A Soggy Sun Bowl is No Problem For Central Michigan Chippewas
Later this afternoon, Central Michigan University (8-4) will be arriving in El Paso to get ready for tomorrow morning's 88th annual Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl against Washington State (7-5). Despite spending all week in Tucson where they were supposed to play Boise State in the Barstool Sports Arizona Bowl, the Chippewas accepted an offer to play the Cougars in place of Miami. Although weather conditions all week have been perfect in the Sun City, tomorrow morning could be a different story. The temperature at kickoff is expected to be 49 degrees with a strong chance of showers. For fans, that means load up on ponchos to help stay dry. For the Chippewas, that will have little impact on their offense.
CMU is led by freshman running back Lew Nichols III, who has been one of the best stories in college football this season. The Detroit native has exploded for 1,710 rushing yards and 15 touchdowns in 2021, plus another 300 receiving yards and two more scores. Add it all up and you have a 2,000-yard all purpose back leading the way for the Chippewas.
At quarterback, freshman Daniel Richardson has also been solid this season. The 5-10 signal caller completed 61% of his passes for 2,424 yards and 23 touchdowns with just 5 interceptions. Richardson has three main targets in juniors Kalil Pimpleton (58 receptions, 929 yards, 4 touchdowns), Dallas Dixon (44-696-8), and senior JaCorey Sulivan (42-604-10). Sophomore tight end Joel Wilson is also a good red zone target, with five touchdown receptions this season. A big reason for the success of CMU's offense has been their O-Line. Offensive tackles Bernhard Raimann and Luke Goedeke have been invited to participate in the 2022 Reese’s Senior Bowl. Between Nichols III, Richardson, and a strong offensive line, the Chippewas have plenty of reasons to excite the Sun Bowl crowd tomorrow morning.
If there is a concern heading into the game for CMU, it is their pass defense. They ranked 10th out of 12 teams in the MAC and allowed 261 passing yards per game. The key for tomorrow morning's game will be whether or not the Chippewas can pressure Washington State quarterback Jayden de Laura. The sophomore threw for 2,751 yards in 11 games for the Cougs, including 23 touchdowns. CMU defensive linemen Troy Hairston II, John Westley Whiteside, Jacques Bristol, Tyrece Woods Jr. will need to pressure de Laura. Run defense is a different story. The Chippewas were 2nd in the MAC, allowing 143 yards on the ground per game. Junior linebacker Troy Brown has been one of the most steady players on the defensive side of the ball for CMU.
Jim McElwain is in his third season as head coach of Central Michigan, and he has a 19-13 record. The 59-year old spent three seasons as head coach of Colorado State (2012-14) and another three at Florida (2015-17) before his time in Mount Pleasant. He was also the 2019 MAC Coach of the Year, the third time in his career that he has won conference coach honors (MWC in 2014 and SEC in 2015). He is known around college football as an offensive mastermind, and he has a terrific young nucleus at CMU that could be contending for major bowl appearances over the next few seasons.
Add it all up and Central Michigan brings a solid team on both sides of the ball to the Tony The Tiger Sun Bowl. Since both teams had just days to prepare for this game instead of weeks, I expect an offensive game regardless of the weather conditions on the field. El Pasoans love an underdog, and plenty will root for #FireUpChips when they take the field tomorrow morning.