If there is a bowl matchup that best illustrates life in a COVID-19 world, this is the one. Originally, it was the Miami Hurricanes who were slated to play Washington State but COVID issues within the program led the Hurricanes to withdraw from the game. It wasn’t until a similar scenario resulted in Central Michigan was left without an opponent in the Arizona Bowl when Boise State opted out of the game. Rather than wait to see if the Arizona Bowl could line up another opponent, CMU jumped at the chance for a bigger payday by playing in the Sun Bowl.
Something that could be of interest to those who bet online, Central Michigan has lost its last five bowl games since beating Western Kentucky in the 2012 Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
Receiver Donovan Ollie, who has 22 catches, and defensive back Kaleb Ford-Dement are among the Texas natives on the Washington State squad.
Washington State came into the season with an expected total of 5 wins, which was fourth among six teams in the Pac-12 North Division but the Cougars finished second in the division, a game behind Oregon.
- Game: Central Michigan (8-4) vs. Washington State (7-5)
- Location: Sun Bowl, El Paso, Texas
- Day/Time: Friday, December 31, 12 p.m. ET
- Television: CBS
Michigan Chippewas vs. Washington State Cougars
|Central Michigan||+7½ (-110)||+235||57½ (-110o)|
|Washington State||-7½ (-110)||-275||57½ (-110u)|
Nation’s leading rusher leader Central Michigan into Sun Bowl
Lew Nichols ripped through MAC defenses with relative ease during his redshirt freshman season and he will try to do the same against Washington State out of the Pac-12.
After being held under 100 yards in two of the first three games of the season, Nichols got on a role. Other than a tough outing in a loss to Miami (Ohio) when he managed just 21 yards on 12 carries, Nichols ended the regular season with eight 100-yard games over the last nine contests.
Nichols had 12 touchdowns over the last five games and in those contests he ran for 192, 163, 215, 219, and 194 yards to take over the FBS rushing lead.
Nichols averaged 39.7 carries over the last three games. He has 311 carries for 1710 yards and 15 touchdowns. The Chippewas went 7-2 this season when he ran for more than 100 yards.
He will be facing a Washington State team that was seventh in the Pac-12 in rushing defense allowing 162.2 yards per game.
Central Michigan is 5-1 in its last six games against the college football odds.
Running back Kobe Lewis is questionable. Defensive back Dishon McNary is out. McNary had 15 tackles and four pass breakups in four games this season. Quarterback Jacob Sirmon, who began his career in the Pac-12 playing at Washington before transferring to Central Michigan has transferred to Northern Colorado.
Three Players to Watch
Redshirt freshman running back Lew Nichols is the nation’s leading rusher with 1,710 yards in 12 games and is also fourth on the team with 38 catches.
Freshman quarterback Daniel Richardson has thrown for 2374 yards with 23 touchdowns and five interceptions. He attempted a total of eight passes in the first two games of the season. He had 15 touchdown passes and five interceptions as Central Michigan won six of its last seven games. Ironically, Central Michigan replaced Miami in the Sun Bowl and Richardson is a Miami native.
Senior defensive lineman Troy Hairston leads Central Michigan with 13½ tackles for loss and 6½ sacks. He has 30½ tackles for loss and 14 sacks in his career.
Washington State Looking to End on High Note
It’s been quite the season for Washington State.
Head coach Nick Rolovich and four assistant coaches were fired after refusing the COVID-19 vaccine. The move came just days after the Cougars defeated Stanford to post its third win in a row and improved to 4-3.
Rolovich applied for a religious exemption that if granted would have allowed him to continue to coach Washington State. The application was denied and when Washington Gov. Jay Inslee set a mid-October deadline for all state employees to be vaccinated, Rolovich’s tenure with the Cougars came to an abrupt end.
The Associated Press reported that Rolovich was the highest-paid state employee in Washington with a salary in excess of $3 million in a deal that had four years remaining. Assistant coaches Ricky Logo, John Richardson, Craig Stutzmann, and Mark Weber were also let go a few days before Washington State was set to play nationally ranked Brigham Young.
Defensive coordinator Jake Dickert was named interim head coach and led Washington State to three wins in the final five games of the regular season including the program’s first win over Washington since 2012 with the 27-point margin of victory the largest in the Apple Cup in the program’s history. The interim tag was removed and Dickert was named the head coach on November 27.
Rolovich is suing the university for wrongful termination.
Former Washington State coach Nick Rolovich will be suing the university for illegal termination, his attorney said.
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) October 20, 2021
Washington State has covered against the Las Vegas odds in eight of its last nine games.
Defensive back Armauni Archie and receiver Brandon Gray are out.
Three Players to Watch
Running back Max Borghi has rushed for 880 yards and has a chance to become the first Washington State player to rush for 1,000 yards in a season since Jerome Harrison in 2005. He finished the regular season with back-to-back 100-yard games. His 139 yards and two touchdowns led Washington State past Arizona as the Cougars became bowl eligible. He had 129 yards and two more TDs in a 40-13 win over Washington.
Receiver Calvin Jackson has 63 catches for 946 yards and went over 100 yards in wins over Arizona State and Arizona.
Linebacker Jahad Wood has 100 tackles giving him 415 over his five seasons. He also has 35.5 tackles for loss and 95 sacks in his career.
Betting on the Game
The ability to force turnovers has helped both teams become bowl eligible. Central Michigan is +5 in turnover margin in its eight wins and -3 in the four losses. Washington State leads the Pac-12 with 13 fumble recoveries and 27 turnovers forced.
Central Michigan leads the MAC with touchdowns on 70% of its red-zone trips.
The total set by the college football spreads has gone over in four of Washington State’s last five games.
Washington State has lost four of the six games when the game went under the total.
Central Michigan is 7-1 when scoring at least 30 points during the 2021 season.