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14 Days Until Kansas Football: 2018 Opponent Preview - Central Michigan

With just two weeks to go, it’s time to take a look at the second opponent on the KU football schedule, the Chippewas of Central Michigan.

NCAA Football: Central Michigan at Kansas Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

Can you believe that Kansas football is just TWO WEEKS AWAY?

Yeah, me either. Don’t worry, Kansas fans. I know you only care about basketball anyway. FYI, there’s just 41 days until Late Night.

Anyway, back to the opponent countdown.

Game Info

Kansas @ Central Michigan

September 8, 2018, 2:00 PM

Mt. Pleasant, MI: Kelly Shorts Stadium (30,255)

About the Central Michigan Offense

CMU returns just 27% of its offensive production and four starters from 2017. Obviously, this means the Chips will be looking for players to step up all over the field.

The race for the starting QB job looks like it will be SO Tony Poljan (13-21, 78 yds). CMU also has a juco QB in SR Tommy Lazzaro they could throw out there as well. Who the QBs will be throwing to is a mystery, as the top three WRs from last year and the TE are all gone. No other returning receiver caught more than 10 passes in 2017.

Running back is one position CMU doesn’t have to worry about. JR Jonathan Ward (178 car, 1024 yds, 10 TD) is the leading returning rusher, averaging 5.8 ypc in 2017. Last year against KU, Ward rushed for just 59 yards on 11 carries, but of course, CMU did most of its damage in the passing game in that matchup.

About the Central Michigan Defense

CMU returns 49% of its production on defense in the form of seven starters, with most of the losses in the secondary. The Chips do have some defensive backs returning who saw a decent amount of plays in 2017, including two JR corners in Sean Bunting (49 tak, 5 INT) and Da’Quan Jamison (33 tak, TFL).

SR Otis Kearney was expected to anchor the back end of the defense, but I can’t find him on CMU’s official roster after he missed 2017. Perhaps you’ll see SR Tyjuan Swain (10 tak, INT) back there, but that’s a complete guess.

At DE, JR Mike Danna (55 tak, 9 TFL, 5 sk) and SR Mitch Stanitzek (39 tak, 7 TFL, 3.5 sk) both return, while at DT, SR Nathan Brisson-Fast (36 tak, 8.5 TFL, 4.5 sk) and JR D’Andre Dill (25 tak, 4 TFL, sk) look to clog up the middle once again.

The linebacking corps is led by SR Alex Briones (83 tak, 8.5 TFL, 3 sk), who had 10 tackles last year against the Jayhawks. He’ll be assisted by last year’s team leader in tackles, SR Malik Fountain (89 tak, 2.5 TFL), and JR Michael Oliver (68 tak, 2 TFL).

Fearless Prediction

So CMU’s apparent weaknesses are at QB, WR, and DB. On paper, those are some areas that KU may be able to exploit. S&P+ gives Kansas a 53% chance to win on the road in this game, making the Jayhawks a 1-point favorite. Obviously, past performance is not indicative of future results when it comes to S&P+.

Kansas hasn’t won a road game since 2009. You can make the case that the Jayhawks are better this year. It seems pretty likely that Central Michigan will take a step back from last year. Will that be enough to nullify the 18-point difference between the two teams that we saw last year?

KU’s history over the past eight years says it won’t be, and I tend to agree. I’m in full “believe-it-when-I-see-it” mode, and until I see KU go out and win a road game, I’m not going to predict it. After this review of the CMU roster, I’ve tempered my expectations of them, but sadly, Kansas has yet to do anything to show me that they’re capable of going on the road and beating even a MAC team.

KU has only played one road game within single digits over the past four years. ONE. Even predicting a close loss is a bit insane, but, CMU 30, Kansas 28.