Team: Central Michigan
2014 Record: 7-6
Returning starters: LT Ramadan Ahmeti, C Nick Beamish, RG Kenny Rogers, QB Cooper Rush, RB Saylor Lavallii, DE Joe Ostman, DT Jabari Dean, DE Blake Serpa, S Kavon Frazier, S Tony Annese, CB Brandon Greer
Most important offensive player: QB Cooper Rush – He makes the Chippewas go. He’s fairly mobile, but it’s his accuracy and quick decisions that makes him dangerous. They put the offense in his hands and he’s due for a big year.
Most important defensive player: Safety Tony Annese – He’s a ballhawk with great instincts who can make game changing plays. Syracuse must be aware of him because he has a knack for jumping routes.
Emerging offensive player: RB Devon Spalding – He’s a different back than the bruising Lavallii. He’s more of a speed guy but he acquitted himself well as a true freshman last year and should bring more big play potential this year.
Emerging defensive player: DE Joe Ostman – He’s a tough, physical defender who had something of a breakout year as a sophomore and is slated to be one of the best players on the Chippewa defense this year.
How they matchup with Syracuse: The Chips got blown out by Syracuse a year ago, but they rebounded and ended up making a bowl game. Despite last year’s result, they remain a dangerous team because they have the capability of putting up a lot of points. Their defense gave up some points last year though, including 40 to the Orange, so that will be their Achilles heel in this game. The Syracuse defense must be ready to play though against an experienced quarterback and experienced offensive line.
Season outlook: They snuck into a bowl game last year at 7-6. With a new coach in John Bonomego, it remains to be seen how much the team changes but most of the assistants are back. Not improving on last year’s mark and making another bowl game would be disappointing. After beating one of the conference’s best teams last year, Northern Illinois, but losing to rival Western Michigan and Toledo, more consistency against the conference’s best is expected.