What is Dispatches From Blogfrica? Pretty simple: I ask questions of an opposing team's blogger, they answer. A truly revolutionary idea, no? This week: Ron Balaskovitz, the Central Michigan writer from SBN's excellent MAC blog, Hustle Belt.
1) I think it's fair to say that Iowa fans aren't too familiar with any CMU players, especially Dan LeFevour, your beloved "Rust Belt Tebow," departed for the sunny shores of the NFL. Can you tell us about a few offensive players we should know about heading into Saturday's game? Who do we need to worry about exposing holes in our defense?
Our team's biggest strength is our offensive line, featuring four guys who go 6'3"+ and 305lbs+. Dan Enos was a Big Ten player and coach, and I think it's safe to say he has built us a Big Ten-like line in Mt. Pleasant. All that leads me to the best name, and best offensive player on this team, Zurlon Tipton. Tipton is a big, bruising back who goes about 6'1" and 220lbs. Arm tackles aren't going to be enough to bring him down. Thus far he has rushed for 243 yards and 3 touchdowns. Those numbers would be even better if we weren't down by 40+ for most of our last game against Michigan State. Even against that defense he was able to carry 11 times for 66 yards.
We also have some talented receivers, most notably Titus Davis and Cody Wilson. Titus Davis is probably our lone home run threat on the team -- he makes plays happen with his speed. Last season he caught 40 passes for 8TDs and averaged 18 yards a catch, and has only improved this season. Cody Wilson is the poor man's Wes Welker: he's not big, he's not fast, but somehow he gets open all the time, and catches everything. I believe he had 6 catches against Michigan State. Prepare to be frustrated by him on Saturday at least once.
2) Same question, but this time for the defensive players -- who's gonna be tackling our beloved Hawkeyes on Saturday?
Our leading tackler through the first two games is LB Justin Cherocci, who has picked up 25 tackles. He's a solid guy who is good against the run, and always seems to be near the ball.
Our best defensive player hands down is safety Jahleel Addae. He's second on the team in tackles, and leads the team in tackles for loss. He plays the rover/bandit/whatever in our 4-2-5 base defense. He is best against the run, and playing downhill. He is always trying to make a tackle no matter what. Look for him to be near the line much of the game trying to stop the Iowa rushing attack.
3) Screw the candidates we currently have; #MACtion captured the hearts and minds of the CFB public (or at least the interwebs-savvy contingent) last fall. If it was an option on this year's ballot, I have faith that it would win in a landslide. (It'd get my vote.) What's Central Michigan's best bet this year for a good, crazy #MACtion game?
I'll go with our game in Ypsilanti on November 10th against Eastern Michigan. Last year the two teams struggled early in the game, but the fourth quarter was a back and forth affair that saw 36 combined points. In that game we rallied from a two touchdown deficit in the fourth quarter to tie it with about a minute left, only to watch Eastern's QB gash us for a long touchdown run inside of a minute left. It's a game featuring two bad teams, and two bad defenses, so there should be plenty of scoring in that game.
4) Be honest: which directional Michigan really gets your dander up, Western or Eastern?
Western. They're just so cocky about everything, of the two sides in this rivalry, they do more talking than we do. We beat them 5 years in a row, only to see that streak come to an end last year, and you would have thought that Western had beaten us 100 times in a row with all the talk that they did. Making matters awkward is the fact that my brother goes to Western currently. Western always seems to feature a solid team in any sport we play, so it's generally a good game when we get together.
5) No conference has been immune from the wave of realignment that's swept college football over the last two years, not even the MAC. Do you miss Temple at all? Are you excited about adding UMass? Does the fact that the MAC has an odd-number of teams bug you, like, all the time?
I don't really miss Temple at all, maybe some teams in the East division do, but in their time in the MAC, we only played them twice, so it wasn't a rivalry or anything. I also felt like Temple wasn't really a MAC school. We're made up of universities in average towns, that are probably only as big as they are because there's a university. Compare that to Temple, who's based in Philadelphia, and it just always felt like an odd fit. Plus, there was a conference game last year that they blew late, and their fans blamed the officials and said something along the lines of "Can't wait until we're out of this hick conference." So good riddance to them as far as I'm concerned.
As for UMass, I feel the same way about them as I did Temple when they came to the MAC. It's neat, but it doesn't affect things a whole lot. It seems like they match up better with MAC schools than Temple did. The only thing that bothers me about UMass is that it is way the hell out east, so it doesn't fit geographically, not that that really matters in this day and age of college football.
The odd number of teams thing is odd, but it just means that each week one team plays a non-conference game, and it worked out in CMU's favor this year because that game for us is against Navy and nationally televised on ESPN2. Honestly, I'm just as excited to see Navy as I was to see Michigan State.
6) Finally, prediction time -- who ya got?
I think Iowa has too much talent for CMU, and this is the week that Iowa will see some progress from their passing game. I do think CMU will play them tough, and try to control the clock by running the ball as often as they can. Competitive game, but Iowa salts it away in the 4th quarter, 30-17.
Thanks for being a good sport, Ron. Be sure to check out Run and the rest of the Hustle Belt crew over at Hustle Belt. You can also follow Ron on Twitter at @Rovitz ,as well as HustleBelt at @HustleBelt. The Iowa-Central Michigan game is in Iowa City, IA on Saturday, September 22nd at 11am CT, with television coverage from BTN.