Wednesday, September 3
Chip(pewa)s off the old block: The Central Michigan preview.
My guarantee: This post contains no "LeFevour for LeFlavour" jokes. Well . . . except for that one.
Hometown: Mount Pleasant, Michigan.
Last season: Started off the season 1-3, including a WTF 44-14 loss at the hands of D-IAA North Dakota State, before righting the ship, winning the MAC West title with a 7-1 conference record, and pounding Miami-Ohio in the conference title game. They got an invite to the Motor City Bowl and very nearly knocked off Purdue but fell three points short in a shootout.
Hate index, 1 being Rudy Giuliani on "Saturday Night Live," 10 being Rudy Giuliani in pretty much any other context: Three. Central Michigan has always been my least favorite of the Michigans. I couldn't tell you why.
Associated hottie: Miss Michigan USA 2006, Danelle Gay, earned a bachelor's degree in "Interpersonal Communication" from Central Michigan and appeared as one of the case-wielding models on a special episode of "Deal Or No Deal" two years ago. Other than that, CMU's list of notable alumni is pretty much a sausage fest.
Celebrity preview: "To Catch a Predator" host Chris Hansen uncovered the truth about the Chippewas' shocking secret life here.
What excites me: If last year is any indication, the Chippewas will put up about as much resistance to Georgia as that other Georgia, i.e. The Republic Of, put up against the invading Red Army earlier this summer. The 2007 numbers don't lie: 36.9 points allowed per game, 460 yards given up (including more than 300 through the air), and a 44-percent conversion rate on third downs. And that was primarily against MAC competition. They did put together a 7-1 conference record, but the Chippewas had to survive shootout after shootout to get there, even against the worst teams in the league -- 41-32 over 3-9 Kent State; 35-32 over 4-8 Akron; and a 48-45 loss to 4-8 Eastern Michigan.
The numbers got even worse when the Chips ventured out of conference -- three of their first four games were OOC and they lost all of them by an average margin of 47-14 (and yes, that includes the inexplicable NDSU blowout). They did beat an awful Army team by three TDs in October, but the very next week they got blown into the next galaxy by Clemson, 70-14. (That still wasn't as bad as their last game against an SEC team, in which the '97 Florida Gators destroyed CMU 82-6 in a display that was gauche even by Steve Spurrier's notorious standards.)
That's right, Chippewas: You let this guy turn your asses out.
For a Georgia team that piled up 535 yards and 45 points on Georgia Southern despite subbing in bench players as early as the second quarter, this should be easy pickin's. The Chippewas do return eight starters on defense, but they're painfully soft in the linebacking corps, where they've lost their top two tacklers (a pair of first-team All-MAC players) to graduation. And considering that our average offensive lineman outweighs their average D-lineman by about 50 pounds, there should be some cement-truck-sized holes opened up for Knowshon, Caleb King, and Richard Samuel to sprint through. If they can also keep those D-linemen off Stafford and Cox, then the two QBs should have a field day against a pass defense that allowed 382 yards per game to BCS-conference passing attacks last year.
What worries me: If Central Michigan could still rack up eight wins and a conference title despite a defense evidently made out of balsa wood and wet toilet paper, you might presume that they brought a hell of an offense to the table, and you'd be right. That offense was led by 2007 MAC Offensive Player of the Year Dan LeFevour, and the standard cliché about the Chippewa QB was that he was a sort of "poor man's Tim Tebow," but that might be a little condescending -- to LeFevour: After all, Tim Tebow never passed for 3,000 yards and rushed for 1,000 in the same season, which LeFevour did (becoming only the second player in D-IA history, after Vince Young, to do so). Again, granted, he did this mostly against a MAC schedule, but anyone who can be that singlehandedly dominant on the field, any field, deserves some props.
Sorry, I think that's kind of a cool billboard.
LeFevour is also helped out by a number of potent weapons, including a pair of thousand-yard receivers (Bryan Anderson and Antonio Brown) who also won first-team All-MAC honors last year and a running back, Justin Hoskins, who racked up 693 yards in '08 — far below LeFevour's tally, of course, but Hoskins still managed to roll up that total at a 5.8-yard-per-carry clip. Behind a line that returns four of five starters, they may have some room to operate, which leads us to . . .
Player who needs to step up: DT Corvey Irvin. Last week the step-up guy was Kiante Tripp, the replacement for the injured Trinton Sturdivant on the offensive line; this week it's the guy who's tasked with filling Jeff Owens's ginormous shoes on the defensive front. Irvin is a senior JUCO transfer who was spoken very highly of by coaches and teammates alike over the summer -- Owens included -- but this weekend he'll have to show he can replace Owens while he tries to keep LeFevour from running and throwing all over the place.
