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January 5, 2010
GMAC Bowl: Central Michigan vs. Troy
GMAC BOWL: WHO GETS THE EDGE?
Central Michigan rush offense vs. Troy rush defense: Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour has rushed for 701 yards and 14 touchdowns, but he is the only Chippewas player with at least 500 rushing yards. RB Bryan Schroeder is averaging 5.6 yards per carry and reached the 100-yard mark in two of his last four games. Troy ranks 57th in the nation in run defense, but history indicates the Trojans could have success limiting LeFevour's running ability. Troy managed to shut down Middle Tennessee QB Dwight Dasher, who is more mobile than LeFevour but doesn't have as good a throwing arm.
Central Michigan pass offense vs. Troy pass defense: This might have represented LeFevour's finest season as a passer. He has completed 71.1 percent of his attempts and has a sparkling 27-to-6 touchdown-to-interception ratio. Antonio Brown has caught 97 passes for 1,020 yards and nine touchdowns, while Bryan Anderson and Kito Poblah have at least 50 catches each. Troy is 99th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. LeFevour's ability to exploit Troy's secondary could depend on whether his line neutralizes Troy DEs Brandon Lang and Cameron Sheffield, who have combined for 14 sacks.
Edge: Central Michigan
Troy rush offense vs. Central Michigan rush defense: Troy focuses more on its passing attack than its running game, though Shawn Southward and DuJuan Harris have combined to rush for 1,045 yards and 18 touchdowns. Central Michigan ranks 27th in the nation in run defense and has allowed 119.3 rushing yards per game and 3.6 yards per carry. LBs Nick Bellore (118 tackles) and Matt Berning (100) are an active duo.
Troy pass offense vs. Central Michigan pass defense: Troy QB Levi Brown has thrown for 3,868 yards, with 22 touchdown passes and only nine interceptions - though he was picked off five times in Troy's last three games. Jerrel Jernigan had at least 142 receiving yards in each of Troy's past two games, and TeBiarus Gill has a team-high six touchdown catches. Brown spreads the wealth: 12 Troy players have at least 10 catches and seven have at least 20. The MAC isn't exactly known for powerhouse defenses, but Central Michigan led the league in scoring defense and total defense. The Chippewas also rank 34th in the nation in pass efficiency defense. CB Josh Gordy has had a solid season. CMU's pass rush isn't much.
Central Michigan special teams vs. Troy special teams: Central Michigan's Andrew Aguila has gone 12-of-17 on field-goal attempts, including 3-for-5 from at least 40 yards. Troy's Michael Taylor has gone 7-for-9 on field-goal attempts with a long of 43 since replacing the injured Sam Glusman. Troy ranks 25th and Central Michigan ranks 83rd in net punting. The advantage goes to Central Michigan because of Brown, who has scored on two punt returns this season.
Central Michigan coaching staff vs. Troy coaching staff: Troy clearly has the edge in experience here. Central Michigan selected defensive ends coach Steve Stripling as its interim head coach after Cincinnati hired away Butch Jones. Stripling will match up against Larry Blakeney, who has served as Troy's coach since 1991. Troy offensive coordinator Neal Brown has done a good job.
X-factor: Central Michigan isn't merely playing for itself. The Chippewas also are out to defend the MAC's honor. The MAC has lost 14 consecutive bowl games. If the MAC champion closes its season with a loss to the Sun Belt champion, wouldn't it be fair to say that the MAC has replaced the Sun Belt as the nation's weakest FBS conference?
Central Michigan will win if: LeFevour needs time to throw. LeFevour might not run for 100 yards, but he could pick Troy's pass defense apart if Lang and Sheffield don't get to him.
Troy will win if: The Trojans need to put pressure on LeFevour and take an early lead. If Troy pulls ahead early, it should benefit from the presence of a partisan crowd in its home state.
Steve Megargee is a national writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.