Central Michigan (1-3) at NC State (2-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 28, 3:30 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: CMU 1-1, NC State 2-1. Away Record: CMU 0-2, NC State 0-0. Neutral Record: CMU 0-0, NC State 0-0. Conference Record: CMU 0-1, NC State 0-1. Series Record: NC State leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Chippewas of Central Michigan pay a visit to Carter-Finley Stadium on Saturday afternoon to tangle with the NC State Wolfpack.
The game marks the final non-conference tuneup for Central Michigan, which dropped to 1-3 with last week's home loss to Toledo in its Mid-American Conference opener. This contest is also the first of a key, three-game road swing for the Chippewas, who can either turn their season around or fade further back in the conference standings. They'll return to MAC play next week at Miam-Ohio.
Meanwhile, NC State is looking to rebound from its first loss of the season last Thursday night. After opening their 2013 campaign with wins over Louisiana Tech (40-14) and Richmond (23-21), the Wolfpack came up short against Clemson, 26-14. This weekend's tilt wraps up a four-game homestand to start the season.
NC State won the only prior meeting with Central Michigan, a 38-24 decision in Raleigh in 2011.
CMU is one of only two teams in the Football Bowl Subdivision to start three different quarterbacks through the first four games of the season. Redshirt freshman Cooper Rush got the start last week against Toledo and produced mixed results. He threw for 214 yards and a touchdown, although he was also intercepted twice and sacked three times amidst a steady barrage of pressure. All told, the offense turned the ball over four times. Sophomore Saylor Lavallii rushed for a career-best 144 yards, while junior wideout Titus Davis finished with five catches for 76 yards.
Should Rush get another start this week, he would be well served to give a few more looks to Davis, who had accumulated 300 yards and three touchdowns receiving over his previous two contests. Davis' 404 receiving yards are ranked ninth nationally, and he is among the career leaders in several receiving categories in the CMU annals.
The Chippewas defense has taken its fair share of lumps in the early going, and the unit entered this week ranked 110th nationally in scoring defense (37.3).
Last week, it was Toledo's ground game that caused all kinds of problems with 252 rushing yards (5.9 ypc) and three touchdowns as a team. CMU's defense was simply unable to get off the field, as the Rockets were able to keep the chains moving by converting 9-of-12 third downs. Junior linebacker Justin Cherocci had a busy day with a career high-tying 15 tackles to go along with a fumble recovery.
Cherocci currently tops the MAC and ranks third in the nation with 46 tackles, while safety Avery Cunningham leads the conference with 25 solo stops.
NC State's offense was not able to get much going last week against third- ranked Clemson. The Wolfpack ventured into the red zone only once and were just 3-of-16 on third downs, although they did manage to convert 4-of-5 fourth-down opportunities. Pete Thomas completed 20-of-36 passes for 213 yards and an interception, and he also ran for a score. However, he also took five sacks from a relentless Tigers defense. Seven different players carried the ball for the Wolfpack, who averaged 4.6 yards on 36 carries as a team.
Through three games, NC State's offense has been rather pedestrian. Freshman Matt Dayes leads the team with 143 rushing yards and three TDs, although he is averaging just 3.9 yards per carry. Thomas has been intercepted four times and is yet to throw a touchdown.
While the offense had its troubles against Clemson, the NC State defense held the Tigers to their lowest scoring total over their past 10 ACC games. In fact, the Wolfpack held Clemson to season-lows in points, total yards, passing yards and rushing yards. They did it by disrupting plays in the backfield, as they finished with 13 tackles for loss. Senior middle linebacker Robert Caldwell headlined that effort with a team-high 12 tackles, including three for loss. Dontae Johnson (11 tackles), D.J. Green (10) and Hakim Jones (10) each joined Caldwell with double-digit stops.
After facing a very tough Clemson team, NC State should be able to handle the 1-3 Chippewas, particularly at home. CMU boasts some talented skill players on offense, but questions abound at the quarterback position.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC State 38, Central Michigan 17
09/25 10:33:09 ET