Get some, Corvey. Yours, Hey Jenny Slater.
What I think will happen: I may be opening myself up to a karmic gotcha by saying this, but let's not mince words here: Barring a Hulk-like transformation on the part of CMU's defense between now and Saturday afternoon, Georgia should be able to name their score. Kansas, Purdue, and Clemson shredded these guys last year, and I'll take the Pepsi Challenge between our present offense and any of those.
The main question that will determine how much distance Georgia puts between themselves and the Chippewas on the scoreboard is how well they can corral CMU's quarterback. Talented skill players aside, Dan LeFevour is responsible for an even greater percentage of the Chippewas' offense than Tim Tebow is for the Gators', so this is critical. The teams that managed to beat the Chippewas last year (and stayed out of shootouts in the process) all held the CMU running game under 120 yards and rendered the offense one-dimensional, so I'd expect Willie Martinez to blitz the crap out of LeFevour and trust our corners to take care of CMU's receivers on their own. Given that more than two-thirds of the Chippewas' returning receiving yards are in the hands of those two wideouts I mentioned earlier, he should be confident in doing so.
Those hoping for a 70-14 drubbing like the one Clemson dealt out may be disappointed to know that, if I'm correctly interpreting Mark Richt's words over the past few days, we're going to be following a similar game plan to last week in that we look for opportunities to sub in backup players and give them plenty of on-the-field time rather than keep our starters in for long enough to run up an eye-popping score. And while I'm sure there will be temptation to make an example out of someone to take out our frustrations at being bumped out of the #1 spot in the polls, but let's be honest, nobody with a poll vote is going to slap their foreheads and say “Oh! What was I thinking! Sorry, Georgia!” just because we drop an H-bomb on CMU. Last week we were only up 10-0 when Richt decided to give Joe Cox some reps; he may wait a little bit longer this week given that we're playing an actual D-IA opponent (and a fairly decent one at that), but still, if the starters perform at the level we all expect them to, the second- and third-stringers should look forward to spending a fair amount of time out on the field.
LeFevour and the Chippewas are good enough that they probably sneak in at least one score past our defensive starters, but Stafford and Moreno could sneak as many as four or five past theirs. As with Georgia Southern last week, my guess is that we walk into halftime with a moderate-to-comfortable lead and then deliver a couple knockout punches to start the third quarter, and any substantial offensive production LeFevour is able to engineer comes mainly against our bench players at a time when the game is long past decided. Simply because of that, I could see us not covering twenty-three and a half, but . . . ehh, what the hell, I'll pick the Dawgs to do it. CMU had a pretty pedestrian outing in their opener against a so-so FCS team, so if they're still working out any kinks on offense for whatever reason, we'll make 'em pay for it.
"Yes, I'm expecting every single one of you to touch the ball at some point today. GATA."
If you're trash-talking: Like Georgia Southern, I don't think CMU is going to be making themselves much of a target for smack talk on Saturday, but in the event that some overexcited Chippewa fan does start talking upset you could simply remind them about their godawful defense and the fact that they gave up 70 points to Clemson. (Actually, that trash talk could just as easily be directed at Clemson: "Hey, Tigers, you dropped 70 on CMU last year, shoulda saved some for Alabama, huh?" Citadel fans, that one's a freebie for this week. Don't say I never gave you anything.)
Why you should root for Georgia even if you don't care about this game: Because the pollsters clearly jumped USC over Georgia in the hopes of engineering a #1-versus-#2 matchup in the Ohio State-Southern Cal game a little over a week from now, so if you want to throw a monkeywrench into the exhaustive season-long "narratives" that the media have become obsessed with throwing at us, cheer on the Dawgs. We may not win every game pretty, but seriously, aren't you already sick of hearing about the Trojans and Buckeyes?
I will run up and down Highland Avenue in front of my apartment building wearing nothing but a Georgia flag if: The Dawgs roll up a ton of points on the scoreboard. Last week I asked for 50 and didn't get it, Mark, so now I'm ramping up my demands to 60. Yeah, I know we're going to be subbing in a lot of different players, and Jeff Owens's injury showed why shoring up that kind of depth is important, but does anyone seriously believe Richard Samuel couldn't come off the bench and roll up 150 yards and a pair of scores if given the chance?