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Previewing The Enemy: Central Michigan Chippewas

After a quick southern excursion, No. 14 Penn State football (3-0, 1-0 Big Ten) is set to face off with Central Michigan for its final non-conference game of the season.

The Nittany Lions have a bit of momentum on their side after blowing out Auburn in dangerous SEC waters, while the Chippewas have sputtered to a 1-2 start.

These two teams have faced off just once before. Penn State easily took care of business in Beaver Stadium, cruising to a 40-3 victory in 2005.

The Team

Jim McElwain, who’s spent time at Michigan, Alabama, and Flordia, has led Central Michigan since the 2019 season. He holds a 21-15 record as head coach of the Chippewas and led the team to a share of the MAC conference championship in 2021.

Paul Petrino, who previously spent nine years as head coach at Idaho, is in his first season as offensive coordinator. Central Michigan leads the MAC in total yards and yards per game through three contests this season. The Chippewas easily have the most passing yards in the conference as well with 311 per game.

Robb Akey is in his fourth season as Central Michigan’s defensive coordinator. The Chippewas are toward the front of the pack in their conference, allowing 32 points and 402.3 yards per game. It’s of note that the team put up a tough fight with No. 9 Oklahoma State in garbage time, only losing by two scores when the dust settled.

Offense

The centerpiece of Central Michigan’s offense is running back Lew Nichols III, who led the FBS with more than 1,800 rushing yards last season.

Nichols is off to a hot start in 2022 as well, scoring five touchdowns in three games and tacking on 258 rushing yards. His backup, Myles Bailey, is averaging 5.5 yards on 17 carries, too. Overall, the Chippewas are third in the MAC with 163.3 rushing yards per game

Starting quarterback Daniel Richardson also returns after throwing for 2,633 yards at a 60.4% clip in 2021. This season, Central Michigan leads the MAC with 933 total passing yards thus far.

Richardson has already thrown seven touchdowns but has seen a downtick in both QBR and completion percentage from last year’s campaign. He isn’t a very mobile quarterback, as he’s only attempted 10 rushes and has netted 0 yards on the ground.

At wide receiver, Jalen McGaughy has impressed James Franklin the most on tape. The Ball State transfer leads the team with 200 yards on 11 receptions. The 6’4″, 225-pound pass-catcher has two scores on the season as well. He did not appear in the Cardinals’ game against Penn State in 2021.

Tight end Joel Wilson is in his fifth year with the program and leads the team with 16 receptions and has punched in two touchdowns this season. Wideouts Langston Lewis and Carlos Carriere also have touchdowns this season.

Defense

Central Michigan’s offense has certainly been the highlight of the season so far, as the defense has not seen impressive results. It’s done well enough compared to the rest of the MAC but has given up 58 and 38 points so far this season, which is balanced by a shutout against Bucknell.

The linebackers lead the way in tackles so far this year, as Kyle Moretti has 18 and Justin Whiteside is tied for second place with 16. The group is yet to register a sack but Whiteside has already logged 3.5 tackles for loss, while Nick Apsey has two of his own.

On the defensive line, Franklin has been most impressed by senior Thomas Incoom, who has 10 tackles and a very impressive three sacks this season. He’s also tied with fellow defensive lineman Michael Heldman for a team-high 4.5 tackles for loss. The front seven is allowing 103.7 yards per game on the ground, good for the third-fewest in the MAC.

The Chippewas have some solid talent in the secondary. Franklin was impressed with safety Trey Jones and cornerback Donte Kent, who’s from Pennsylvania and earned some freshman All-American honors in 2021.

Jones and De’Javion Stepney lead the defensive backs with 16 tackles a piece. Jones and cornerback Caleb Spann have the only interceptions so far this season. As a whole, the group is giving up nearly 300 passing yards per game, which is toward the bottom of the conference.

Special Teams

Keith Murphy has been this group’s coordinator since 2020, and Franklin called it “sound and consistent.”

Marshall Meeder handles the majority of kicking duties for Central Michigan and has made just one field goal on five attempts this year. However, two of them have been from more than 50 yards, and his season-long is from 48. He’s perfect on extra points.

Luke Elzinga is the punter and has pinned five punts inside of 20 yards on 12 attempts. Jordyn Williams returns punts for the Chippewas, and Franklin noted that the team needs to be “aware of” him.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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