Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Ohio Bobcats Preview

Central Michigan Chippewas vs. Ohio Bobcats Preview
by Predictem.com Staff

The Central Michigan Chippewas, who sport the top offense in the Mid-American Conference, take on the Ohio Bobcats, who led the league in defense, in the MAC Championship Game Thursday night at Ford Field in Detroit.

Ohio, in its second year under head coach Frank Solich, turned in its first winning season since 2000 and won the MAC’s Eastern Division with a 7-1 conference slate. The Bobcats won their first two games back in September, then lost at Rutgers, at Missouri and at home to Bowling Green. But since then, Ohio has won seven games in a row, including a 34-24 victory over Miami-Ohio last week as 3-point road favorites.

Central Michigan, in three seasons under head coach Brian Kelly, has gone from 4-7 in 2004 to 6-5 last season to 8-4 and champs of the MAC West this season. The Chippewas began the season with loses at Boston College and at Michigan, but covered the spread both games. CM then won two games in a row, lost at Kentucky (covering again), and then won five straight before losing at Northern Illinois. The Chips then won at Buffalo last week 55-28 as 15-point road chalk.

Both teams have already accepted bowl bids; the Bobcats, in their first bowl appearance since the 1968 Tangerine Bowl, will play the loser of the Conference-USA title game, which pits Houston against Southern Mississippi, in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala. on Jan. 7; Central Michigan, in its first bowl game since the 1994 Las Vegas Bowl, is headed to the Motor City Bowl, which will also be played at Ford Field in Detroit, against a Big 10 team on Dec. 26.

The Chippewas led the MAC in scoring at 29.5 points per game, and scored 31 or more points in six of their last eight games. On the other side, Ohio led the MAC in defense at 16.2 PPG, and held four of its last five opponents to 10 points and less.

Both of these teams were basically expected to finish in the middle of the pack in their respective divisions this season. But the Bobcats, coming off a 4-7, 3-5 in the MAC season last year, were returning 18 starters. Meanwhile, Central Michigan was returning 14 starters from a team that went 6-5 overall and 5-3 in the MAC last season.

Ohio is 7-3-1 against the spread this season, and 4-1-1 ATS as an underdog.

The Chippewas are 10-2 vs. the number this season, which, along with East Carolina and Nevada, is the best ATS record in the country, and 6-2 ATS as favorites.

The Bobcats are outrushing opponents this season by a 161-130 yards-per-game average, while CM is getting outgained on the ground by a 137-127 YPG margin.

Ohio senior QB Austen Everson owns a 56% completion rate and a 6/7 TD/INT ratio. But Everson is listed as questionable for Thursday’s game with an ankle injury, and didn’t play in last week’s win over Miami. Junior Brad Bower, who made four starts for Illinois a couple of seasons ago, is Plan B.

Chippewas redshirt frosh QB Dan LeFevour has been solid this season, with a 63% completion rate and a 22/9 TD/INT ratio.

These two teams have played four common opponents this season. The Bobcats beat Eastern Michigan 16-10 in Week 10, while CM won at EM 24-17 in OT in Week 3; Ohio beat Buffalo 42-7 in Week 8, while the Chippewas, as mentioned above, won at Buffalo last week 55-28; OU defeated Western Michigan 27-20 in Week 6, while Central Michigan beat the Broncos 31-7 three weeks ago; and while Ohio fell to Bowling Green 21-9 in Week 5, the Chipps beat the Falcons 31-14 in Week 8.

The Bobcats and Chippewas did not meet this season. Last year, Central Michigan beat Ohio 37-10 as seven-point home favorites.

The Sagarin PREDICTOR ratings at USAToday.com rank the Bobcats 61st at 70.2, the Chippewas 67th at 68.9.

The O/U is 4-7 in Ohio games this season, 7-5 in CM games.

Central Michigan opened up as two-point favorites for Thursday’s conference championship game, with a total of 43. The Chippewas have been bet up to as much as 3 at some sportsbooks, and the total has risen to 44.