2010 GMAC Bowl Preview
#21 Central Michigan (11-2, 8-0 MAC) vs. Troy (9-3, 8-0; Sun Belt)
January 6th, 2009 @ 7:00 PM (EST) – ESPN – Mobile, Alabama
The GMAC Bowl continues its tradition of finishing the non-BCS bowl games on the eve of the National Championship Game. The 11 th renewal of the Battle on the Bay features two of the country’s best offenses and should be a high-scoring showdown.
Troy continued their dominance on top of the Sun Belt Conference by winning their 2nd consecutive outright championship and their 4th consecutive title overall. The Trojans began the season with a surprising 0-2 start but then rampaged through the rest of their schedule. Their 9-1 finish was only marred by a loss at Arkansas and only one of their nine victories saw their opponents come within a touchdown! Larry Blakeney has been the coach at Troy since 1992 and he has overseen the school’s transitions from Division II to Division 1-AA and the subsequent bump up to the Division One level! Armed with a 54-43 record in the six years at this level and a 153-75-1 mark overall, Blakeney is clearly an excellent coach.
The Trojans were exceptional on offense in 2009, finishing 16th in the country in scoring at 33.1 points per game. This was driven largely by the country’s 4th best passing game, which racked up over 330 yards per game! Quarterback Levi Brown is clearly a top playmaker and he has thrown for 3,868 yards and 22 touchdowns this season. With their spread attack, the rushing game is not emphasized and their 60 th ranked finish is actually quite solid. Troy is clearly exceptional on offense.
However, their defense is far from exceptional. Troy was only 87th in scoring defense at a 28.6 points average and they were particularly brutal against the pass, finishing 117th nationally! With that poor of a pass defense and a guy named Dan LeFevour on the other side of the ball, there doesn’t seem to be much hope for the Trojan defense in this game.
Central Michigan will be at the end of an era in the GMAC Bowl as the NCAA’s all-time leader in touchdowns, Dan LeFevour, is playing his final college game. Furthermore, head coach Butch Davis has moved to Cincinnati and the last of Brian Kelly’s legacy at CMU leaves with him. Central Michigan had a fantastic season, winning their 3rd MAC Championship in four years and beating Michigan State. Their only losses were tough affairs with Boston College and Arizona and the Chippewas are a very talented football team.
Offensively, everything revolves around LeFevour. He has thrown for 3,000 yards and 27 touchdowns against only 6 picks and is also the team’s leading rusher with 700 yards and 14 touchdowns! While there are plenty of stars next to him on the offense, especially receiver Antonio Brown who has 97 catches, don’t get confused: Central Michigan is the Dan LeFevour show and they finished 15th in the country in scoring at 33.2 points per game.
The Central Michigan defense was a big surprise this season, finishing 14th in the country in scoring defense at 17.2 points per game! They were strong against both the run (29th) and pass (48th) and the only complaint that I have about them was their surprisingly low turnover number as they only managed 19 takeaways on the season. This is very good unit that held noted BCS teams like Arizona and Boston College to low scoring numbers.
With two exceptional offenses in place, this game is going to see some serious fireworks. Both teams have simply outscored opponents in most of their games. However, the difference between the two teams is that Central Michigan brings a significantly better defense to the table. The Chips have also faced off against significantly tougher opponents and their upset victory at Michigan State is easily the best win that either team can boast.
Finally, this is the last game for one of the greatest quarterbacks in college football history and I cannot imagine Central Michigan falling short in Dan LeFevour’s final game. Expect the NCAA’s all-time leader in touchdowns to cap off his college career with a flourish and lead his team to a victory in the GMAC Bowl.
GMAC Bowl Pick: Central Michigan 38, Troy 27
by Matt Baxendell
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