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Chips looking for 2 straight MAC titles

Dan-LeFevour

Central Michigan QB Dan LeFevour can join Marshall's Chad Pennington in leading teams to two straight MAC titles.

Carlos Osorio / AP Enlarge

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. - Dan LeFevour might only be 15 months into his college football career, but he's already got a chance to do something that NFL starters Ben Roethlisberger, Byron Leftwich and Bruce Gradkowski have never done.

If Central Michigan beats Miami of Ohio in this morning's Mid-American Conference championship game, the Chippewas sophomore would join Chad Pennington as the only quarterback to win the conference title game in back-to-back seasons.

Pennington actually won three straight for Marshall from 1997-1999, and Leftwich almost joined him at the same school. He won in 2000 and 2002, but the Thundering Herd was beaten in the 2001 game by a Toledo team led by Chester Taylor's 188 yards rushing.

Last season, LeFevour threw for 314 yards and three touchdowns as Central Michigan beat Ohio 31-14, and he thinks he's got a great chance to join Pennington in the record books.

"We have a lot of options in how we can move the ball, and a lot of confidence in our front line," he said. "That means there are a lot of ways we can do things out there."

LeFevour was named the MAC Offensive Player of the Year earlier this week, not only because he threw for 3,175 yards and 22 touchdowns, but because he added 838 yards rushing and 15 more scores.

"We know very well that we're going to be facing an outstanding offense," Miami coach Shane Montgomery said. "It all starts with Dan. He's the best offensive player in the MAC, and that says a lot. He can beat you with his arm and he can beat you with his legs, and he's got a lot of explosive players out there with him."

LeFevour provides stability for a Central Michigan program that lost head coach Brian Kelly to Cincinnati after last season's championship game.

Chippewas coach Butch Jones was an assistant coach at Central from 1998-2004 and helped recruit LeFevour before going to West Virginia for two seasons, so he's familiar with the league.

"They are going to pose a great challenge for us," Jones said of the RedHawks. "They are extremely talented on defense, and they've got as much skill on offense as anyone we've faced in the MAC this season."

While Central Michigan leads the league in scoring offense, it will be facing the MAC's best scoring defense in Miami.

"I think every team's defense feels they should be able to carry the team," said RedHawks linebacker Clayton Mullins, the MAC's defensive player of the year.

For Miami, the challenge will be to overcome a slew of injuries in its offensive backfield. Cory Jones is Miami's fifth starting tailback, while sophomore Daniel Raudabaugh replaced Mike Kokal at quarterback.

"It's important that we had a lot of depth, because when we've lost a couple players at a position, we've still had people who could step in and take over," Montgomery said.

Still, Montgomery is worried about his team's offense. It only beat Akron 7-0 on Nov. 14, then struggled in a 38-29 loss to Ohio on Nov. 24.

"We can move the ball, but we've hurt ourselves with mistakes," he said. "Against Central, we're going to have to find a way to score with the ball, because they don't need much time to put points on the board."

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