Western Michigan football travels to Central Michigan this Wednesday for the Battle of the Cannon. The annual rivalry game will have extra implications on the line this year with both teams coming in at 2-0 and the winner taking control of the MAC West.
WMU offense vs CMU defense
WMU head coach Tim Lester said the key to attacking a CMU defense that is among the best in the MAC will be having a balanced approach.
“I think their d-line is one of the most big, physical groups (in the MAC),” Lester said in a press conference on Monday. “They’re hard to move around, I like their scheme, they’ve got great (defensive backs) that can cover, so it’s a challenge. They do a good job of forcing turnovers, so we have got to take care of the ball. We’ve done a good job of that thus far, and it has to continue on Wednesday.”
That defensive line remains a talented group in spite of LaQuan Johnson, who was on Second Team All-MAC in the preseason according to Athlon Sports while Pro Football Focus had Johnson as a Third Team selection, out with a knee injury he suffered in game one against Ohio. The WMU offensive line still won’t have an easy time trying to keep Robi Stuart, Tico Brown, Jacque Bristol and the rest of the Chippewa defense out of the backfield. Doing so will be key to all elements of the Bronco offense.
The secondary of Central Michigan may be stronger than the Broncos’ defensive backs, but any MAC defense will struggle to cover the receiving corps of WMU.
“This is going to be a heck of a challenge for the whole team,” CMU head coach Jim McElwain said of the WMU offense in a press conference this week. “They’re very physical up front, they’re able to take those shots and create the explosive (plays) because of what they do being able to run the football.”
Dee Eskridge has gotten over 100 yards receiving in both of WMU’s games this year, and Skyy Moore is a threat to go off at any time. Dashon Bussell and Jaylen Hall give the Broncos additional threats on the perimeter, which CMU has the means to cover better than most teams, with star linebacker Troy Brown having come to college as a cornerback.
WMU defense vs CMU offense
Central Michigan has turned the reigns of its offense over to redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson as David Moore serves a suspension and it has worked thus far with Richardson throwing for 439 yards on the year and three touchdowns through two games.
“I love the system they run, we do a lot of similar things, so when we’re preparing for each other and running scout cards, I run one of the huddles and I’m giving the defense looks and it was amazing this week how many plays were the same,” Lester said. “I think they do a really good job with (Richardson), they’ve given him a running game, they’re committed to the run game.”
Guarding Kalil Pimpleton will be a key on the perimeter, though Dallas Dixon currently leads the Chippewas with 113 receiving yards through the first two games of the season.
WMU’s secondary seems like the weakest part of its defense, and they are sure to have their hands full trying to slow down the Chippewas passing attack. If the pass rush can force the young quarterback into mistakes, forcing a turnover or two could provide a major difference in the game.
Guard Derek Smith and Tackle Luke Goedeke were both picked to Pro Football Focus’ All-MAC First Team this preseason, which is the foundation of a strong offensive front for CMU. That battle against the athletic WMU defensive front should provide a great battle and determine the success that the Chippewas will have running the football with Kobe Lewis and Lew Nichols III. The WMU linebacking group’s ability to come up and make the right fits in the run game will be a major factor in WMU stopping the Chippewas’ rushing attack.
The WMU defense struggled on the perimeter against Toledo, and there is not much reason to think things will go significantly better against CMU. Look for a high-scoring game in Mount Pleasant that could be decided by a key stop, penalty or turnover in the fourth quarter.
Score prediction: CMU 45, WMU 42
The game will kick off at 7 p.m. Wednesday on ESPN 2.