November 10, 2009

CMU vs. Toledo Preview

The spotlight will belong to Central Michigan on Wednesday night. In front of a home crowd at Kelly/Shorts Stadium, the Chippewas will look to stay undefeated in MAC conference play and rebound from a disappointing loss at Boston College against the Toledo Rockets at 8pm on ESPN2. The Rockets come in at 2-3 in conference play and 4-5 overall and are miles away from the team that shellacked Colorado 54-38 in week 2, but the Chippewas are still weary as Toledo has notoriously played CMU hard every year.




Looking at the Toledo Offense:

The main focus on the Toledo campus has been at the quarterback position. Senior Aaron Opelt was forced to leave the Rockets last game against Miami (OH) in the 4th quarter after his right shoulder began to act up. The Miami (OH) game was his first action since hurting the shoulder against Western Michigan on October 10th. With ten days to rest, it's likely that Opelt will start the game, but his effectiveness will ultimately be determined by how his shoulder reacts to the rehab leading up to the game. If he can't go or gets injured against CMU, Toledo will face another uncertainty with true freshman backup quarterback Austin Dantin. Dantin, familiar to many CMU fans for spurning the Chippewas in favor of the Rockets last year, is suffering from a high ankle sprain and also was forced to leave the Miami (OH) game. Due to their injuries, Toledo has had true freshman Eric Page takes some snaps at quarterback behind junior Alex Pettee and redshirt freshman David Pasquale. The 5-foot-10 and 175 pound Page played quarterback at Springfield High (OH) last season and accounted for 1,102 passing yards and 11 touchdowns in addition to 2,381 yards rushing. Toledo could very well use him in certain formations and trick plays.

Things get much clearer for the Rockets outside of the quarterback position. At running back, senior Dajuane Collins has led the way with 753 yards and 8 touchdowns on 126 attempts. He has been the workhorse for the Rockets offense, starting all nine games and having more carries then his backups combined. At wide receiver, Toledo is one of the more dangerous teams in the conference as the aforementioned freshman Eric Page has burst onto the scene and currently leads the team in receptions (65), touchdowns (7) and receiving yards (905). On the other side, 6-foot-5 senior Stephen Williams has collected 60 receptions for 884 yards and 5 touchdowns, offering a perfect compliment for Page. Tight end Tom Burzine has been a redzone weapon, scoring three touchdowns on just six receptions for the year despite being the backup to Danny Noble. Up front, the Rockets are in much the same position CMUis, starting two young tackles in sophomores Mike VanDerMuelen (6-foot-7, 315 pounds) and John Morookinan (6-foot-5, 291 pounds). They are surrounded by an experience inside featuring two juniors and senior right guard Jared DeWalt.

As a unit, Toledo averages 28.6 points and over 440 yards per game and put an offensive emphasis on the passing game. Injuries at the quarterback position have limited the passing offense as of late, but a healthy Opelt is one of the top quarterbacks in the MAC conference and brings in a 15-6 touchdown to interception ratio.

Looking at the Toledo Defense:

Looking at the offensive numbers for the Rockets, one would think they would be better than 4-5 right now...well, welcome to the defensive side of the ball. Toledo has given up an astounding 37.4 points per game on defense and have allowed opponents to score at will. Only Northern Illinois (19 points) has been unable to hand 30+ points on the Rockets defense and they have surrendered 50+ twice (58 to Western Michigan, 52 to Purdue), both losses. Opponents are scoring 89% of the time when in the redzone and the Rockets pass rush has mustered only 11 sacks on the season. Put all of it together, and Toledo has one of the worst defenses in the MAC. All of that said, Toledo still boasts one of the top safeties in the country in senior Barry Church. The 6-foot-2 and 219 pound Church has tallied 82 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 2.5 sacks, 1 interception, 1 fumble recovery and 3 blocked kicks through 9 games for the Rockets…meaning he's quite a playmaker and well respected around the league after being named pre-season defensive player of the year by MAC coaches.

How CMU wins:

Like Toledo, CMU is facing a multitude of injuries and has used the ten day break in between games in every way possible. Simply put, if the defense can limit the Rockets through the air, the offense should be able to score enough points to win this game. Opelt and Dantin are both questionable to play on Wednesday, meaning the Chippewas could be facing an inexperienced signal caller and be able to force some turnovers. Toledo has one of the more undersized defensive lines in the conference, so if there was ever a game for CMU to look to establish the run game, it would be this one.

This is the first (and likely only) night game of the season for the Chippewas and they will be fired up after spending the last three weeks on the road. At home this season, CMU has been nearly unstoppable, look for that trend to continue in front of the masses on Wednesday night.

PREDICTION

Central Michigan: 41
Toledo: 20


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