Numbers game: How Central Michigan and Miami match up statistically
Central Michigan can put up points with the best of them, making big plays on the ground and through the air.
That aspect is exactly what Miami prides itself on taking away.
When the unstoppable force meets the immovable object, you get a showdown worthy of a title. That is exactly what fans will receive on Saturday when the Chippewas and RedHawks face off with the Mid-American Conference championship on the line.
Possessing an arsenal of weapons such as All-MAC First Team receivers junior JaCorey Sullivan and sophomore Kalil Pimpleton, the Chippewas have rode an offensive overhaul to post the third best scoring numbers, averaging 32.8 points per contest. Pimpleton leads the conference in both catches and receiving yards with 73 grabs and 771 yards, respectively.
"They have probably the best two receivers in the league," said Miami coach Chuck Martin. "(JaCorey) Sullivan is an unbelievable player, no one can take the ball from him and no one can tackle him. (Kalil) Pimpleton is scary, probably the most electric kid in our conference."
On the ground, the Chippewas have been just as successful. The two back attack featuring senior Jonathan Ward and sophomore Kobe Lewis, mixed with an occasional carry from senior backup quarterback Tommy Lazzaro, has created the sixth best rushing attack in the conference. Ward, who missed a pair of contests with a shoulder injury, personally ranks fourth in the conference with 1,056 yards on the ground.
"No one's been able to stop the Lazzaro package except for the one time he fumbled," Martin said. "Other than that, no one's stopped that package all year."
Matching up with that potent running attack will be the MAC's sixth best rushing defense. Led up front by sophomore defensive lineman Kameron Butler, the RedHawks will pose a solid threat for a Chippewa offensive line that will be without graduate transfer offensive lineman Oge Udeogu.
In the secondary, the RedHawks boast two defensive backs among the conference's top half in interceptions. Senior defensive back Travion Banks is tied for second with three interceptions, while junior defensive back Mike Brown's three puts him in a tie for fifth.
Miami has had a tough time getting going offensively at points, posting the ninth best scoring offense in the conference. Freshman Brett Gabbert has started all 12 games this season and was recently named Mid-American Conference Freshman of the Year.
Gabbert has thrown for 1,967 yards, 10 touchdowns and eight interceptions. His 1,967 passing yards ranks seventh among MAC quarterbacks.
On the ground, the RedHawks feature a two-headed monster with junior Jaylon Bester and redshirt freshman Tyre Shelton. However, Bester missed three games early in the year, and as a result, he finished with just 623 yards. Miami's rushing attack ranks 10th in the conference while the Chippewas boast the second best running defense.
Despite being ranked second in the conference, Central Michigan has been up and down against the run this season.
Running backs such as Wisconsin's Jonathan Taylor, Western Michigan's LeVante Bellamy and Ball State's duo of Caleb Huntley and Walter Fletcher each have crossed the century mark on the ground against the Chippewas, while Miami's DeeJay Dallas and Toledo's Bryant Koback were stifled and limited to under 50 yards.
On paper, the Chippewas are better on both sides of the ball, but championship games are never decided by average stats.
Central Michigan has been playing some of its best football as of late, winning six of its last seven games. The RedHawks had won five in a row before suffering a 41-27 defeat at the hands of Ball State to close out the regular season.
Neither team has any players with championship game experience, as the Chippewas haven't been to Ford Field since the 2009 season, while the RedHawks haven't been there since 2010.
Central Michigan is 3-0 in MAC championship contests; the RedHawks are 2-2. The two squads have met up once in the MAC title game, with the Chippewas defeating the RedHawks 35-10 in 2007.
The 2019 MAC championship begins at noon on Saturday.