CMU-WMU preview: Takeaways give Broncos edge
The Detroit News' Tony Paul breaks down Saturday's Western Michigan-Central Michigan game at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant (7, CBSSN/1130).
Broncos to watch
Jamauri Bogan, RB: A 5-foot-7, 187-pound redshirt sophomore from Union, New Jersey, he's picked right up where he left off in the Bahamas Bowl last season (215 yards, four TDs). He's been over 100 yards rushing each game this season, including a season-high of 189 yards against Illinois. He already has five TDs.
Zach Terrell, QB: One of two experienced quarterbacks set to do battle in this game, which is expected to be quite high-scoring. A red-shirt senior from Fort Wayne, Indiana, the 6-2, 204-pounder has a remarkable QB rating of 176.24 through four games, completed nearly 70 percent of his passes with nine touchdowns and zero interceptions.
Darius Phillips, CB: When coach P.J. Fleck asked him two years ago to switch from WR to CB, where the team lacked depth, he was hesitant. Not anymore. The 5-10, 191-pounder from Detroit (Dearborn Heights Robichaud) has become an impact player on defense and special teams. Last week, he returned a kickoff 100 yards for a TD and an interception 70 yards for a TD.
Chippewas to watch
Cooper Rush, QB: A senior from Charlotte, Michigan, he's started 40 consecutive games for the Chippewas, and ranks in the top 10 in several all-time CMU categories. This year, Rush, 6-3 and 230 pounds, has a QB rating of 163.98, completed 62.6 percent of his passes. He's thrown for 13 touchdowns, but also has four interceptions.
Corey Willis, WR: CMU started the season with a whole bunch of receiving threats, but that pool has been diminished with recent injuries to Jesse Kroll and Mark Chapman. That leaves Willis, a 5-10, 175-pound junior from Holland, as the top target for Cooper Rush. Don't be surprised if he sees plenty of WMU double-teams.
Brian Eavey, K: Not to pile on too much pressure, but given both teams' ability to score points, this game could be a close one -- and could come down to a field goal. Eavey, a 6-2, 205-pound senior from Grand Ledge, has the experience, but he's also in a rut, missing on four of his five attempts so far this season, including a 29-yarder.
■ Start of something big: Western Michigan is on the cusp of joining the top 25, and a win on the road over a rival that's having a pretty good year could vault the Broncos into the rankings next week. Also, the road gets much easier after CMU, with WMU very likely to run the table and be 11-0 heading into a tough finale against Toledo, at home.
■ Better beginnings: CMU is too used to falling behind big, early, this season. It was down two scores against then-No. 22 Oklahoma State before rallying to win on the final play of the game, a Hail Mary and lateral. It got down four scores last week to Virginia, and eventually tied the game, but it ran out of gas down the stretch in its first defeat.
■ Crowd control: It's likely to be a sellout at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, and the crowd is likely to be ... umm ... feeling pretty good, after an entire day to party and prepare for the game under the lights. If WMU gets off to a good start, and CMU struggles out of the gate again, the Broncos could put a damper on things and take the home-field edge away.
Facts and figures
■ Western Michigan is one of just two Division I teams that don't yet have a turnover this season; Maryland, coached by former Michigan assistant D.J. Durkin, is the other one. The Broncos are plus-7 in turnovers, fourth in the nation, thanks to forcing four turnovers last week in the victory over previously unbeaten Georgia Southern.
■ Central Michigan coach John Bonamego earned two letters playing football for the Chippewas, and his teams beat the Broncos both times they played — 24-17 in 1985 and 18-10 in 1986. In his first year as CMU coach, though, WMU got the victory, in a thriller, 41-39, last season in Kalamazoo. WMU has won two in a row in the series.
■ This game features two quarterbacks who have combined to throw for more than 20,000 yards in their careers — CMU's Cooper Rush is at 10,713 and WMU's Zach Terrell is at 9,448. They are first and third in the nation, respectively. Terrell is the more accurate passer, though, and if this game comes down to turnovers, WMU is a fave.
■ CMU has the signature win, over Oklahoma State. WMU has two wins over Big Ten teams Illinois and Northwestern. So both had a nice nonconference season, but the Broncos — with their unwillingness to give the ball up, their better defense, and their better special teams — will be tough, even on the road. Western Michigan 42, Central Michigan 31.