Central Michigan is 0-4 against the spread this season. When that's the case, it likely means one of two things: a team is overachieving, or it's not. In the case of the 1-3 Chippewas, it's definitely the latter. CMU is getting beaten by larger margins than Vegas expected, and, when they did manage a win, they did so in come-from-behind fashion against an FCS school.
Of course N.C. State is no stranger to narrowly avoiding disaster against an FCS opponent, but, barring a barrage of turnovers coupled with an emotional letdown after the one that got away against Clemson, the Pack should win this one comfortably. Vegas likes State by 24.
There are a few reasons why it might be closer than that.
The biggest concern for the Pack is on offense; the team is averaging just 5.7 points per quarter since Brandon Mitchell's injury. They'll have to somehow hold the Chippewas to negative points to beat the spread if that scoring rate does not improve Saturday.
Though, as Akula noted yesterday, CMU's offense is experiencing the growing pains of a freshman quarterback, the team is not completely devoid of offensive weaponry. Titus Davis, a 6-2, 190-pound junior named to the preseason Biletnikoff watch list, is 10th in the FBS with 404 receiving yards. A legit NFL prospect, Davis has accounted for 42% of the Chips' total receiving yards and 60% of their passing scores. He's averaging nearly 20 yards a catch. Dontae Johnson and Juston Burris have the size, physicality, and experience to slow Davis, but, as we saw in the Clemson game when Burris went out, the Pack's young, smallish, inexperienced backup corners can be had.
Zurlon Tipton is a badass. Dude rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 scores last year, good for 13th and 10th, respectively, in the FBS. Unfortunately for the Chips, he broke his ankle in the first quarter of the team's season-opening embarrassment in Ann Arbor (a 59-9 loss). The deflating loss of their senior leader in the opening minutes had to contribute largely to CMU's lopsided loss.
Tipton's backup, Saylor Lavallii, is named Saylor and rocks a fauxhawk, so he's got that going for him. He also has 354 rushing yards on a 4.8 per carry average. The former stat is good for 27th in the FBS, so the Chips, while not able to fully replace Tipton's production, at least have a more than serviceable primary option in the backfield.
CMU's 17.8 points per game is 110th in the FBS, but, as the weapons above show, they are more dangerous than that. It is taking the Chips an average of 20.4 yards to score a point this season, a number that ranks 104th in the nation and is too unlucky to be sustainable. Last season, the Chips' YPP number was 13.7, which is about average. If their luck starts to balance out Saturday, and N.C. State keeps scoring at a 5.7 points per quarter pace, we will have ourselves a Richmond situation.
And there's always #ncstateshit. Perhaps the shitbeast is full for a while after negating a pick six with a late whistle and an 83-yard touchdown run on a whistle that should have never blown, but you never know.
Alas, fair reader, take solace. Even if Davis, fauxhawk, and #ncstateshit all conspire to ruin our Saturday, the Chips' defense will likely let it all unravel. I can't prove it, but I'm pretty sure Mike Archer and Jon Tenuta are secretly at the helm of this unit. It does good things like get sacks (two per game, 48th in the FBS), get tackles for lost yardage (7.25 per game, 32nd), get picks (five, 23rd), and force fumbles (seven, third), but despite all of those superlatives, the Chips are yielding 37.3 points per game (112th in the FBS) because, like those Archer/Tenuta units we will never grow nostalgic for, they give up an abominable number of big plays. CMU opponents have 60 plays of 10+ yards (102nd in the FBS), 20 plays of 20+ yards (96th), and 11 plays of 30+ yards (107th) already this season. When 80% of college football does a better job of not getting gashed than you, you're not good.
So gash, gash away Pete Thomas. On Saturday you will throw your first touchdown pass as a member of the Pack. Bryant Shirreffs will rock the casbah with a rushing touchdown or two. Shadrach Thornton will give the Chips' D an #education.
The Pack, bolstered by a stingy run defense that ranks in the top 30 nationally, should be able to make the Chips one dimensional, forcing Cooper Rush, a freshman QB completing just over 50% of his passes, a freshman QB who has tossed four picks in three starts, a freshman QB ranked 71st in the FBS in passer rating despite going against the suspect defenses of New Hampshire, UNLV, and Toledo (he did not play against Michigan), to beat them, on the road. It's not going to happen, even if Rush is a ginger.
Final score: N.C. State 34, CMU 10. Vegas gets one right.