Lots, lots, lots, lots of rap quotes about chips - of course, that is, to say, Chippewas. Really a doo-doo load, to be honest, but I stuck with my guns and kept going with Biggie, especially because his is about stacking chips, which is what we plan to do with the piles of incapacitated Chippewa players when we beat them in football, although he was talking about money. Also, the "Spread Love" indicates Biggie's love of Northwestern's newfangled spread offense which they were considering installing shortly before his untimely death, although it wouldn't come to fruition until the late 90's, when Randy Walker dedicated his team to the memory of the Notorious B.I.G.
Anyways, let's preview this game.
When we got the ball: I said last week every offense needs a good balance. Well, for one week, screw that. Central Michigan allows 2.9 yards per carry. (Yes, against crappy opposition, but 2.9 yards per carry.) Arby Fields averages 2.9 yards per carry. (Interestingly, that 2.9 was also against crappy competition). You know what that is? It's a match made in heaven. A match between Dan Persa and handing the ball off under 25 times tomorrow. Throw. Throw throw throw. Central Michigan has been great on defense, but their pass coverage hasn't been why: in three games, all against mediocre teams, they've managed one pick while forcing five fumbles and holding running backs to TWO POINT NINE YARDS PER CARRY. This is why you alter your gameplans week to week. I'm obviously oversimplifying it, but runs will only lead to second-and-longs and make life more difficult for Persa - give him the ball on first down and give Arby a chance to pick up the first on second.
Semi-under-the-radar player to watch: Demetrius Fields. Demetrius Fields has become a solid fourth option on this wide receiving crew, and the majority of his work hasn't been on deep balls - his longest play of the year is 17 yards. I could see him getting under the skin of the CMU defense, I also needed to pick somebody that wasn't Jeremy Ebert, who was too obvious but has been playing lights out.
When they got the ball: Paris Cotton - who, by the way, was mid-hair flip when his CMU athletic site photo was taken, apparently - might have had 200+ running yards last week, but, trust me: CMU won't try to hammer the ball down our throats. They're going to put the ball in Ryan Radcliff's hands, and have him try to distribute. This will be the biggest test yet for our corners Jordan Mabin and Justan Vaughn. Week 1, they faced a running QB who completes less than 50 percent of his passes. Week two, they faced an FCS squad, and didn't even look that great. Week three, they played a backup quarterback for a C-USA school with no great receiving threat. This week, they'll take on a passing-based FBS-level offense. If they don't get carved up, Northwestern will win this game.
Semi-under the radar players to watch: Look above: Jordan Mabin and Justan Vaughn. They haven't looked great. Not only will their performance play a disturbingly large part in Northwestern's ability to win this game, it will be a good indicator as to whether NU can actually handle a real offensive threat.
Spread: Northwestern, -7.
My pick vs. the spread: CMU is good, but, after the actually up-to-the-competition performances the last two weeks, I think NU should cover. Northwestern historically does. not. do. this, but, NU is a touchdown better than Central Michigan. Sorry, it's true.
My pick in April and jokey five-word-or-less summary: Northwestern, "Chippewho?" You see, the guy next to me wrote "Chippewha?" and I took the opportunity to make a pun on Jay-Z's seminal song "Jigga Wha, Jigga Who". I am hilarious, and you should all kneel before me.
And my pick today....
Northwestern 20, Central Michigan 10. It might take a while, but this game will work out the way NU needs it to be. They'll have trouble running - if they try to run, which they shouldn't - and will give up a couple of deep balls. But this is their game, they're the better team for the fourth straight week, and should get out of there with a win.
Under 24 hours until tailgating! Peace!