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Syracuse vs. Central Michigan Football Preview: Q&A With Hustle Belt

It's almost Saturday! As we near the end of the week,Hustle Belt's Central Michigan correspondent, James Jimenez stops by to give us the rundown on the Chippewas.

Sandra Dukes-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back to football! Syracuse is traveling to visit Central Michigan this weekend, and we know nothing about them... yet. But good thing there are plenty of other people who know things about the Chippewas and can help us out in that department. "Thanks, internet!"

Below, James Jimenez, from SB Nation's highly informative MAC site, Hustle Belt, joins us to chat all things Central Michigan football. You can find all of his responses below, and take a look at my responses for James, giving him info on Syracuse before the game.

After a 2-0 start, what are Chippewa fans expectations for the 2014 season? Higher than before, or still the same?

The expectations didn't just rise; they skyrocketed. CMU fans are always championship-or-bust, regardless of how good the actual team is, so to start 2-0 sets up a high expectation, especially with the Orange and the Jayhawks being the next challengers. If you want an illustration from a different perspective, the game sold out of parking spots (and most likely will sell out of seats) and is starting tailgates at 8 a.m.. EIGHT IN THE MORNING. That probably wouldn't happen if CMU lost to Purdue. Central fans have not been this excited since Dan LeFevour and Antonio Brown played in the Pleasant Mount.

Central Michigan's passing game seemed to struggle when Purdue brought pressure on Saturday; does that concern you against a heavy blitzing team like Syracuse?

It's a slight concern. I say slight because most of the problem is that Cooper Rush is still a young quarterback. The ability to pass under pressure will come with time. He already improved from his first game against Chattanooga to his game against Purdue. Rush has also shown he can rush (pun intended) out of the pocket, and with an offensive line returning 91 starts, they should be able to handle Syracuse's defense. Besides, the Chips try not to rely on Rush's arm too much; they run a balanced pro style multiple offense, which means a good dose of rushing from Michigan transfer Thomas Rawls and Saylor Lavallii.

What's one thing about CMU that Orange fans won't be able to glean just from watching the Purdue game?

What you see is what you get with Central. Literally. Central likes to out-execute. They will be aggressive on the pass in their 4-2-5 formation and stout against the run on defense, while relying on the power run and game management on offense. What you might not see is that Central embraces the underdog role. That sounds totally cliché, I know, but they like being told they can't. They were 12.5 point underdogs to Purdue before pummeling them 38-17. They beat Iowa at Iowa two years ago in ice-in-their-veins fashion. They held their own against #23 Northern Illinois until the fourth quarter last year. They finished 6-6 last season despite losing key offensive players like Jake Olsen and Zurlon Tipton for most of the year, being forced to rely on Rush, who was then a 3rd string QB, and Lavallii, the 2nd string RB. They struggle when favored. (Look at Chattanooga two weeks ago.) Syracuse is favored by 9, but players, fans, and some media think Central should be the favorite, so we'll see how it plays out.

Obviously Titus Davis has been out for the last four quarters or so; what does he bring to Central Michigan's offense that it currently lacks?

Titus Davis draws comparisons to fellow Chip Antonio Brown, so that should give you an idea of his impact on the field. He has electrifying speed, pro-caliber hands, and makes his own plays. Defenses have to account for him when he is on his game. Central's gameplan opens up with him on the field. The fact that CMU scored that many points without Davis last week should scare the Orange fanbase.

What does Central Michigan need to do (in your eyes) in order to beat Syracuse on Saturday?

Central has to play the same game they played against Purdue. Plain and simple. Justin Cherocci, Jabari Dean, and Leterrius Walton must stop the run and the five defensive backs must step up and get hands on passes as they have done so far; the Chips have 11 interceptions in their last five games. Tony Annese (2 INTS) and Brandon Greer (1 INT RET TD, 1 FF, 1 FR) should be names to fear.

If Syracuse can't (blank), then there's a significant chance they're upset by the Chippewas.

If Syracuse can't win in the trenches, they will be upset by the Chippewas. The key to stopping the Maroon and Gold is to shut down the run game on offense and to establish a run game on defense. Like I said earlier, the run is key to CMU's offense, so the Orange must establish dominance over the offensive line from the start. This would force Cooper Rush to carry the team on his arm... which isn't a good thing. The Chippewas love love love to stop the pass and force the run. The Orange must smack the Chippewas in the mouth, then force the secondary to respect the pass if they hope to have a good day on offense.


So there you have it. Central Michigan in an nutshell. Chippewas fans seem fairly confident about Saturday, which is at least sort of warranted.

Thanks to James for taking the time to answer these questions. If you're interested in seeing more on Central Michigan, head over to Hustle Belt, and/or check out James on Twitter.