Read below for an advanced statistical breakdown.
• Yards per play—WKU 6.6 (No. 12 in FBS,) CMU 5.1 (No. 90 in FBS.)
• Points per play—WKU 0.567 (No. 6 in FBS,) CMU 0.370 (No. 70 in FBS.)
• Yards per play allowed—CMU 5.0 (Tied for No. 31 in FBS,) WKU 6.4 (No. 115 in FBS.)
• Points per play allowed—CMU 0.354 (No. 53 in FBS,) WKU 0.500 (No. 114 in FBS.)
This is about the kind of comparison you've come to expect on the season if you're a Western Kentucky fan. Central Michigan ranks between the top 25th percentile and the bottom 25th percentile nationally in just about everything--so, not tremendous in any one area, but not bad anywhere either.
Conversely, WKU is around top 10 in the country overall in raw offensive numbers, but around the bottom 10 in raw defensive numbers.
CMU is pretty balanced defensively, ranking well in both yards per rush allowed and yards per pass allowed. Offensively, their average yards per pass attempt (8.0) is almost as high as WKU's (8.5), but they pass much less frequently than the Toppers. The Chippewas only pass on 43.7 percent of playcalls (No. 89 rate nationally,) compared to 57.4 percent for WKU (No. 14 nationally.)
Advantage--WKU. WKU is clearly more explosive than CMU on offense, CMU's defense is clearly better than WKU's. But because WKU moves the ball through the air at a much higher rate, they get a (small) nod.
• Success Rate—WKU 50.1 percent (No. 5 in FBS,) CMU 46.3 percent (No. 27 in FBS.)
• Success Rate Allowed—CMU 36.9 percent (No. 18 in FBS,) WKU 48.3 percent (No. 121 in FBS.)
Advantage--CMU. Woof. The Toppers are 3.8 percent more efficient on offense than the Chippewas, but allow a staggering 11.4 percent higher success rate on defense. That's a large enough margin for the Chips' to get a nod.
Football Outsiders has a metric that combines several field position stats, ranking WKU at about average (No. 62 nationally) and CMU in very bad territory (No. 114 nationally.)
The Chippewas rank No. 121 nationally in Short Field Drives earned (percentage of offensive possessions started at midfield or on the opponent's side of the field,) and No. 123 nationally in Short Field Drives allowed (percentage of opponent offensive possessions started at midfield or on the team's side of the field.) Basically, CMU tends to frequently give their opponents short fields, and then don't earn many short fields themselves.
WKU’s converted 67 percent of their redzone possessions into touchdowns, compared to 68 percent for CMU. Garrett Schwettman is 9-for-12 on field goal attempts outside the 30-yard line, CMU kicker Brian Eavey is 3-for-4.
WKU’s gained 22 turnovers this year and lost 16, for a +6 margin. CMU’s gained 20 turnovers and lost 26, for a -6 margin.
Advantage--Tossup. The season total margin favors WKU by 12, but when you consider each team's played 12 games, this only equals 1 turnover a game. Considering the variance that can happen in any given game, this isn't a big enough margin to give WKU a nod.
Summary: So two categories favor WKU, one favors CMU, and the other two are tossups. Sounds about right that WKU should be a (small) favorite. CMU's overall numbers are much better than I thought they would be, but I'd bet that field position stat has negated their (otherwise) quality efforts more than once this season.