NCAA Wednesday Night Football: Central Michigan/Western Michigan Preview

by Big Al Staff

Midweek Mid-American Conference action continues on Wednesday, with Central Michigan hosting Western Michigan on ESPN2 in a battle of undefeated teams.

Western Michigan outlasted Toledo at home last Wednesday by a 41-38 score as a 1-point favorite. The Broncos trailed for most of this game. They went into halftime with a 24-14 deficit before going down 38-28 with under three minutes to go after the Rockets scored a touchdown. Western Michigan responded by scoring a touchdown with under a minute left to go (but missed the extra point). The Broncos then successfully recovered an onside kick giving their offense the chance to win the game. After getting the ball to the Toledo 9-yard line with the clock ticking away, quarterback Kaleb Eleby invoked Dan Marino by faking a spike that would stop the clock to instead throw the winning touchdown pass with just 17 seconds left to steal the victory.

Eleby completed 20 of 29 passes for 284 yards with three touchdown passes to lead his team to victory. The redshirt sophomore is completing 71.1% of his passes for 546 yards with six touchdown passes and no interceptions while adding another two touchdowns on the ground. He leads the MAC with six completions of over 30 yards this season. Eleby played in five games in 2018 after Jon Wassink suffered a foot injury late in the year. He redshirted last year during Wassink’s senior season, where he won the MAC Offensive Player of the Year award. He leads an offense that leads the conference with a 49.5 points-per-game scoring average along with an 8.01 yards-per-play average.

Western Michigan opened their season with a 58-13 win against Akron. Eleven starters returned from the team that finished 7-6 last season after a 23-20 loss to Western Kentucky in the First Responders Bowl. That was the sixth straight season for this program to finish bowl eligible. Head coach Tim Lester has aspirations of his team winning the MAC West division in his fourth year with the program.

Central Michigan won the MAC West division last year before losing to Miami (OH) in the MAC championship game by a 26-21 score. While the Chippewas then lost to San Diego State by a 48-11 score in the New Mexico Bowl, it remained a remarkable campaign for first-year head coach Jim McElwain who inherited a group that was just 1-11 the previous season while being winless in conference play.

McElwain had 13 starters back from that group, but attrition has hit this team. Sophomore cornerback Kyron McKinnie-Harper left the school after legal problems, and fellow sophomore cornerback Montra Braswell transferred to Missouri. Defensive end Laquan Johnson suffered a season-ending injury in the opening game of the season. Central Michigan remains in limbo regarding the eligibility of senior quarterback David Moore who was suspended last season in October for using a banned substance. Moore had his appeal denied earlier this year (in the pre-COVID environment) to overturn a five-game suspension.

The Chippewas followed up a 30-27 victory at home against Ohio with a 40-10 win at Northern Illinois last Wednesday as a 5.5-point favorite. Daniel Richardson completed 13 of 19 passes for 196 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. The redshirt freshman is completing 60% of his passes for 439 yards this year with three touchdown passes and an interception. He has three completions of over 40 yards.

Central Michigan has a balanced offensive attack as they are averaging 219.5 passing yards-per-game along with 210.5 rushing yards-per-game. The Chippewas have a two-headed monster in their backfield with junior running back Kobe Lewis and freshman Lew Nichols who have combined for 293 rushing yards. Central Michigan hosts the MAC’s top-scoring offense with the conference’s best scoring defense that is allowing only 18.5 points-per-game.

Western Michigan currently holds the Cannon Trophy between these two teams after defeating the Chippewas last year by a 31-15 score in Kalamazoo. BetOnline has the Broncos as a 1-point road favorite with the total set at 59.5. Kickoff is at 7 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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