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Central Michigan battled through a tough non-conference schedule last year en route to a 7-6 overall record to go with a 6-2 MAC record that saw them in a four-way tie. The Chippewas finished the season in a defensive slugfest in the Quick Lane Bowl against Minnesota, losing 21-14. With Cooper Rush back at quarterback, another bowl game and solid season should be expected from this team.
Cooper Rush (66.3% completion, 25 TDs, 11 INTs) was everything for this offense last year that was still pretty mediocre scoring 25.8 points per game. That's mainly because the running game was awful, going for just 101.3 yards per game and not having a back with more than 375 yards. That was due partly to injury and partly inexperience, but things should be different this season. Last year's starter Devon Spalding is back from injury and behind him is Romelio Ross, who came on late for the Chips, most notably rushing for 100 yards in the bowl game.
But once again, the offense will be led by the quarterback and Rush gets back his top wide out in Jesse Kroll (61 receptions, 866 yards, 4 TDs) to go with Anthony Rice (57 receptions, 595 yards, 5 TDs) and Mark Chapman (43 receptions, 559 yards).
The line loses two starters, and was the weak spot on this offense a year ago, which is somewhat of an anomaly as Central often has an NFL-caliber talent along the line. Any kind of improvement would be huge for this offense.
One of the more surprising things about CMU last year was the improved defense that allowed just 22 points per game. Outside of a high-scoring game against Western, they held everyone to 30 points or fewer. That included non-conference tests against OK State and MSU.
They lose a few playmakers, but return seven starters and shouldn't take much of a step back. The line has the fewest amount of starters returning, but Joe Ostman returns from injury and will keep this unit upright. Linebacker is set with experience in Nathan Ricketts and youth in Malik Fountain. Tony Annese leads the secondary at safety, but corner returns two starters, including future stud Amari Coleman.
John Bonamego had a lot of success in his first season as head coach and it wouldn't be surprising if Central reached similar levels. Unfortunately, the MAC West remains top heavy and the Chippewas have back-to-back road games at NIU and Toledo that will make winning the division tough. In addition, they open the MAC slate with Western. But outside of that, Central could win the rest. And in non-conference play, they may pick up two wins with Presbyterian and UNLV at home.
CMU's over/under at 5Dimes in July was at 8, so the bookmakers are expecting more from the Chips, although the under was at -215. It's hard to see them surpassing eight wins without a bowl victory, making the over an extremely risky bet. Then again, they have one of the better QBs in the conference, should have a better running game and the defense will be just as good.
2016 Central Michigan Chippewas Football Schedule
Sept. 1 vs. Presbyterian
Sept. 10 at Oklahoma State
Sept. 17 vs. UNLV
Sept. 24 at Virginia
Oct. 1 vs. Western Michigan
Oct. 8 vs. Ball State
Oct. 15 at Northern Illinois
Oct. 22 at Toledo
Oct. 29 vs. Kent State
Nov. 4 at Miami (OH)
Nov. 15 vs. Ohio
Nov. 22 at Eastern Michigan
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