NOTE: The Big Ten has cancelled this non-conference game.
Central Michigan was one of the bigger surprises of the 2020 football season, with new head coach Jim McElwain taking the Chippewas from one win to eight and the MAC Championship game. Vegas had the win totals at five, so clearly McElwain exceeded all expectations. McElwain may not have succeeded at Florida, where he might be best remembered as being misidentifed as the naked guy on the shark, but his record at Colorado State and thus far at Central Michigan is nothing to laugh at.
But in 2020, McElwain has to find a new starting quarterback. Eventually, it could be senior David Moore, who’s suspended until October 7 for testing positive for a banned nutritional supplement last season. An appeal of the suspension was rejected in March, so initially, it’ll be someone else at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Daniel Richardson (5’10” 205 lbs.) might be the front-runner; he reportedly was splitting snaps with Moore during CMU’s pre-COVID spring practices. Sophomore George Pearson (6’1” 225 lbs.) played in one game in 2018, completing 12 of 24 passes for 94 yards and a touchdown. Grad transfer Ty Brock (6’4” 210 lbs.) arrives this summer; as a freshman at Sam Houston State, he was a nominee for the Jerry Rice Award, given to the top freshman in division 1-AA each season. Last season, an ankle injury limited his playing time and performance.
Junior Kobe Lewis (5’11” 208 lbs.) takes over as the starting running back after rushing for 1,105 yards and 12 touchdowns last season as a backup. He won’t have to split time in 2020, as third-team all-MAC running back Jonathan Ward is off to try making the Arizona Cardinals roster this summer. Freshman Lew Nichols (5’10” 220 lbs.) preserved his redshirt season by playing in four games, rushing for 89 yards in 2019.
Whomever quarterbacks the Chippewas in 2020 will have six of last season’s top seven receivers returning. Junior Kalil Pimpleton (5’9” 175 lbs.) was an all-MAC honoree last season, catching a conference leading 82 passes for 894 yards and six touchdowns. Senior JaCorey Sullivan (6’2” 220 lbs.) also was named to the all-MAC team last season, catching 57 passes for 808 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore Tyrone Scott (6’3” 194 lbs.) caught 37 passes for 650 yards and five touchdowns while senior tight end Tony Poljan (6’7” 258 lbs.) won second-team all-MAC honors after catching 33 passes for 496 yards and five touchdowns. (Fun fact: Poljan split time between tight end and quarterback his first two seasons, completing 52% of his passes in 2018.)
With a pair of thousand yard rushers last season, you have to assume the Central Michigan offensive line was pretty good in 2019. But with only two returning starters, there certainly are a few question marks going into this season. Senior left guard Derek Smith (6’5” 295 lbs.) has started 24 games in his career, while junior right tackle Luke Goedeke (6’5” 295 lbs.) started every game last season. The offensive line could get a boost if junior Nick Follmer (6’5” 295 lbs.) is finally healthy again after multiple back surgeries; Follmer was limited to two games last season after starting six games as a freshman in 2017.
Central Michigan’s defense had it’s moments last season, but breakdowns due to inexperience led to some meltdowns, giving 43 or more points in four games. But with perhaps only three of last year’s top 22 tacklers not returning, the Chippewas might be able to have more of those moments in 2020. Up front, senior defensive tackle Robi Stuart (6’3” 300 lbs.) and sophomore defensive end LaQuan Johnson (6’3” 260 lbs.) will be keys. Stuart was a third team all-MAC honoree last season, and is joined by Johnson on the 2020 preseason second team all-MAC list.
Junior outside linebacker Troy Brown (6’2” 205 lbs.) was a first team all-MAC honoree last season, leading CMU with 91 tackles. His 16.5 tackles for a loss lead the MAC last season, and his three interceptions led the Chippewas in 2020. Junior middle linebacker Chuck Jones (5’11” 225 lbs.) had his best game of last season (11 tackles) in a blowout thumping at Wisconsin in the second week of the season.
A young secondary could return this season intact. Sophomore cornerback Kyron McKinnie-Harper (6’1” 185 lbs.) was suspended indefinitely in February after being reportedly being charged with using other students school accounts to purchase phones, putting his future in doubt with the football program. Junior safety Devonni Reed (6’0” 185 lbs.) has started every game in his CMU career; last year, he was third on the team with 74 tackles. He’ll line up next to sophomore safety Willie Reid (6’1” 206 lbs.), who had 35 tackles as a freshman. Sophomore conerback Montrae Braswell (5’10” 185 lbs.) tied with McKinnie-Harper for the team lead in pass breakups with 10 last season.
Based on Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings from the end of the 2019 season, the Chippewas appear to be the weakest home opponent on Nebraska’s 2020 schedule. With question marks as to who would be the quarterback at the start of the season, this matchup looks like it’s a game Nebraska had better win if the Huskers want to get to where they want to be. And in all likelihood, it’s a game Nebraska should win handily.
What’s your prediction when Central Michigan comes to Lincoln?
This poll is closed
MAC-tion gets the best of the Huskers in a YUUUGE upset.
The sloppy Huskers sneak past a surging Central Michigan squad.
This one is over early, as Nebraska names it’s score in this game.