#99 Central Michigan Football 2014 Preview

Central Michigan Chippewas

Overall Rank: #99
#5 Mid-American

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Central Michigan has good reason to hope for a better year than 2013’s 6-6 overall mark. However, there is seemingly a big gap between the top of the MAC and the bottom of the MAC. The Chippewas are still fighting to be on the top of the bottom.

2013 Record: (6-6, 5-3)
2013 Bowl: None
Coach: Dan Enos (19-31 at Central Michigan, 19-30 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Morris Watts
Defensive Coordinator: Joe Tumpkin

Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Saylor Lavallii, RB, 807 yards
Passing: Cooper Rush, QB, 2,349 yards
Receiving: Titus Davis, WR, 1,109 yards
Tackles: Justin Cherocci, LB, 121
Sacks: Justin Cherocci, LB, 4.0
Interceptions: Kavon Frazier, DB, 3; Jason Wilson, DB, 3

Other Key Returnees: WR Andrew Flory, OL Andy Phillips, DE Blake Serpa, DT Leterrius Walton

Key Losses: RB Zurlon Tipton, WR Jerry Harris, LB Shamari Benton, S Avery Cunningham, P Richie Hogan

The Chippewas offense may start looking more like they did during the 2000’s. Last year CMU averaged a mere 23.3 points per game and their last two games against Umass and Eastern Michigan greatly increased that average. But there is a lot of emerging talent returning and it all starts with the offensive line. Sure the unit ranked 11th in the conference in sacks allowed, but all five starters are back, including guard Andy Phillips. Coach Dan Enos also returns his top rusher in speedy junior Saylor Lavallii. He rushed for 807 yards and five scores. Sophomore Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore and senior Anthony Garland will give the ground game options. The most interesting position battle heading into the fall, and perhaps beyond, will be at quarterback. Cooper Rush threw for 2,349 yards and 15 touchdowns as a freshman. However, he lost the starting job to Cody Kater prior to the season. Kater started the opener but broke his collarbone and missed the rest of the year. Either quarterback will have the luxury of throwing to Titus Davis, who caught 61 passes for 1,109 yards and eight touchdowns.

While the offense may have underperformed last year, the defense may have over-performed; and now two of the top three tacklers are gone. They ranked fourth in the MAC in total defense with 405.2 yards per game in 2013. But they were ninth in rush defense and a small line is not getting much bigger this year. Leterrius Walton and pass rusher Blake Serpa are a nice duo to build around, but others need to step up and help distribute the ground game. Leading tackler Justin Cherocci is back for his senior season to lead the linebackers. But without Shamari Benton, who totaled 111 tackles last year, there is a big hole next to him. Speaking of big holes to fill, safety Avery Cunningham did everything for CMU. The good news in the secondary is that everybody else is back, including playmakers Kavon Frazier and Jason Wilson.

The Bottom Line:
Central Michigan should feel pretty good about their team this year. However, they are not going to seriously compete with the likes of Northern Illinois in the MAC West. Reaching six wins is more than feasible though and now that the MAC has five bowl tie-ins, that would probably be enough for Chips to get in. Road games against Buffalo and Eastern Michigan are certainly winnable and they could even pull off a non-conference upset or two. They managed to schedule three bad teams in good conferences; Purdue, Syracuse and Kansas.

Projected Bowl: Boca Raton Bowl

2013 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 132.8 (99th in nation, 9th in conference)
Passing Offense: 208.3 (84, 8)
Total Offense: 341.1 (108, 9)
Scoring Offense: 23.3 (95, 7)
Rushing Defense: 201.3 (97, 9)
Pass Defense: 203.9 (20, 3)
Total Defense: 405.2 (66, 4)
Scoring Defense: 28.6 (73, 7)
Turnover Margin: -0.4 (94, 10)
Sacks: 1.75 (82, 9)
Sacks Allowed: 2.58 (99, 11)


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