Missouri Football Focus: Central Michigan

It might seem crazy, but Missouri football is just about 10 weeks away. The Tigers have great potential coming into this season, as second-year head coach Eliah Drinkwitz will look to avoid a sophomore slump.

To get ready for football season, Truman’s Tales is taking a look at each of Missouri’s 12 upcoming opponents. How do they stack up? What do the Tigers need to do to win? Let’s find out.

Week 1: Central Michigan Chippewas

Dec 21, 2019; Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA; General overall view of the line of scrimmage as Central Michigan Chippewas offensive lineman Steve Eipper (60) snaps the ball against the San Diego State Aztecs during the New Mexico Bowl at Dreamstyle Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

First question: What is a Chippewa? Central Michigan actually provides some very interesting history behind the name.

To sum things up, the Saginaw Chippewa are a Native American tribe who have long called Michigan home. Originally, Central Michigan used the name in a negative context. Today, the school has partnered with the tribe, who support the name’s usage.

Now that that’s squared away, how do the Chippewas fare on the field?

2020 was a weird season for everyone, CMU especially. The team only played 6 games last season, ending with a record of 3-3. The year before, however, CMU earned themselves a spot in the MAC Championship game after going 8-6.

Judging by last season’s numbers, the Chippewas boast a balanced offensive attack, gaining near-equal yards per play both on the ground and through the air.

The brightest spot on the team may very well be Chippewa kicker Marshall Meeder. He made the first team All-MAC squad last season, nailing every one of his 8 attempted field goals. His longest, a 53 yarder against Toledo, was a conference best.

Even if Missouri stop CMU well outside the redzone, there’s a high risk that the rising sophomore kicker will still do damage.

The secondary is where the Chippewas have struggled most. Opponents averaged nearly 300 yards per game against CMU last season, and nearly 10 yards per throw.

Meanwhile, CMU’s defense against the run is top-notch. Opponents averaged 3.1 yards per attempt last season, and runners only found the endzone 7 times. The Tigers don’t have the power of Larry Rountree III this year, and it looks like Tyler Badie will have his work cut out for him.

One of the biggest blows to CMU last season was a lack of discipline. The Chippewas surrendered nearly 60 yards per game via penalties last year. Against a talented offense like Missouri, that sort of play will put CMU out of contention.

Missouri will have to be on their toes when it comes to the run game. The CMU player to watch is Lew Nichols III.

MADISON, WISCONSIN – SEPTEMBER 07: Lew Nichols #22 of the Central Michigan Chippewas runs with the ball in the second quarter against the Wisconsin Badgers at Camp Randall Stadium on September 07, 2019 in Madison, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

The MAC Freshman of the Year, Nichols led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns last year. He has the speed to get through to the second level and beyond, but what really impresses me is his lateral movement.

Nichols does a great job of finding the holes at the line scrimmage and bursting through for big yards. Not only will the Missouri linemen need to be on their guard, but the linebackers will also need to key in on Nichols to stop him from getting to the next level.

The Tigers will also need to keep an eye on the multi-faceted Kalil Pimpleton.

Dec 7, 2019; Detroit, MI, USA; Central Michigan Chippewas wide receiver Kalil Pimpleton (88) runs after a catch against the Miami Redhawks during the fourth quarter in the MAC Championship game at Ford Field. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Pimpleton led the Chippewas in receiving yards last season with 277, posted 134 rushing yards, and went 5-8 for 149 passing yards and a passing touchdown. There’s lots of talk about dual-threat players, but Pimpleton is a triple threat!

So what does Missouri need to do to win?

Connor Bazelak will need to showcase his arm, and exploit the weak CMU secondary for big yards. The Missouri offense cannot slow down, as the Chippewas will likely get at least three points every time they cross the Tigers’ 40-yard line.

On the defensive side, the key will be to plug any holes that Nichols could possibly exploit. By forcing CMU to go to the air, Missouri will take out one of the Chippewas’ biggest threats.

The next key is to be on guard when Pimpleton has the ball. If CMU were crafty, they would run option looks that have Pimpleton involved on nearly every play. That means that the Tiger defense cannot relax for an instant.

So how will the Tigers fare?

It’s the first game of the year at Faurot, kickoff is set for 3 pm, and the stadium is set to be open for 100% capacity. Missouri will have their home field advantage back.

On top of that, a firm defensive line and strong play from Bazelak and his receivers will have the Tigers in good shape for the win. That being said, this will be no cake walk.

Tiger fans should expect an exciting and satisfying game on September 4.