Staff predictions: Football beat writers call CMU's bowl game
Event: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl
Opponent: Wyoming Cowboys (7-5, 5-3 Mountain West Conference)
Where: Boise, Idaho, Albertsons Stadium
When: Dec. 22, 4 p.m.
Betting line: Wyoming (-1)
Avoiding mistakes: In a matchup where CMU (No. 1) and UW (tied No. 2) are the top two teams in the country in forced turnovers, whichever offense can avoid them will give its team the best shot to win. The Cowboys quarterback Josh Allen will get the start after missing the final two games of the regular season with an injury. The junior has 41 touchdown passes in his career and will make CMU pay if they give him a short field. On the Chippewas side, Shane Morris has thrown 14 touchdowns and just two interceptions over the final five games of the season, which CMU came out victorious in all of them. With sophomore tailback Jonathan Ward by his side, the two make a combo the Cowboys will struggle with.
Special teams: While all of the hype coming into this game will surround the two quarterbacks and highly touted secondaries, this game could very well come down to a play in the special teams category. Neither team has scored a punt return for a touchdown this season, but CMU freshman Jerrod Davis had a 98-yard kickoff return for a score against Kent State. One of those big returns could be the score that separates the winner and loser.
Time of possession: CMU has struggled at times this season with giving up the big play, mainly in the first quarter where they've been outscored 96-54 this year. Slowing the game down will be key for both sides in this one as either offense has the ability to strike fast. If one team can keep its playmakers off the field and the others off it, it should result in who comes out on top. Corey Willis would be the player to keep an eye on for CMU, C.J. Johnson for the Cowboys.
Overall: Every sign is pointing towards the Chippewas walking out of Idaho with their first bowl win for the senior class and head coach John Bonamego. With Allen missing game action for weeks and a UW running attack that is non-existent, it’s hard to fathom how they could possibly beat a hot CMU team that is soaring into this game. The combination of Morris, Ward and the Chippewa pass catchers (Willis, Mark Chapman and Tyler Conklin) will be too much for the Cowboys to handle.
Final score: CMU 28, UW 17
Experience: For the first time since 1988, Wyoming is in back-to-back bowl games. However, Central Michigan is making its fourth straight bowl game appearance and 11th in program history. The Chippewas have more big-game experience coming into the third all-time meeting between the two programs. Also, CMU is on a five-game winning streak, while Wyoming dropped its final two games of the season without quarterback Josh Young under center.
Shane Morris vs. Wyoming's defense: The graduate transfer from Michigan has played in bigger stadiums. As a matter of fact, Morris started the 2013 Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for the Wolverines. During the 2017 season for the Chippewas, the Warren De La Salle High School product threw for 2,908 yards, 26 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. If Morris can make plays against the secondary of the Cowboys, CMU should be in good shape to win the bowl game. One player in Wyoming's secondary to watch out for is junior safety Andrew Wingard, who has been honored as a first-team All-Mountain West member twice in his career. He will attempt to create problems for Morris and the CMU offense.
Wyoming's offensive line: Wyoming junior quarterback Josh Allen will play against CMU in the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl, but he needs to stay healthy throughout the game if the Cowboys want a chance in this game. He missed the final two games of the season with a shoulder injury, which was suffered on Nov. 11 against Air Force. The offensive line needs to protect the projected top five pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. If Allen gets knocked out of the game, backup Nick Smith's name will be called on.
Overall: CMU's offensive abilities will be tough for Wyoming to stop. In my opinion, the defense of the Cowboys will struggle to keep the Chippewas under 25 points. As long as the defense of CMU steps up, as it has all season, the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl trophy should make its way to Mount Pleasant.
Final score: CMU 31, Wyoming 20