Purdue and Auburn. They pummeled an Ohio team at home by 36, which would be a favorable comp to Central Michigan. A glaring weakness in the CMU defense is their ability to stop the pass. The Chippewas are allowing nearly 300 yards passing per game which will not bode well against the experienced Clifford and the Penn State receivers. The Chippewas will be forced to play more defensive backs to stop the pass which will ultimately lead to more running room for freshman phenom Singleton. Singleton has proven to be a home run hitter with runs of over 50 yards in each of the last two games. With the Chippewas trying to protect against the Nittany Lions' passing game, Singleton will run wild. Expect another 50+ yard run from the flashy freshman. CMU's -1 turnover ratio will also come back to haunt them against an opportunistic Penn State defense that has already forced five turnovers this season.
Lay the points and go with the Nittany Lions in a runaway.
Full-Game Total Pick
The Nittany Lions have the firepower to pass this total themselves if they commit to running up the score. They are averaging over 42 points per game on the season and have scored 87 points in the last two weeks. Clifford will likely be out of this game by the second half but that just means reps for the quarterback of the future, Drew Aller. Aller is the most highly touted quarterback to enter Penn State in years. He will come in and certainly have his way with the vulnerable CMU secondary. Expect the Nittany Lions to pass the century mark in scoring in this game. With the #14 ranking, Penn State will look to put on a good show to move up the rankings and put themselves in playoff position down the stretch.
Take the over, 62.5 points.