Western Michigan (7-3) at Central Michigan (7-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 22, 1 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Kelly/Shorts Stadium (45,000) -- Mount Pleasant, Michigan. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Western Michigan 3-1, Central Michigan 3-2. Away Record: Western Michigan 4-2, Central Michigan 4-2. Neutral Record: Western Michigan 0-0, Central Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Western Michigan 5-1, Central Michigan 5-2. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 45-38-2.
GAME NOTES: Having won five consecutive games, the Western Michigan Broncos will seek to move up the Mid-American Conference standings when they take on the Central Michigan Chippewas in a conference clash at Kelly-Shorts Stadium.
Western Michigan, at 7-3 overall this season and with a 5-1 record in the MAC, has bowl eligibility already in its grasp. The Broncos will be gunning for the top spot in the MAC West Division with two more games on the team's slate. The Broncos dismantled Eastern Michigan, 51-7, last weekend.
Central Michigan sits a half-game behind Western Michigan, Toledo and Northern Illinois in the contentious MAC West Division at 5-2. So with two games remaining, the Chippewas need every win they can get. They are on a three-game win streak and are coming off a 34-27 win over Miami-Ohio.
The all-time series between these two intrastate rivals runs very deep. The Broncos have a 45-38-2 edge in the series, which dates all the way to 1905. The two sides met last season, which saw Central Michigan come away victorious, 27-22.
Western Michigan absolutely blasted Eastern Michigan in the Broncos' last outing, thanks to the efforts of quarterback Zach Terrell. The sophomore signal caller threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns, and now has passed for 2,668 yards and 1`9 touchdowns this season. His 69.7 completion percentage ranks fifth among quarterbacks in the FBS.
Terrell's top two wideouts have separated themselves from the rest of the Western Michigan pack. Daniel Braverman has caught 69 passes this season for 707 yards and six touchdowns (including two last weekend), while Corey Davis, whose brother Titus plays on Central Michigan, has hauled in a team-best 1,069 yards with nine receiving scores.
Then there's true freshman running back Jarvion Franklin. Quite possibly the frontrunner for the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award, Franklin has carried the ball 247 times for 1,356 yards (sixth in the FBS) and 22 touchdowns (second in the FBS). He's the main reason his Broncos average 36.2 ppg and 461.1 offensive ypg.
Defensively, the Broncos have been stellar as of late, allowing a combined 38 points to opponents in the team's last three games. Opponents are scoring a mere 23.5 ppg against WMU this season, and can only gain 379.1 offensive ypg. The team also has limited challengers to just over 27 minutes of possession time on average in 10 games.
Grant DePalma has been a monster this season, leading the team in tackles with 86 to go along with eight tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks. He'll be busy this weekend going against a very well-rounded CMU offensive attack. Donald Celsicar and Ronald Zamort will be in charge of matching against star wideouts Titus Davis and Jesse Kroll.
Central Michigan got running back Thomas Rawls back for the game last weekend against Miami-Ohio, but the star rusher only carried the ball a total of three times in the team's win. It was the hot-handed Devon Spalding who saw the majority of work, gaining 147 yards and scoring two touchdowns. In eight games, Rawls leads the team with 1,027 yards and 10 touchdowns, but Spalding (356 yards, 4 TD) and Saylor Lavallii (290 yards, 4 TD) have come on strong to fill in for Rawls when he's been out.
Quarterback Cooper Rush has improved mightily since last season, after throwing for 15 touchdowns and 15 interceptions a year ago. Now the signal caller has 18 touchdown passes against nine interceptions heading into his biggest and final game of the season. Rush is at the center of an offense averaging 25.6 ppg and 386.4 offensive ypg.
Davis (755 yards, 9 receiving TD) has really padded his cause for a run to the NFL. He and Kroll (454 yards, 4 TD) are a dynamic duo on the outside as weapons for Rush. The Chippewas are already bowl eligible, but they still have hope for a MAC title game run.
CMU went two straight weeks allowing 14 points and seven points, respectively, before Miami's hot offense posted 27 points against the Chippewas. Central Michigan's defense is holding opponents to 22.4 ppg and a mere 328.4 offensive ypg - both bests in the conference this season.
Watch for linebacker Justin Cherocci to key in on Franklin this weekend. Cherocci leads the Chippewas with 101 tackles this season, adding six tackles for loss and three sacks to his resume. Lineman Joe Ostman has notched 10 tackles for loss, so his presence in the backfield against Terrell and Franklin will be much needed. Brandon Greer and Tony Annese are going to be big factors in defending the WMU passing game.
This contest has the makings to not only live up to its in-state rivalry, but as one of the better MAC matchups all season long. Both teams are fighting for their survival moving toward the conference title game, and a CMU homefield advantage cannot be understated. But Western Michigan is just firing on too many cylinders offensively and defensively, and Franklin will bounce back from a very sub-par week and a minor injury to run wild.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 40, Central Michigan 35
11/19 10:33:47 ET