Central Michigan (3-6) at Western Michigan (1-9) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Waldo Stadium (30,200) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: ESPN Plus, ESPN3. Home Record: CMU 1-2, WMU 0-4. Away Record: CMU 2-4, WMU 1-5. Neutral Record: CMU 0-0, WMU 0-0. Conference Record: CMU 2-3, WMU 1-5. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 45-37-2.
GAME NOTES: The Central Michigan Chippewas will try to launch another late season surge into the postseason as they battle Mid-American Conference West Division rival Western Michigan in the annual battle for the Victory Cannon at Waldo Stadium.
The Chippewas fell to 3-6 overall and 2-3 in the MAC standings last Wednesday when they suffered a 44-24 setback to Ball State in Muncie. Although Central Michigan is heading to Kalamazoo on a two-game losing streak, it only needs to look back one year in its history to find a reason to be optimistic. The 2012 team also owned a 3-6 record through nine games before rattling off three consecutive wins to become bowl eligible by the end of the regular season. Coach Dan Enos and the Chippewas then went on to defeat Western Kentucky in the Little Caesars Bowl to climb over the .500 mark and post a winning record.
Including Western Michigan, the Chippewas' final three opponents have a combined overall record of 4-25 enter Saturday's action. However, CMU has lost two games in a row to the Broncos, including last season's 42-31 setback at home in Mount Pleasant. WMU owns a 45-37-2 all-time record and have not been defeated by the Chippewas since 2009.
The Broncos have lost seven of their last eight MAC games since defeating CMU. First-year head coach P.J. Fleck nearly guided his squad to its second win of the 2013 season last week as it held a 29-21 lead over Eastern Michigan with less than a minute left in regulation. WMU's defense could not come up with a clutch stop as the Eagles scored a touchdown and converted the ensuing two- point conversion to force overtime. The offense was then held to a field goal before EMU won the game with a rushing touchdown in the second portion of the extra session.
The setback dropped Fleck to a 1-9 career record, which includes seven losses by double-digit margins.
In the Chippewas' loss to Ball State, their offense was paced by junior wideout Titus Davis, who is the older brother of WMU's top pass catcher. Davis tallied nine receptions for 187 yards and a score that marked the 23rd TD reception of his career to tie NFL star Antonio Brown for second place in the school's record book. The junior wide receiver has made the transition to the collegiate level for redshirt freshman signal caller Cooper Rush much easier, with 101.8 yards per game, which is the second highest average in the MAC.
Rush has been very productive in terms of moving the ball as he has amassed 1,859 yards in eight games (232.4 ypg). Still, Rush has completed only 55.2 percent of his throws for 12 TDs and has been picked off a MAC worst 11 times.
Although Saylor Lavallii (774 yards, five TDs, 4.7 ypc) has had a few strong outings, CMU is only producing an average of 123.7 yards on the ground. Maurice Shoemaker-Gilmore posted 68 yards on just six carries in the loss to BSU.
Defensively, Enos's team was overmatched against the Cardinals' high-powered attack, which tallied 549 yards of total offense and 31-first half points. The Chippewas are ranked 11th among MAC schools in scoring defense with an allowance of 34.6 points per game although they are two spots better in total defense (448.2 ypg). Terrell will need to be aware of Kavon Frazier, who will be looking to record his fourth interception of the season.
The Broncos are dangerous, as their key offensive players are both freshmen who seem to progress each week. In the overtime loss, WMU outgained the Eagles, 468-400, in total yards of offense. Zach Terrell threw for a career- high 348 yards with one touchdown and an interception on 24-of-39 passing. His favorite target, Corey Davis, continued to shine as he tallied 112 yards and a score on six receptions. The 6-foot-2 rookie wideout entered the program as a two-star recruit, but has turned out to be a hidden gem with a WMU freshman record five 100-yard receiving games.
Fleck's squad has averaged only 335.9 ypg to rank 11th in the MAC in total offense and the struggles have come primarily due to a lack of efficiency on the ground. Dareyon Chance and Brian Fields have split the tailback duties to combine for 1,073 yards, with the latter accounting for five of WMU's six rushing TDs.
Defensively, WMU is ranked second to last among MAC schools in scoring defense (36.6 ppg), despite its eighth place standing in total defense at 427.8 ypg. The disproportionate averages are primarily due to the Broncos' lack of takeaways that has given them the worst turnover margin (minus 1.1) in the conference. Mike Jones is the team's leading tackler with 93 stops, while Justin Currie is close behind with 86 tackles.
WMU may not have a chance of playing after the conclusion of the regular season, but denying its rival from advancing would be a nice prize for Fleck. The Broncos will enter this matchup with nothing to lose, which makes them a very dangerous opponent for the hopeful Chippewas.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 38, Central Michigan 35Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 16, 12 p.m. (et)