Led by former Florida head coach Jim McElwain, who won MAC Coach of the Year in 2019, the Chippewas are coming off a very strong season in 2021, finishing 9-4 overall. Originally, they were slated to play Boise State in the Arizona Bowl, but that game was forced to be scrapped due to too many positive COVID tests for the Broncos.
It looked as if their excellent season wouldn’t be rewarded, but a late opportunity to play in the Sun Bowl then emerged after Miami was forced to cancel. They took full advantage of the invite, defeating Washington State, 24-21.
Many of the team’s top offensive players are back, but Central Michigan lost a lot on defense and it’s shown so far this season, losing 58-44 to Oklahoma State and 38-24 against South Alabama. Their lone win was last week against Bucknell, 41-0.
Penn State has only faced the Chippewas once previously, winning 40-3 in 2005. How do we see this game playing out? Our staff gives its predictions below.
Nate Bauer (Season: 3-0; Last Week: 28-24 PSU)
Coming out of a season-opening stretch of two tough road games, this is program-building time for Penn State when it hosts Central Michigan on Saturday. The Chippewas are struggling this season and should provide ample opportunity for the Nittany Lions to gain valuable experience for depth at every position on the field.
If Penn State’s starters are on the field after halftime, it should come as a surprise. If that’s the case, though, don’t be surprised if CMU’s starters find a way into the end zone a few times late against a defense manned by freshmen and walk-ons.
Penn State: 59
Central Michigan: 17
Thomas Frank Carr (Season: 3-0; Last Week: 31-17 PSU)
Penn State will use this opportunity to play depth early and often against Central Michigan. Ideally, I imagine you won’t hear much from veteran players in this game, even if the score isn’t out of hand by the third quarter. Head coach James Franklin would be pleased to have more looks at not just backup Drew Allar but quarterbacks Christian Veilleux and Beau Pribula. This game is another situation where Allar gets a series in the first half, like Franklin said he wanted to do against Ohio.
However, I still think that Penn State can do that and secure a decisive victory against the Chippewas.
Penn State: 46
Central Michigan: 24
Sean Fitz (Season: 3-0; Last Week: 31-21 PSU)
Will a letdown after last week be in the cards for the Nittany Lions? It’s certainly happened before, but this shouldn’t exactly be a trap game for Penn State. Central Michigan is, well, not great. This week should give the staff another chance to spread reps and continue to cultivate its depth. The Nittany Lions are in a sweet spot at 3-0 and things are setting up nicely going into the buzzsaw of October.
Penn State should be able to continue improving in the run game with Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen and fans can hope to see more of Drew Allar, Christian Veilleux and maybe even Beau Pribula if things go to script. Defensively, the Nittany Lions were flying around against Auburn and should have an opportunity to continue that momentum against the Chippewas.
Penn State: 52
Central Michigan: 10
Matt Herb (Season: 3-0; Last Week: 27-24 PSU)
Central Michigan was pretty competitive in its three games against Power Five competition last year, even winning one of them — a Sun Bowl upset of Washington State. But in their two games vs. FBS foes earlier this month, the Chippewas fell way behind by halftime and spent the second half playing catch-up — not a formula for success when one of your primary offensive threats is your workhorse tailback.
I could see a similar scenario playing out on Saturday. The Lions look like they’re starting to get their offense revved up, and even if the running back corps doesn’t keep breaking 40- and 50-yarders like it has the past couple of weeks, Sean Clifford and perhaps Drew Allar should find a target-rich environment against a CMU defense that surrendered 406 passing yards to Oklahoma State and 337 to South Alabama.
Penn State: 45
Central Michigan: 17
Greg Pickel (Season: 3-0; Last Week: 24-20 PSU)
Penn State is an overwhelming favorite over Central Michigan, and with good reason. The Chippewas are not the best Mid-American Conference team this year. Far from it, in fact. They have a few exciting pieces but are otherwise underwhelming from a roster perspective.
The Lions should be able to control this game from start to finish. If it wants to be the team it appears that it can be after a 3-0 start, a complete performance for 60 minutes, and lots of time for players further down the depth chart, are both a must. We’ll be watching closely to see if the starters can do enough early, just like in the Ohio game, to get many members of the roster experience late.
Penn State: 49
Central Michigan: 7
Ryan Snyder (Season: 3-0; Last Week: 27-20 PSU)
Central Michigan can put up some points. The problem is that its defense has been gashed up pretty good against the two Division I teams they’ve played so far. Against Oklahoma State, the Cowboys totaled 531 yards of total offense and scored 51 points after the first drive of the second half. South Alabama scored 31 points in the first half, so I expect a similar showing here on Saturday.
James Franklin made it clear on Tuesday that he wants to get his young players some quality experience in this one, so don’t be surprised if Drew Allar is playing come the second quarter. Central Michigan may get a score or two, but I think Penn State can cover the 27.5-point spread this week. The Nittany Lion defense is playing with a ton of confidence after last week.
Penn State: 51
Central Michigan: 17