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Chippewas look to get back on track with trip to EMU

Central Michigan's football team, led by coach Jim McElwain, prepares to take the field against Buffalo on Oct. 26 at UB Stadium in Buffalo, New York.

Central Michigan turns toward the home stretch as the second half of its six-game season on Friday at Eastern Michigan. Though the road to the Mid-American Conference West Division title has gotten a lot tougher, there's plenty to prove for CMU and coach Jim McElwain. 

The Chippewas are coming off their third consecutive loss to rival Western Michigan, which will keep the Michigan MAC Trophy for a third straight season should CMU defeat EMU. After trailing the Broncos by 17 at the halftime break, the Chippewas were able to claw back in and rally to cut their margin of defeat to just eight points. 

"I've got a lot of belief in this team," McElwain said. "These kids, they're fun to be around. We're excited to go play a game and move forward." 

Next up for the Chippewas are the winless Eagles, who have lost two of those three games by one score. Against Kent State, which features the conference's best offense, EMU was able to play close and had a chance to win the game late before squandering the opportunity. 

Though the wins aren't there, EMU has plenty of offensive firepower. Junior Hassan Beydoun, who has played in two of the Eagles' three games, is sixth in the conference in receiving yards per game. His quarterback, junior Preston Hutchinson, is fifth in the conference in passing yards. 

Defensively, a Chippewa secondary that has been unspectacular will be tested, and tested often. Coming off their worst performance of the season, the Chippewa defense will be looking to make a statement. 

"A big focus for the guys this week is being better in the run," said sophomore defensive tackle Tico Brown. "In our loss, we gave up quite a lot of rushing yards and that's just not acceptable for us. We're getting back out there this week and focusing on really stopping the run."

In that loss to WMU last week, the Chippewas allowed 246 rushing yards. Additionally, they gave up 382 yards through the air. The junior trio of Brian Edwards, Richard Bowens and Dishon McNary did not play well, as Bronco receiver D'Wayne Eskridge tore through the secondary. 

Bowens will likely match up with Beydoun, who has been the Eagles' best receiver out of the slot. Bowens currently has a 58.3 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus, and has allowed 10 completions for 155 yards on 17 targets. 

Offensively, the Chippewas excelled in the second half after sputtering in the first. Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson, who seems to be recovering after struggling with a shoulder injury, led a pair of late touchdown drives to keep CMU in the game while junior running back Kobe Lewis ran for 114 yards and two scores. 

On the offensive line, junior tackle Bernhard Raimann will have his hands full with EMU senior defensive end Turan Rush. In the three games this season, Rush has four sacks, including one in every game, and is one of the best pass rushers in the MAC. 

In this rivalry matchup, CMU will look to establish its run game, which will, in turn, set up opportunities for Richardson to take chances down the field. Meanwhile, EMU will try to exploit the struggling Chippewa secondary. 

Whichever team can dictate the pace of the game and stick to its own respective game plan will likely come out on top. 

Matchup to watch: CMU OL vs EMU DL

When the Chippewas can run the ball effectively, they are successful. Against WMU, the Bronco interior stymied the CMU run game for a majority of the first half. Once the Chippewas were able to stand their ground on the offensive line, it became easier to allow Richardson to throw the ball while paving lanes for Lewis and redshirt freshman Lew Nichols. If the CMU front five, which may be without sophomore Danny Motowski for a second week, has success, the Chippewas will win the game. 

Central Michigan (2-1) at Eastern Michigan (0-3)

All-time series: Central Michigan leads, 60-31-6

Time: 4:00 p.m. ET

Date: Nov. 27, 2020

Stadium: Rynearson Stadium

Location: Ypsilanti, Michigan

Odds: EMU +7

Over/Under: 59

TV: CBS Sports Network (Jason Knapp, Malik Zaire)

Radio: 98.5 WUPS (Adam Jaksa, Brock Gutierrez)