USA Today Sports

OSU-Central Michigan: Key Matchups

Vincent Taylor, Chad Whitener and the rest of the Oklahoma State defense is hoping to make it a difficult morning and afternoon for Central Michigan quarterback Cooper Rush.

A little over a year ago the Oklahoma State Cowboys went back in time on a quaint road trip to the upper central area of Michigan. The farming community of Clare, Michigan was the Cowboys home on Wednesday night for the Thursday season opener. None of the Oklahoma State travel party stayed in the older section of the Doherty Hotel, which has been documented as being haunted by past victims of Detroit gangsters that would often use the Doherty as a haven away from law enforcement in Detroit. Yes, the Michigan mob used the Cowboys road headquarters back in the roaring 1920s and the '30s, even later.

Ironically, across the street from the Doherty is a very famous doughnut bakery and coffee shop called Cops and Doughnuts. It was a favorite stop of the local and state police in the area and when the owner decided to retire he was going to close the business. The cops liked it so well that a group of them bought it and kept it open.

The day of the game the folks down the road in Mount Pleasant, Mich., where Central Michigan is located, were very hospitable to the Oklahoma State fans that made the trip. So on Saturday, if you see any Chippewa fans wandering around outside Boone Pickens Stadium ask them to your tailgate, feed them some good old fashioned Cowboy barbecue or a thick and juicy hamburger, maybe a smoked sausage.

Make a friend because at 11 a.m. the Cowboys won't be so accommodating to the CMU team. The Cowboys remember how good the Chippewas are and they will not take the defending MAC Western Division champions lightly.  

It's time for week two of key matchups and predictions for the Central Michigan at Oklahoma State game.

OSU Middle Linebacker #45 Chad Whitener
vs. CMU Quarterback #10 Cooper Rush
Whitener has become quite the student of the game and he prides himself on studying and knowing what the quarterback is going to do before the quarterback himself knows. Rush will be a premier challenge as the senior starter is working in his 38th game at quarterback for the Chippewas and last season he seemed to pick a lot of right decisions against the Cowboys. One major mistake on the Cowboys part was the defensive ends, Emmanuel Ogbah and Jimmy Bean, were so keyed up to get sacks that they were taking shortcuts and leaving the outside wide open and Rush used it for several key runs including a huge first down in the first half and a go-ahead touchdown scramble in the second half. Rush is stronger and has more zip on his throws. He won't have the outside to use and he is likley to feel some pressure. Chad Whitener will try to get everybody on the back in the right place to take advantage of the expected heat from the defensive line.   

My Call: Rush will make some plays, but the Cowboys on defense will make more.

OSU Slot Receiver #1 Jalen McCleskey
vs. CMU safety #4 Winslow Chapman
It makes all the sense in the world that Central Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Colby will shade his coverage toward Oklahoma State's All-American candidate wide receiver James Washington. That will likely happen a lot this season, at least until the Cowboys show enough fire power at the other positions to make the defenders play honest. McCleskey has the ability to do that and possibly even draw a little extra attention himself. He's fast, he's smart, and he knows how to find holes in the defense. The Chippewas run more coverage than the Republican Party had candidates in the primaries. McCleskey knows them all and watch him slip into some seams and make some big plays on Saturday morning and afternoon. He is one of my picks as one of the best weapons for the Cowboys this season. Chapman likely draws the coverage assignment as he looks to be a little quicker than the very physical Tony Annese. Chapman better be really fast. 

My Call: McCleskey is sitting on ready to have a big day and a big season.

OSU Defensive Tackle #96 Vincent Taylor
vs. CMU Center #79 Austin Doan
Doan may end up thinking that Vincent Taylor has a twin, but that's just the defensive depth the Cowboys have this season at defensive tackle. Doan is a returning starter at guard who moved into the center position. He is the best offensive lineman on the CMU line and he will draw Taylor to start, a big load. Last week the Presbyterian Blue Hose were able to sack quarterback Cooper Rush four times and most of those attacks came up the middle. Taylor will tie up Doan and the Cowboys should be able to use stunts, blitzes, and conventional rush to have some success. Then again, after a few rotations, Doan may have trouble tying up Taylor. I'm predicting a sack or two for Taylor on Saturday. 

My Call: Taylor and the rest of the Oklahoma State defense is glad to get back to defending a more familiar style of offense. 

Oklahoma State-Central Michigna Prediction
This is mostly the same Central Michigan team from last season that made it tough on the Cowboys in the opener. The Chips led in the fourth quarter and OSU survived with a 24-13 win in Michigan. It could happen again, but I don't think so and here is why. Oklahoma State comes into this meeting with eyes wide open as far as how good the Chippewas can play. This time around Oklahoma State is more experienced and I predict they will play a smarter game on both sides. I also believe that while Central Michigan will have a good plan and play smart as well, but the Cowboys have a significant edge in speed and athletic ability and it will show up on the floor of Boone Pickens Stadium.

This Oklahoma State team is giving off a feeling of confidence, which can be dangerous. It is not an overconfidence, but a feeling that the team knows what they are capable of, knows how to achieve it, and better yet knows it only comes with hard work and good habits. It goes back to last summer when no news was good news as this team stayed away from off-the-field distractions.

The Chippewas had their best chance last season at home. It won't be in the cards for them on Saturday. Speed, athletic ability and confidence will rule the day.

Oklahoma State 41, Central Michigan 10

Big 12 Predictions

Record: Last Week and the Year, SU 7-3, ATS 2-2

Saturday

Youngstown State 20, @ West Virginia 49
Mountaineers started off well and show offensive improvement this week against Bo Pelini's team. Holgorsen vs. Pelini.

Ohio 28, @ Kansas 31
David Beaty and the Jayhawks make it 2-0.

SMU 21, @ #19 Baylor 45
Baylor's lack of depth starts to show up some against the Ponies.

UL-Monroe 13, @ #13 Oklahoma 52
Sooners take out frustrations on Warhawks in newly remodeled stadium.

Arkansas 14, @ #12 TCU 35
Frogs show marked improvement from week one to week two, so it's not a good night to be Bret Bielema.

UTEP 6, @ #20 Texas 49
Longhorns look pretty against Miners in second game, simply not much competition. 

Iowa State 23, @ #10 Iowa 38
This may be a long year for the Cyclones as the lack of speed is a real critical issue.

Texas Tech 47, @ Arizona State 45
Shootout late in Tempe with the Red Raiders coming away 2-0 on the season. 


GoPokes Top Stories