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MAC Title Preview - Ohio vs. Central Michigan
Posted Nov 28, 2006

It's the start of Championship Weekend with a good one in Detroit with Dan Bazuin and Central Michigan looking to stop the red-hot Ohio Bobcats tonight in the MAC Championship.

East  Akron | Bowling Green | Buffalo | Kent State | Miami Univ. | Ohio
West  Ball State | Central Mich | Eastern Mich | No. Illinois | Toledo | West Michigan
Past MAC Predictions: Week 1 | Week 2 | Week 3 | Week 4 | Week 5
Week 6 | Week 7 | Week 8 | Week 9 | Week 10 | Week 11 | Week 12 | Week 13

Get Tickets for the MAC Championship

How'd we do so far? 72-19 straight up, 45-38-2 ATS

Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Ohio (9-3)

Thursday Nov. 30, 7:30 p.m. ET, ESPN

While neither of these programs figured to be favorites for the MAC championship to start the season, these have been the league's most consistent teams throughout the year. Ohio is GMAC Bowl bound while Central Michigan will stick around home and go to the Motor City Bowl, but first, the two have to play in what should be a program-defining game.

National Rankings
Central Mich Ohio
Total Offense
35th  373.83 ypg 104th  285.42 ypg
Total Defense
75th  353.17 ypg 22nd  291.58 ypg
Scoring Offense
24th  29.5 ppg 79th  21.58 ppg
Scoring Defense
71st  24 ppg 19th  16.17 ppg
Run Offense
69th  126.58 ypg 36th  161.08 ypg
Run Defense
55th  135.25 ypg 52nd  130.08 ypg
Pass Offense
20th  247.25 ypg 114th  124.33 ypg
Pass Defense
83rd  217.92 ypg 13th  161.5 ypg
Turnover Margin
44th  0.25 66th  -0.08
Central Michigan
B. College L 31-24
at Michigan L 41-17
Akron W 24-21
at E Mich W 24-17 OT
at Kentucky L 45-36
at Toledo W 42-20
Ball State
W 18-7
B. Green W 31-14
at Temple W 42-26
Western Mich W 31-7
at No. Illinois L 31-10
at Buffalo
W 55-28
UT Martin W 29-3
at N Illinois W 35-23
at Rutgers L 24-7
at Missouri L 31-6
B. Green L 21-6
W Mich W 27-20
at Illinois W 20-17
W 42-7
at Kent St W 17-7
at E Mich
W 16-10
Akron W 17-7
at Miami U. W 34-24
Position Ratings
relative to each other
C 5 highest
1 lowest
4 Quarterbacks 3
4 RBs 5
3.5 Receivers 2.5
4 O Line 4
4 D Line 4
4 Linebackers 4.5
3 Secondary 4
4 Spec Teams 4.5
4.5 Coaching 4.5

Ohio is looking for its first MAC championship and ten-win season since 1968, but even though it's won two of the last three games against Central Michigan, the Chippewas have an 18-4-2 all-time record in the series. Head coach Frank Solich has turned around a Bobcat program with only one winning season in the last eight years thanks to one of the MAC's best defenses and the running of junior Kalvin McRae.

CMU is looking for its first MAC title since 1994 and can stay on pace for its first ten-win season since 1979. Head coach Brian Kelly is one of the nation's hottest young coaches who has been rumored for several job openings. His team has won eight of its last nine games with one of the MAC's best passing attacks even though they had to replace several top receivers from last year.
The first hint of how good CMU could become came in a tough 31-24 opening day loss to Boston College with a late rally almost pulling off the upset. After getting thumped by Michigan, CMU beat defending MAC champion Akron 24-21 to set the tone for the conference season, and then survived overtime against Eastern Michigan on the way to a 6-0 MAC start. With few problems against anyone else in the league, and a 31-7 win over Western Michigan clinching the West, the team suffered a 31-10 letdown at Northern Illinois before finishing up with a blowout at Buffalo.

Ohio's veteran team made it's big move early on beating Northern Illinois 35-23 on September 9th before the offense went into the tank on a three-game slide losing to Rutgers, Missouri, and at home against Bowling Green by a combined score of 76 to 22. The offensive line got in a lather, the defense started stopping everyone cold, and the Bobcats went on a roll with a seven-game winning streak highlighted by a thrilling 20-17 comeback win at Illinois which seemed to give the team a shot of confidence going into the second half of the season.

