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Know thy Opponent 2008: Central Michigan Chippewas

In a quick addition to Friday’s Boilermakings I wanted to congratulate Andy Loomis, Dan Black, and Matt Bischoff for being selected in the later rounds of Friday’s Major League baseball draft. Their selections bring Purdue’s draft total in 2008 to five players for just the second time in school history and first since 1993. Loomis, a senior starting pitcher, was taken in the 16th round by the Florida Marlins. The Marlins are a team that has a reputation for developing young pitchers, and Mr. Loomis could be with the big club by the time they open their long-awaited stadium in 2011. Black was selected in the 35th round by the Giants, but is only a sophomore and could choose to return to Purdue next season in order to improve his draft stock. The same is true for Bischoff, who went in the 47th round to the Mets. Should both return they will be key players on what should be a pretty good team in 2009.

So we meet again for the first time, for the last time – Dark Helmet, Spaceballs

We return to the Know thy Opponent series today for a look at a familiar foe. Our third opponent on the 2008 schedule isn’t even close to being in the Big Ten, but by the time we play them on September 16th we will know them better than anyone else on the 2008 schedule. For what will be the third time in 14 games for us we will play the Central Michigan Chippewas. To me, this benefits Central Michigan a lot more than it benefits Purdue. The Chips will be a very, very good team in 2008 with Dan LeFevour at the controls. They boast a very potent offense that is fully confident it can move against us. If they have done almost anything to shore up their defense we could be in for a very long day.

I feel like I could just as easily post the two previews that I did for both games against Central Michigan last year. The Chips return a bunch of starters on both sides of the ball and will once against be dangerous because of their quarterback play. While the MAC isn’t nearly as deep as the Big Ten, its top couple of teams can usually play some pretty good football. Central Michigan is no exception. They represent the second game in a very tough three game stretch that has me concerned before we even start conference play.

Last Season for the Chippewas:

We are very familiar with how it began and how it ended for Central Michigan. The Chippewas opened the year with a loss at Orange Bowl winner Kansas before lighting up Toledo. A visit to Ross-Ade followed in which Purdue played a nearly perfect first quarter of football on its way to a 38-0 lead before coasting to a 45-22 win. The Chips 2007 season can be summed up as great in Mid-American Conference play, but lousy outside of it. Central Michigan repeated as MAC champs with an 8-6 overall record, but lost a thrilling Motor City Bowl rematch with Purdue on a last second Chris Summers field goal.

Against MAC opponents the Chips were 7-1. Only a three point loss to Eastern Michigan was a blemish. Outside the MAC Central Michigan was just 1-5, however. They succeeded in beating Army 47-23, but gave up a total of 97 points to Purdue in two games, 70 to Clemson, 52 to Kansas, and 44 to 1-AA North Dakota State. Other than the second Purdue game the powerful offense did little to help the defense, as they managed just seven points against the Jayhawks, 14 against Clemson and North Dakota State, and 22 against a disinterested Purdue defense in the final quarter and a half of our first meeting. They were really a feast-or-famine type of team last season, but the 2008 schedule looks favorable for a third straight MAC championship. Purdue, Indiana and Georgia are the difficult out of conference opponents, and since the Georgia game is likely unwinnable they will be gunning for a signature victory (for them) over the Boilers or Hoosiers.

Central Michigan offense:

The Chippewas go as quarterback Dan LeFevour goes. Last season Florida’s Tim Tebow won a Heisman trophy by doing something no one else has ever done in passing for 20 touchdowns and running for 20 touchdowns. LeFevour came dangerously close to matching Tebow’s feat, and some could say he did. LeFevour threw for 27 scores last season, rushed for 19. The gray area comes from the fact he caught a single touchdown pass on a 32 yard reception for the 20th score. You can argue that it doesn’t mean as much because came against lesser competition and because of the MAC championship game the Chippewas played one more game than the Gators. The bottom line is that it was still an impressive feat. If it was so easy to do against the "lesser" competition of the MAC why haven’t other great dual threat quarterbacks from the MAC done it?

LeFevour is the rare type of player that can make any team dangerous by himself. He was responsible for nearly 4,800 yards from scrimmage last season, over 1,100 of which came on the ground. He won’t have to worry about rushing for more yards as the next two top rushers in Justin Hoskins and Ontario Snead both return for their senior seasons. Hoskins went for 664 yards and 10 touchdowns last season while Snead, who was a freshman All-American in 2005, saw his production drop further to just 486 yards and six scores.

Our bad news just continues as LeFavour’s top receiving targets all return. Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson each finished with more than 1,000 yards receiving last season and combined for 16 touchdowns. Both gave us fits in the Motor City Bowl as well, so I certainly won’t be happy to see them a third time. Outside of those two the production dramatically dropped off, but that production was spread fairly evenly among seven other players who had at least 10 catches.

