Central Michigan (5-6) at Massachusetts (1-10)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Friday, November 23, 3 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Gillette Stadium (68,756) -- Foxboro, Massachusetts. Television: None. Home Record: CMU 3-4, UMass 0-4. Away Record: CMU 2-2, UMass 1-6. Neutral Record: CMU 0-0, UMass 0-0. Conference Record: CMU 3-4, UMass 1-5. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Central Michigan Chippewas will try to become bowl eligible as they visit the Massachusetts Minutemen for a Mid-American Conference regular-season finale at Gillette Stadium.
After a 2-5 start to the 2012 season, coach Dan Enos and his Chippewas are in position to even up their record at 6-6 and become bowl eligible. CMU put itself in position to return to the postseason for the first time since 2009 by winning three of its last four games, including its last two. CMU and Miami-Ohio were in the same situation last week as they both needed to win out to become bowl eligible.
The Minutemen's first campaign as an FBS program has been a transitional year as expected. Coach Charley Molnar's squad did not pick up its first victory until Nov. 10 when it defeated the Akron by eight points on the road. UMass had built up a FBS leading 12-game losing streak heading into its bout with the Zips. The team nearly followed up its inaugural MAC win with another as it went into halftime of last week's bout with Buffalo ahead 13-0. The Minutemen were outscored 29-6 over the final 30 minutes of the contest which gives left them with a 1-10 overall record heading into their season finale.
This will be the first time in history these teams face each other.
CMU's offense has averages of 399.6 yards and 28.1 points per contest through 11 games due to the strong play of senior quarterback Ryan Radcliff. Although he has not attempted as many passes as when he was a junior, Radcliff's decision making has been the difference as he has improved his completion rate nearly three percentage points and thrown only eight interceptions, which is half of 2011's total. He has amassed 2,828 yards and 19 touchdowns on 213- of-359 passing.
Junior running back Zurlon Tipton is the main threat in the Chippewas' offensive attack. He was productive yet again last week, rushing 24 times for 115 yards and two TDs. The strong performance gave him his fifth consecutive game with 100 yards or more. Now with 16 total trips to the end zone, Tipton is averaging 8.7 points per game, which is tied for fifth in the MAC rankings.
Titus Davis and Cody Wilson are both consistent threats in the passing attack. Wilson has tallied a team-high of 59 receptions for 718 yards. Davis comes in with 860 yards, eight catches for scores, and 43 receptions. Wilson has made a catch in 41 consecutive games, which is the tied for the second longest active streak in the nation behind Duke's Conner Vernon.
CMU is one of the weakest defensive squads in the FBS with allowed averages of 454.3 yards and 34.5 points per game. The Chippewas have allowed each of their previous five opponents to surpass the 400-yard mark in total offense. The defensive unit managed to make its mark last week by sacking Miami's Zac Dysert five times and intercepting him once. CMU came into the contest with just 10 sacks on the season.
Sophomore LB Justin Cherocci leads the team and ranks fourth in the conference with 112 total tackles after registering seven versus the RedHawks. Jahleel Addae came up huge last week with 10 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, and an interception.
The UMass offense has yet to fully catch up to the higher level of competition, as it puts up an unimpressive average of 272.9 ypg and ranks in the FBS cellar in scoring offense with only 11.9 ppg. The Minutemen were held to 264 yards of total offense by Buffalo last week, making it the fifth time in six games that they have been held under 300 yards on offense.
Redshirt freshman QB Mike Wegzyn has been overwhelmed at times in his rookie year. The Knoxville native has passed for 1,610 yards with five touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Deion Walker (47 receptions, 537 yards, two TDs) has proven to be a reliable target for Wegzyn, and running back Alan Williams (28 receptions, 317 yards, four TDs) has been an active player in the passing game out of the backfield. Rob Branchflower has reeled in 14 receptions for 163 yards over the span of his last three outings.
Michael Cox is the team's lead back, but his production has been rather pedestrian with 181 carries for 644 yards and four touchdowns. As a team, the Minutemen average just 2.6 yards per rush attempt.
While the offense has certainly struggled, the defense has followed suit (40 ppg, 469.3 ypg). Bowling Green (282) and Connecticut (372) are the only opponents UMass held under 400 yards of total offense this season.
The increased volume of work has made Perry McIntyre one of the top tacklers in the nation (114 tackles, 6.5 TFL). Darren Thellen (67 tackles), Khary Baily-Smith and Randall Jette have each recorded two interceptions.
The Minutemen have been a much better team since they were victims of a 63-0 beating from Northern Illinois. With nothing to lose, they should play a much more relaxed brand of football. The Chippewas have a lot of pressure to win, but their current wave of momentum should push them to bowl eligibility.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Central Michigan 35, Massachusetts 20
11/21 10:51:04 ET