Six predictions for CMU's six-game season
Central Michigan will be taking the field in 2020 after all.
After initially cancelling its season, the Mid-American Conference reversed course and voted to play an abbreviated season this fall. Each of the 12 member schools will play a six-game season starting on Nov. 4.
So, how will CMU, which is coming off a MAC West division title, take advantage of the second chance in 2020?
Here are six predictions for CMU in 2020, one for each game it will play.
David Moore takes advantage of returning skill players, takes offense to new heights
Fans were able to see what Moore could do at quarterback for four games last season. In his four-game audition following starter Quinten Dormady's injury, Moore completed nearly 60 percent of his passes and threw for over 1,000 yards. Yet, this promising start came to a crashing halt when Moore was handed a year-long suspension.
Now, with his suspension expiring on Oct. 8, Moore will be good to go for the entirety of the Chippewas' season. He'll likely be the starter when CMU begins its season. With the confidence and comfort that comes with being the opening day starter, expect Moore to flourish.
Throw in the return of three of CMU's top receivers from last season, and the potential for Moore and this offense is endless. Expect Moore to take full advantage of this.
In his four games as the starter, Moore formed a potent connection with Kalil Pimpleton. The two connected 29 times for 352 yards and two touchdowns. The combination, paired with the emergence of JaCorey Sullivan and Tyrone Scott as well as steady running back Kobe Lewis, will make the Chippewa offense among the best in the offense.
Trio of transfers will lead the secondary
One of Jim McElwain's first moves as coach at CMU was to bring in a player from his last gig. Brian Edwards, who played for McElwain while he was at Florida, transferred to play for the Chippewas. After sitting out last season due to the NCAA transfer rules, Edwards is expected to play and start at corner.
If he's able to stay on the field, he'll be one of the best athletes in the MAC. That bodes well for a Chippewa secondary losing arguably its best corner from a year ago in Kyron McKinnie-Harper, who is no longer with the team. Expect Edwards to offset that loss and lead the team in interceptions this year.
He'll have help filling that void.
Richard Bowens III, a graduate transfer from Iowa State, will slide to cornerback after two years at safety. He was a corner in high school at Orchard Lake St. Mary's High School and made the switch to safety due to depth with the Cyclones. Expect him to start opposite Edwards out wide or in the slot against faster receivers.
Dishon McNary, a junior who transferred in last season from Independence Community College, will see plenty of action as well. McNary made his CMU debut in the New Mexico Bowl last season and has plenty to show in 2020.
A pair of freshmen will be active on the offensive line
With the NCAA passing a waiver allowing every fall sport athlete an extra year of eligibility, this six-game sprint gives coaching staffs around the country a chance to experiment with their freshmen classes. In a normal year, coaches could play their freshmen no more four games to preserve their redshirt. This year, each one of them could play all six and still save a year of eligibility.
This gives McElwain a chance to evaluate his depth, especially on the offensive line. The Chippewas graduated three offensive linemen following last season. Though the team does return a handful of experienced options on the interior, there are plenty of holes available to be filled by newcomers.
Two of these newcomers, freshmen guards Braden Doyle and Keegan Smith, will get playing time right away. They're both physical beasts and weigh in above 270 pounds. With the size to play right away, they'll get reps. The Chippewas' third offensive lineman recruit in its 2020 class, Ronald Novosedliak, is a little thin for the position and will likely take the year to bulk up before competing for reps in 2021.
Danny Motowski and Deiyantei Powell-Woods, both freshmen last year, played in all 14 games. With the luxury of keeping an extra year of eligibility, the opportunity to get Doyle and Smith reps right away will be too good to pass up.
Troy Brown emerges as legitimate pro prospect
As a freshman, Brown was a backup safety.
As a sophomore, he was a First-Team All-MAC linebacker.
The Flint native emerged as one of the best defenders in the conference last season, making 91 tackles and intercepting three passes. He was a versatile defensive option, as he was fast enough to cover running backs and physical enough to make plays in the trenches.
Expect him to build off that in 2020. He will be leaned upon heavily, and defensive coordinator Robb Akey will likely draw up all sorts of different stunts to move him around. Because of this, as well as the comfort that comes with another full year at the new position, Brown will showcase his wide range of abilities.
If the MAC plays on weekdays, which all signs are pointing to at points, Brown will have the chance to captivate a national audience. Should he be able to do so, professional teams will take notice.
Lew Nichols carries strong workload in redshirt freshman campaign
Nichols played in each of CMU's first four games. Not wanting to exceed the redshirt limit, paired with Lewis' emergence, McElwain elected to not play Nichols for the remaining nine games. As a result, fans were given a limited tease of what Nichols was able to do in 2019.
In 2020, McElwain and offensive coordinator Charlie Frye will likely allow Nichols to wreak havoc on MAC defenders. His abilities drove rave reviews in the Chippewas' limited 2020 spring practices.
"Lew Nichols had a fantastic spring," McElwain told Central Michigan Life in April.
Make no mistake, Lewis will be the starter in 2020. However, Nichols will push to be the same change-of-pace option that Lewis was last season to Jonathan Ward. Lewis got double-digit carries in eight games last season, expect Nichols to see a similar workload this season.
This six-game audition will be important for Nichols, as the Chippewas brought in three running backs in their 2020 class. Myles Bailey, Marion Lukes and Jordon Ingram will all compete for carries as true freshmen.
McElwain gets signature win over Western Michigan
Expect CMU to put up a better fight against its rival in year two of the McElwain era. After falling 31-15 last year at Waldo Stadium, the Chippewas will likely battle for the victory cannon in front of an empty Kelly/Shorts Stadium.
With WMU graduating its starting quarterback and running back at the end of last season, CMU will hold an advantage offensively. It won't be easy breaking in new starters amidst the pandemic for Bronco coach Tim Lester. For that reason, WMU will be vulnerable offensively, especially early in the season.
Expect the Chippewas to capitalize.
With last year's defeat ringing heavy in McElwain's mind, CMU will take advantage of the voids left by the departed Broncos and take down its rival at home. With experience all over the field, the Chippewas are in a better place in 2020 than the Broncos. Expect more of the same when CMU takes on its other in-state rival, Eastern Michigan.
If McElwain and company are lucky, the Michigan MAC Trophy won't be the only one they hoist in 2020.