On the offensive line three year starter Andrew Hartline returns to anchor a unit that has a ton of freshmen and sophomores on the roster. This will be the offense’s only area of concern. Still, guard Jeff Maddux and right tackle Greg Wojt drew the start against us in the Motor City bowl last year and will return. The same is true for Colin Miller, giving them a fourth returning lineman with starting experience. Scoring 48 points against a Big Ten defense means they should be fine, but we did get to LeFevour early in last year’s bowl game.

Central Michigan defense:

As good as the Chippewa offense was last season, they often needed to be better as the defense was atrocious at best against good competition. In 14 games last season he Chips gave up more than 30 points 11 times. Six times they gave up more than 40 and 50 was topped three of those times. Long story short, you can score at will against Central Michigan. A drastic improvement is not expected either as the top two tacklers from last season in linebackers Red Keith and Ike Brown are both gone. Sophomore linebacker Nick Bellore comes back with 102 stops and a pair of interceptions. Seven starters come back from the group that started in the Motor City Bowl against us, but they are seven starters that allowed Curtis Painter to set a Purdue single game record for passing yardage. They must get better, fast.

Josh Gordy is one of those starters that returns, bringing back a team high four interceptions from his cornerback spot. Chaz West and Eric Fraser also return to a secondary that allowed a ton of yards last season, and not just against us. The defensive line gets most everyone back, but part of the reason Painter had such a great game against them last season is because he had all day to throw. Defensive end Frank Zombo led the team with 7.5 sacks last season. He returns, but was really the only consistent pass rushing threat the Chippewas had. He was aided by Larry Knight at the other end position who also comes back with five sacks. They did better against the run in game two against us, but we didn’t need to run as much when Painter threw for a ton of yards. In game one Kory Sheets had 144 yards and two scores while we ran for 223 yards as a team. Essentially, they lost some the best components from a defense that we both ran AND passed on last year.

Central Michigan Special Teams:

Andrew Aguila was 9 of 14 on field goals last season and returns as the starting kicker. Though not particularly accurate, he has a big leg with a career long 51 yard field goal at Ball State last year. He missed from 45 in our first meeting, but hit from 27 and 47 in Detroit. He will also handle kickoff duties for a coverage unit that was fairly good last year. They gave up just over 19 yards per kick and one touchdown.

Central Michigan must replace punter Tony Mikulec who averaged only 38 yards per kick last season. The good news is that Central Michigan didn’t have to punt very often, doing so just 20 times in 14 games last year. The bad news is they don’t get a field position boost when they do and they were susceptible to a good return.


Normally a Big Ten team has the advantage of depth and experience in these MAC matchups, but that is not the case here. Central Michigan is certainly very familiar with us. After the way they played against us in the second half of both games last year they have to feel confident about this game. All they need is a better defensive performance from the start and they can give us all kinds of trouble. Purdue has won all four meetings between the schools, scoring over 45 points in each. The Chippewas are an experienced team with a powerful offense that knows it can move on us. They know they can score points in a hurry even if they fall behind again. I am afraid of what might happen if Central Michigan is able to get a lead, though they have yet to do so in the series.

The Chips are also very well coached. Butch Jones was a winner last year in his first season, and is one of the up and coming "name" coaches that bigger schools are drooling all over when they have a vacancy. Last year’s Motor City Bowl had the distraction of Jones interviewing for the open West Virginia job as the Chips prepared to play us, but ultimately Jones stayed at Central Michigan. If he can win the MAC this year and knock off a Big Ten team like Purdue or Indiana, he will only get more phone calls. It’s unfortunate, but successful coaches in the MAC don’t often stay forever. That could be a distraction.

Game Outlook:

I have a really bad feeling about this. On paper it looks like this will be the game where Tiller officially breaks Mollenkopf’s record (assuming we don’t beat Oregon). A loss to the Ducks will make this game absolutely critical. Since a win in South bend the following week is far from guaranteed we need to get this game or face possibly heading into the conference season at 1-3. Should that happen a 6-2 conference season would be needed just to assure a bowl bid. Few people if any think that type of performance is possible.

Central Michigan is hungry too. They know they can play with us and beat us. They also know that if Summers’ kick had sailed through the uprights with any amount of time left they would have had a better than decent shot of pulling it off last year. They will have an unusual amount of confidence for a MAC team walking into a Big Ten venue.

As we did both times, stopping them in the first half will be absolutely critical. We know we can move on them via the run or the pass as well. The offense cannot turn the ball over like it did against them last year. That means Kory Sheets has to hold on to the ball and we can’t have dropped passes turning into interceptions. Even if we do get a big lead, the defense cannot let up. They did in both games last year. The first time it was harmless. The second time it was downright terrifying.


I haven’t seen enough of either team to show vast improvements on the defensive side of the ball, so the offense will rule the day. I do think our defense has improved more than theirs, but their offense as of right now may be better than ours. The defenses will struggle, but I think we can get just enough from ours to get the win. Do not be surprised if the Chips pull off the mild upset. Purdue 45, Central Michigan 38