Central Michigan runs a traditional power running offense. They often use two tight-end sets or the power I formation. This season, they run the ball about twice as much as they throw it.
Cooper Rush is the starter and throws a very accurate ball. He does not have the strongest arm, but is very smart and understands the Chippewa system. While not a dual threat, he does have enough mobility to move around on the pocket and make a few plays with his feet.
Rush has been very efficient in the air attack this season with four touchdown passes and one interception. He is also completing nearly 62% of his passes. He runs the Central Michigan offense well and utilizes play action effectively.
Central Michigan has an extremely talented running back in Thomas Rawls. The offense revolved around him primarily to set up everything. He is a powerful runner who is skilled between the tackles, can lower his shoulder to pick up extra yards but enough quickness to cut back against the grain and find the hole.
Rawls is patient with surprising burst and will really challenge the Syracuse defensive front seven. To put how important he is in perspective, he has five times as many carries as anyone else on the team and has more carries than the team has passing attempts.
Behind Rawls is Saylor Lavallii. He is more of a scat-back type. A little bit undersized but quick and agile. He isn’t likely to see a lot of action unless Rawls gets hurt.
CMU has missed their top receiving threat this season as Titus Davis suffered an injury in week one. But he practiced on Tuesday and looks to be in line to play on Saturday. Davis is a legitimate pro prospect. He is their best deep threat and is a big home run threat.
Courtney Williams is the other receiver. He is very good in space and can make guys miss. Anthony Rice and Jess Kroll are the other two receivers who will be involved. Rice is a solid slot guy who runs good routes and leads the team in receptions. Kroll is a bigger, possession type receiver who plays physical football.
Central Michigan rotates in three tight ends in various formations. They also use a lot of two and three tight-end sets that take advantage of their power rushing attack. Ben McCord, Deon Butler and Mike Kinville are primarily blockers who are very strong.
Butler and McCord each have receptions this season but are not offensive weapons.
Fullbacks Anthony Garland and Joe Bacci are solid lead blockers who generally do not carry the ball or make plays out of the backfield in the passing game.
In the Trenches
The Central Michigan offensive line is big and physical. Left tackle Ramadan Ahmeti has ideal size at 6-foot-7, 300-pounds. His footwork is solid and he plays with good leverage. The other tackle is senior Kevin Henry. Henry also has good size at 6-foot-4, 294-pounds. He is very athletic and is a strong run blocker.
Kenny Rogers and Andy Phillips are the two guards for the Chippewas. Both are solid run blockers who are great at opening holes in the interior run game. They have the ability to pull but are best when attacking down the field and trying to get to the second level.
Nick Beamish is the starting center. He is a smart interior lineman who moves well and gets off the ball quick.
The CMU offensive line is big, physical and experienced. They look like a power five conference line and play like it at times as well. This will be a big test for the Syracuse defensive front.
Central Michigan runs a 4-2-5 defense. They have four down lineman and five defensive backs. This can make them vulnerable to a strong running attack, but the counter that with solid tackling technique. Central Michigan has not utilized the blitz much this season.
In the Trenches
The starting defensive ends are Blake Serpa and Joe Ostman. Both are solid run stuffing defensive ends who use their hands well to shed blocks. They are strong and play physical football, but are not big time pass rushers.
Chris Kantzavelos and Louis Palmer rotate in at end and are similar players to Serpa and Ostman.
Leterrius Walton and Jabari Dean start at tackle. Both are athletic, quicker defensive tackles who try to get off the ball to penetrate into the backfield. Behind them are Shafer Johnson and Kelby Latta who are more space eater types with strong bases.
The Back Seven
In the Central Michigan defensive system, they only play two linebackers. Justin Cherocci and Cody Lopez are the starters. Cherocci is the team’s leading tackler and has very strong instincts. He plays north and south and attacks the gaps in the interior run game.
Lopez is a quicker backer who plays downhill as well. Behind them, Nathan Ricketts and Tim Hamilton rotate in. Both are physical linebackers who move better north and south than they do east and west.
The Chippewa secondary features three safeties and two corners. The two corners are Brandon Greer and Jason Wilson. They are bigger corners who cover well down the field. They are physical and like to utilize press-zone coverage.
Tyree Waller and Kavon Frazier provide depth at safety. Waller is built like a linebacker and can really hit.
In the return game, Titus Davis, if healthy, is a threat as a punt returner. Backup receiver Corey Willis is a speedster who is also dangerous as a return man. In the kicking game, Ron Coluzzi was injured against Purdue but should be back for the Syracuse game. He is a solid kicker but struggles with accuracy. He is 0-2 on the year.
Brian Eavey filled in last week against Purdue and was perfect on the day. Coluzzi is also the Chippewas’ punter. If he can’t go, Matt Mills will be the guy.
Central Michigan will test Syracuse in a completely different way than Villanova. They play physical football and this game will be won in the trenches. The key to shutting down the Chippewas is stopping Rawls and making them air it out. Defensively, they have six interceptions on the season so far, so taking care of the ball will be key. This will be an ugly game most likely. A little old-school, physical football. If Syracuse plays to their capabilities, they should win.
Scout.com's Allen Trieu contributed to this report.