Central Michigan vs. Troy
Site: Ladd-Peeples Stadium, Mobile, Ala.
Date: Jan. 6
Line: Georgia Tech -4
Matchup: Keep an eye on Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour vs. Troy's defensive line. The Chippewas rely on their senior quarterback to lead the offense. LeFevour forces defenses to guard against his running and passing. Troy's defensive line must be ready for anything, with the Chippewas mixing plays and relying on LeFevour's big-play ability. Central Michigan is making its fourth straight bowl appearance, and it will be playing in the GMAC Bowl for the first time.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN OUTLOOK
The 2009 GMAC Bowl is turning into an intriguing matchup between conference champions. Central Michigan enters the bowl game with three Mid-American Conference championships in the last four years. The Chippewas will be playing in their fourth consecutive bowl game. Meanwhile, Troy has won the Sun Belt title the last four years, including consecutive outright titles the last two years.
Central Michigan linebacker Nick Bellore said the matchup is unique.
"Pitting two conference champions against each other doesn't happen too often in the non-BCS games," Bellore said. "It might be the only non-(Bowl Championship Series) game where you got two conference champions going head-to-head."
The Chippewas and Trojans enter the bowl game with attractive offenses. The Chippewas rank 16th in the Football Bowl Subdivision in scoring, averaging 33.2 points a game. The Trojans rank 18th with an average of 33.1 points a contest.
Both teams have big-time quarterbacks capable of taking over the game. Central Michigan quarterback Dan LeFevour is one of the best players in MAC history. The senior is the FBS all-time total touchdowns leader with 148 and owns numerous school, conference and national records.
Troy quarterback Levi Brown can rip apart teams with his passing ability. Brown completed 64.7 percent of his passes for 3,868 yards and 22 touchdowns. Led by Brown, the Trojans averaged 331 yards passing and 478.5 total yards per game. Troy receiver Jerrel Jernigan is Brown's favorite target, as he's compiled 947 yards and four touchdowns.
The CMU defense vastly improved its numbers from a year ago. The Chippewas own the 17th-ranked defense in the country, allowing 17.2 points a game.
Aside from trying to defend against Troy's talented offense, the Chippewas must avoid the distractions surrounding the future of their head coach, Butch Jones. The third-year Central Michigan coach is reportedly a leading candidate for the Marshall position. Jones is 26-13 with two MAC titles and three bowl appearances at Central Michigan.
Scouting the Offense: The Chippewas punish opponents with a strong aerial attack. QB Dan LeFevour passed for 3,043 yards and 27 touchdowns. The senior will test Troy's shaky defense with his running and passing. WRs Antonio Brown and Bryan Anderson form one of the best combinations in the country. The Trojans allowed 28.6 points and 417.9 yards per game. Troy's secondary faces a stiff challenge in slowing LeFevour.
Scouting the Defense: Central Michigan won its third MAC title in four years behind an improved defense. The Chippewas allowed 17.2 points and 326.7 yards per game. Central Michigan had 11 interceptions and forced eight fumbles. LBs Nick Bellore and Matt Berning led the Chippewas with 118 and 100 tackles, respectively.
Injury Report: None
Quote to Note: "That's great, and it's been a goal for our program, but I think if you ask any team that has been in the Top 25, they will say that you want to be there at the end of the year. It's great to be recognized, but you don't want to spend just one week there and then be gone again."
-- Senior QB Dan LeFevour, on Central Michigan landing its first-ever spot in the AP Top 25.
The Trojans have an opportunity to further validate their Sun Belt Conference championship when they face MAC champion Central Michigan in the GMAC Bowl on Jan. 6. However, it will be a difficult endeavor.
"They've got a great football team," Troy coach Larry Blakeney said of the Chippewas, "but we're really looking forward to seeing how we match up with them. "Hopefully we'll have a good plan in place and go out and execute it."
Troy (9-3) lost to MAC foe Bowling Green to open the season, but it has won nine of its last 10 games.
"Bowling Green had a good read on usm and we didn't know a lot about them," Blakeney said. "We're a lot better football team now, but we'll have to be against Central Michigan."
The Trojans are making their third bowl appearance in the last four seasons.
"It's a great opportunity for our program," Blakeney said. "You've got the Sun Belt champion and the MAC champion going at it. Our players are looking forward to it, and we understand what it's going to take to be successful."
Scouting the Offense: The Trojans have the top passing offense in the Sun Belt, led by record-setting senior quarterback Levi Brown. Troy is very deep at receiver, which makes defending its passing game difficult. The offensive line has been outstanding, and the running game has made a lot of progress the second half of the season.
Scouting the Defense: Troy's defense probably didn't play at the level most expected, but it didn't matter against Sun Belt opponents, as the Trojans went undefeated in league play. The front seven is the best in the conference, but a young secondary struggled at times. It will have to play at a higher level in the bowl game.
Injury Report: Senior PK Sam Glusman (quad injury) was replaced in the middle of the season by freshman Michael Taylor, who had made 9-of-10 field-goal attempts. Senior DB Courtland Fuller (torn ACL) suffered the injury in the season finale at Louisiana-Lafayette. Junior QB Jamie Hampton (torn ACL) took a redshirt season. He was the starter in 2008 before suffering the injury in Week Five. Senior DB Jorrick Calvin, who was expected to be a starting corner, missed the season due to academic reasons. Freshman WR Josh Jarboe sat out the last two games for non-injury related reasons.
Quote to Note: "I said way back when that whoever wins this conference would be undefeated. I knew then that it would be us, but I didn't say anything, and here we are."
-- Troy senior LB Bear Woods, to the Dothan Eagle, referring to the Trojans going 8-0 in Sun Belt Conference play.