Central Michigan is two seasons removed from a 9-4 record and a win over the Pac-12's Washington State in 2021 and four seasons past a MAC Title game appearance and bowl game in 2019. The program has 24 games in four seasons under former Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain. But last season was a bit of a step backwards.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN 2023 PREVIEW
THE CONF.: Mid-American Conference (MAC)
2022 RECORD: 4-8 (no postseason)
CONF. FINISH: Tied for 4th in MAC West
HEAD COACH: Jim McElwain (5th year at CMU - 24-21; 11th year overall - 68-48)
ALL-STAR CANDIDATES: Deiyantai Powell-Woods, Sr./OG (29 career games); Donte Kent, Jr./CB (124 career tackles); Robi Stuart, Sr./DT (Career: 104 tackles, 19 TFLs); Jacques Bristol, Sr./DT (Career: 100 tackles, 20 TFLs); Kyle Moretti, Jr./LB (142 career tckles); Trey Jones, Jr./S (Career: 122 tackles)
THE NEWCOMER: Stephan Bracey, Soph./WR (Wisconsin transfer)
The defense looks pretty good, showcasing top-half talent at all three key position groups — and clearly one of the top linebacking corps, led by Kyle Moretti. If you're looking for some gritty defensive play, this may be your team. The Chippewas are one of the top MAC teams in terms of recent consistency, going 43-35 in the past decade, and playing sound defense.
Offensively, long-time head coach Chuck Martin has some rebuilding to do. QB Jase Bauer is just a sophomore and only played sparingly last year (435 yards passing, 1 TD, 5 INTs). The top rusher from last year is gone, and the top two receivers are gone, but the offensive line could be a strength.
THE KEY GAME AND WHY
The Chippewas play host to Eastern Michigan on Sept. 30, and that could be a pivotal matchup that may play a key part in any chance in a bowl game this year. Central Michigan has won 10 of the past 14 games against its in-state MAC rivals, but lost last season by 19 points at Eastern Michigan. This is a key game to determine whether CMU is in the upper echelon of the MAC.
THE TOUGHEST GAME AND WHY
Trips to Michigan State and Notre Dame are impossible, but when it comes to in-conference matchups? There's no way to ignore the home game on Friday night, Nov. 24 — when the defending conference champion Toledo Rockets come to Mount Pleasant to face the 'Was a home.
THE CHANCES OF MAKING CONF. TITLE GAME
Likely not very strong. Toledo is the king of the MAC West Division and there's no reasons to think that won't continue. They are very strong. Granted, CMU does have both Northern Illinois (Halloween night) and Toledo (Nov. 24) at home for weekday matchups, so when it comes to playing some of the tougher division opponents, the 'Was at least have them at home if it turns out they are big upstarts.
One of the biggest problems is the non-conference schedule, when it comes to bowl-game potential. As stated above, money-making road-game trips to Michigan State and Notre Dame are guaranteed losses. But even the road trip to South Alabama is going to be tough, as that's one of the top Sun Belt Conference teams — and honestly? FCS New Hampshire is even pretty damned good this year. For those hoping three non-conference wins are possible? You're wrong. That makes bowl-game potential tough, so if CMU want to get in, it will have to do some serious plowing in the MAC to hit six wins. Think five wins here.
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