These are two completely different teams with contrasting styles that should make for an entertaining game that has the potential to be the most competitive championship game of the weekend. Ohio will want to pound the ball, Central Michigan will try to throw the ball, and each team will play solid special teams. There's no wrong answer here; these two teams are the best in the MAC with the winner being the no-doubt-about-it champion.

Players to watch: Ohio junior Kalvin McRae has been the centerpiece of the offense for the last two years with 2,851 career yards and 25 touchdowns while catching 53 career passes for three scores. He's not all that big and he's not all that fast, but he's a durable, ultra-productive workhorse who's always moving forward and always cranking out yards in chunks. It's this simple: Ohio was 1-4 when he ran for fewer than 100 yards this year, and 8-0 when he passed the century mark.

Central Michigan came into the season planning on sophomore Brian Brunner to be the main main at quarterback. He suffered a concussion on the first play against Boston College, Dan LeFevour stepped in, and the Chippewa offense and became the MAC's best new star. While he doesn't have a huge arm, he's accurate, good on the run, and became a great decision maker once he got his feet wet. Can he light up a good team? He rocked against horrendous secondaries like Kentucky's, Toledo's, Temple's and Buffalo's, but he wasn't always on against the better teams.

Two of the MAC's best defensive players will be on display with Ohio LB Matt Muncy and Central Michigan DE Dan Bazuin each getting a national showcase for the NFL scouts. Muncy is a tackling machine with good range in pass coverage. With two games to go, he has a shot to finish his career with 350 tackles, currently at the 324 mark, with 11.5 sacks and 37 tackles for loss. Bazuin has been dinged up a bit and wasn't quite the same after bulking up this off-season, but he still finished with eight sacks and first-team All-MAC honors.

Ohio will win if... it takes advantage of the inevitable CMU turnover or three and makes the Chippewa offense one-dimensional. As good as LeFevour has been, he'll throw an interception here and there when trying to make a play that isn't there. CMU's attack works best when it's mixing things up with Ontario Sneed and Marcel Archer taking the pressure off LeFevour. If the Bobcats win the turnover battle and keep the Chippewa running game to around 100 yards, it'll have no problem getting the win.

Central Michigan will win if... it stuffs the run. It's that simple. The CMU linebackers are terrific and should keep McRae from breaking decent gains into backbreakers. The D line isn't going to get to the quarterback since the Ohio offensive line doesn't allow much in the way of pressure, but the CMU weakness, the secondary, still won't be exposed since the Bobcats can't throw with any regularity if the ground game isn't rolling at will. If CMU can get out to a fast start and force Ohio to try to throw in comeback mode, it's over.

What will happen: Chalk this one up to those who buy into the defense-wins-championships cliché. While LeFevour is talented, the Ohio secondary is playing too well to give up too many big plays, while the corners will be helped out by Muncy and the linebacking corps taking away the short to midrange passes. The active Bobcat defensive front will frustrate LeFevour into two interceptions leaving the Ohio offense short fields to work with. That'll be all McRae will need.

Line: Central Michigan -3 ... CFN Prediction:
Ohio 23 ... Central Michigan 16  

The 2005 MAC Championship
Akron 31 ... Northern Illinois 30

Domenik Hixon overcame cramps and dehydration to come off the bench and catch a 36-yard touchdown pass with :13 to play to send Akron to its first bowl game since going to D-I. NIU's Garrett Wolfe was magnificent rushing for 270 yards and two touchdowns, but the Huskies couldn't handle Akron's short passing game and couldn't get any pressure on Zip QB Luke Getsy. NIU held a 24-10 lead going into the fourth quarter, but Akron scored 21 points in the final frame with touchdown runs from Getsy and Brett Biggs.
Player of the game:  Akron QB Luke Getsy completed 30 of 50 passes for 413 yards and a touchdown with an interception and ran for a seven-yard score.
Stat Leaders: NIU - Passing: Dan Nicholson, 7-17, 110 yds, 1 TD
Rushing: Garrett Wolfe, 42-270, 2 TD. Receiving: Britt Davis, 2-41
Akron - Passing: Luke Getsy, 30-59, 413 yds, 1 TD, 1 INT
Brett Biggs, 20-70, 1 TD. Receiving: Domenik Hixon, 8-144, 1 TD