Central Michigan vs Michigan State: Getting to know the Chippewas


Losing two out of three contests so far this season in close fashion to Syracuse and Oklahoma State, Central Michigan could pose some problems for Michigan State on Saturday.

Related: Central Michigan vs Michigan State: 5 bold predictions

Saturday’s Central Michigan vs Michigan State game might be closer than people expect because of both teams’ ability to score as well as adequately play defense. The Chippewas have played two Power Five conference teams tough so far and are looking to make the third time the charm.

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Let’s get to know the Chips in each facet of the game.


Sep 19, 2015; Syracuse, NY, USA; Central Michigan Chippewas quarterback Cooper Rush (10) passes the ball against the Syracuse Orange during the first quarter at the Carrier Dome. Mandatory Credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

Unfortunately for the Spartans, Central Michigan has one of the most impressive passing attacks in the country, averaging 341 yards per game through the air behind the strong arm of former Lansing Catholic (Mich.) quarterback Cooper Rush.

While Central has yet to really play a top-tier defense like Michigan State’s, Rush has dismantled opponents’ secondaries, completing 70 percent of his passes for 983 yards, five touchdowns and three picks. The junior quarterback may have solid numbers through the air, but his offensive line doesn’t do much to help as he’s already been sacked eight times this year.

Senior tight end Ben McCord has been Rush’s favorite target, connecting 16 times for 306 yards and two touchdowns — the next closest receiver, Jesse Kroll, has just 160 yards on 15 receptions.

The run game is something that will play into the Spartans’ favor, though. Central Michigan has one of the worst rushing offenses in the country, averaging just over 80 yards per game on the ground. Devon Spalding is the team’s leading rusher with 107 yards and a touchdown on 36 carries.


Sep 3, 2015; Mount Pleasant, MI, USA; Oklahoma State Cowboys quarterback J.W. Walsh (4) is upended by Central Michigan Chippewas defensive back Kavon Frazier (5) during the second half at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. OSU won 24-13. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Central Michigan’s defense has been much more solid than Michigan State’s so far in 2015 as the Chippewas have given up about 180 yards through the air and 120 per contests on the ground. While the Chips have the 30th-best total defense in the country, one thing that will benefit the Spartans in their average yards per play allowed.

Out of all the defenses ranked in the top 50 in terms of yards allowed per game, Central Michigan gives up the second-most yards per play at 5.20.

Central also ranks 38th in rushing yards allowed, but gives up a lofty 4.01 yards per carry as well as the third-most touchdowns on the ground allowed of top-50 teams. As for the pass defense, the Chippewas rank 41st in the country and over 10 yards per attempt.

The Chippewas are also not great at forcing turnovers as they have just two all season long coming on interceptions — one of the worst marks in college football. Oh yeah, and they have just five sacks, which is tied for 74th nationally.

Overall, the Spartans should be able to move the ball against this defense as well as protect it.

Special Teams

Sep 3, 2015; Mount Pleasant, MI, USA; Central Michigan Chippewas place kicker Brian Eavey (96) attempts a field goal out of the hold of Central Michigan Chippewas wide receiver Mark Chapman (3) during the 1st quarter at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

This is probably the category you all have been waiting to hear, I know. Well, it is important seeing as the Spartans have already given up two return touchdowns this season.

Central Michigan ranks 92nd in the country in yards per kick return with no touchdowns — good sign. Even better, the Chips rank just 115th in punt return yardage, returning just one for two yards this year while fair catching the rest.

Their kickoff and punt coverage units are both solid, ranking near the top of the country in yards allowed.

As for junior Brian Eavey, he might be one of the best kickers the Spartans will face this season as he hasn’t missed an extra point and he’s missed just one field goal of 50-plus yards — that ultimately proved to be the difference in a 30-27 loss to Syracuse.

Next: Central Michigan vs. Michigan State: 5 players who need to step up

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