’23 Notre Dame Game Rankings #11: Inaugural Meeting Between Notre Dame, Central Michigan

Irish Faces MAC Foe with Huge Ohio State Matchup Looming

The Notre Dame Fighting Irish will break new ground during the team’s fourth week of action this season when they host the Central Michigan Chippewas. The matchup pits the Irish against a team that finished 4-8 last year and previously was a stop along the way for former Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly.

The Chippewas will once again have head coach Jim McElwain patrolling the sidelines. Starting his fifth season at Central Michigan, McElwain has compiled a 24-21 record at the school after spending parts of three seasons in the same capacity at Florida and three more at Colorado. In those stints, he racked up a 44-28 record.

Central Michigan Offense: Challenges All Around

Last year’s starter, Daniel Richardson, has transferred, which pits the duo of Jase Bauer and Bert Emanuel Jr. in a battle to become the Chippewas’ starting signal-caller. Bauer saw more action last year, though he threw just one touchdown pass compared to five interceptions. Emanuel, son of former NFL wideout Bert Sr., is more of a runner and will see plenty of action when such yardage is a priority.

Central Michigan’s running game will have both Marion Lukes and Miles Bailey in the backfield after the pair combined for 499 yards on 83 carries, with Lukes crossing the goal line three times. Both offered modest contributions in the receiving department, but filling the hole left by Lew Nichols’ departure is vital.

The receiving corps badly needs an overhaul, with the top returnee, Jalen McGaughy, collecting just 20 receptions last season. Likely to join him in the starting lineup are the raw duo of Chris Parker and Irone Jackson, who only managed to snag a combined seven receptions last year. At tight end, Marcus Young is likely to largely be used as a blocker after hauling in just three catches last year.

On the line, the Chippewas will be led by senior guard Delyantei Powell-Woods, who will be paired with sophomore Keegan Smith. Brayden Swartout is likely to man the right side at tackle, while David Heinzen should be on the left side. The center spot is a question mark, though that position and others could see some true freshmen break through and make an immediate impact.

Central Michigan Defense: Potential and Question Marks

The focal point of Central Michigan’s line will be the interior, where nose tackle Robi Stuart is back for one more year and will be joined by Jacques Bristol. The pair each picked up a sack in 2022 and made a combined 63 tackles, none of those coming from behind the line. The end spots should be taken by sophomores Quindario Lee and Michael Heldman, who also showed a knack for getting into enemy backfields with 11.5 combined tackles-for-loss.

The Chippewas still have junior Kyle Moretti starting at weakside linebacker after he made 95 stops last season. Justin Whiteside is flexible enough to play either inside or outside and is coming off a 67-tackle campaign. Nick Apsey will likely handle the strong-side duties if Whiteside plays the middle.

The most experienced unit for the Central Michigan defense is in the secondary, though the hope is that strong safety Trey Jones isn’t as active as last year. He was forced to make 85 stops, a sign that weaknesses existed among the Chippewa defenders. Jayden Davis will join Jones, while junior cornerback Donte Kent could be in line for postseason honors at one cornerback slot. Javarius Sims should be on the other side, while De’Javion Stepney will handle nickel coverage.

Central Michigan Special Teams: Unknown Quantities

Junior kicker Josh Ralston got a taste of action last year but needs to hone his skills in 2023. He made four of his six extra-point attempts, and just one of his three field goal tries. Last year’s punter, Luke Elzinga, transferred to Oklahoma, with his replacement to be decided on in training camp. On the return units, Sam Hicks, Stepney and Jackson will handle kickoffs, while Jordyn Williams is point to return punts.

The Last Time Central Michigan Played Notre Dame

That would be never. However, even though the Irish figure to be heavy favorites in this clash, last year’s home losses to Marshall and Stanford should be reason enough not to look past the Chippewas. The danger of that could be a possibility, considering that the Irish will be hosting the Ohio State Buckeyes one week later.

You may also like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Back to top button