Quick 2021 Recap
Central Michigan had a quality season in 2021, putting together a 9-4 overall record. The Chippewas finished second in the MAC West Division, tied with Northern Illinois in the win-loss category, but having lost the head-to-head by a single point. CMU was originally slated to take on Boise State in the Arizona Bowl, but the Broncos had to pull out of that game due to COVID. Instead, Central Michigan slotted into the Sun Bowl, where they capped their 2021 season with a 24-21 win over Washington State.
Offensive Player To Watch: Lew Nichols III (RB)
A former 3-star recruit, Nichols has put together a solid career at Central Michigan. In 2021, Lew toted the rock 341 times for 1,848 yards (5.4 yards per carry) with 16 rushing touchdowns. That 1,848 yards just so happened to be the best in the country. He’s also a dangerous receiver out of the backfield, adding 40 receptions for 338 receiving yards and an additional two touchdowns.
Keep an eye on quarterback Daniel Richardson as well, who managed a solid season as well, coming in off the bench in week 5. In his abbreviated season, Richardson completed 60.4% of his passes for 2,633 yards, 24 TDs, and just six INTs.
Defensive Player To Watch: Donte Kent (DB)
Central Michigan lost their two best defensive players from 2021 in DB Gage Treski and EDGE Troy Hairston. Both of those players are now plying their wares at the next level, leaving some production needing to be replaced. Donte Kent returns as the Chippewas’ most disruptive defender. In 2021, Kent logged 55 tackles, as well as one interception, and 14 passes defended. Donte also added in a fumble return, being named to the Freshman All-America team.
Central Michigan Wins If
Penn State assumes that the Chippewas will be pushovers. While the defense may take a step back from 2021 for CMU, the offense should still be a solid unit, with their top RB and QB both returning. Honestly, this game feels reminiscent of the Ball State game from 2021, where a Group of 5 school coming off a really good season comes to Beaver Stadium and gives the Lions a fight. If head coach Jim McElwain can overcome some shortcomings on defense, CMU may just have the horses to pull an upset.
Penn State Wins If
They treat the game with its required attention, and don’t get caught looking ahead to Northwestern. This game has let down written on it after coming home from Auburn the week prior, but the talent disparity should be more than enough to overcome CMU’s offense. If Penn State can exploit a weakened Central Michigan defense, this game should be over by halftime (though don’t be surprised if it stays competitive into the third quarter).