The Chippewas have one of the most underrated players in the nation in sophomore QB Dan LeFevour,who threw for 3,360 yards and rushed for 1,008 this season, joining former Texas star Vince Young as the only 3,000-1,000 player in Division I-A history. LeFevour accounted for 40 touchdowns (23 passing, 17 rushing) and was fifth in the nation in total offense. Bryan Anderson and freshman Antonio Brown are LeFevour's top two targets. Central Michigan ranked 22nd in total offense with 448 yards per game and scored more than 30 points nine times.
On defense, Central Michigan was not as proficient. The Chippewas were shredded by several teams, including Purdue on Sept. 15. The Boilermakers were one of five teams to score at least 44 points, and Central Michgian ranked 107th in the nation in scoring defense. The defense did rise to the occasion in the biggest game of the season, however, as All-MAC linebacker Red Keith led a unit that shut down Miami (Ohio) a win in the MAC championship game. The Redhawks had just 52 yards rushing and turned the ball over twice. Pass defense, however, remains a major concern.
Like Central Michigan, Purdue's offense carried the torch, though the disparity between the units is not as great. Junior quarterback Curtis Painter spearheads a potent passing attack. Painter threw for more than 300 yards six times and had 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions. His favorite target is Dorien Bryant, who led the Big Ten in receptions per game and kickoff returns. Bryant had 222 all-purpose yards in Purdue's win over Central Michigan in September.
Defensively, Purdue was average. Senior linebacker Cliff Avril earned second-team All-Big Ten honors after a stellar season in which he led the Boilers in sacks and tackles for losses. Avril also had a 43-yard interception return for a touchdown in a win over Minnesota. Purdue was able to shut down Central Michigan in the first half of their first game and must focus on harassing LeFevour.
Purdue jumped out to a 38-0 lead in the first meeting between before winning 45-22, and Central Michigan has not shown enough since then to give the impression results will be different the second time around. The Chippewas (like Purdue) beat just one team with a winning record this season and lost by an average of 41 points against their three BCS conference opponents. Central Michigan has a 23-game losing streak against BCS foes dating back to a 1992 win over Michigan State. Purdue will extend it to 24.
The pick: Purdue 49, Central Michigan 24