Football season is finally here, as action gets underway around the country on Thursday. Central Michigan comes into this season off a disappointing 2010 season that saw them fall to 3-9 overall. The 2nd year of the Dan Enos era hopes to erase those memories, and that all begins with South Carolina State visiting Mt. Pleasant, in the season opener for both teams. Kick-Off is set for 7pm.
We start with a quick glimpse and the Bulldogs, who are coached by Oliver Pough, and coming off a season that saw them finish 9-3 overall, 7-1 in the MEAC, tying for the conference title. SCSU made it to the FCS playoffs last season but were knocked out in the first round. The Bulldogs return 6 starters on offense, and 8 starters on defense, so there is a plenty of experience coming back. Making it even better, is the fact that so many return on defense, because under Pough, the Bulldogs have relied on their defense to keep them competitive.
Offensively, the Bulldogs return their leading rusher, Asheton Jordon, who averaged 5.8 ypc, and totaled 622 yards in the 9 games he appeared in. Lennel Elmore is the leading returning WR for SCSU, he had 48 catches for 595 yards a season ago. But the big problem for the Bulldogs is breaking in a new quarterback, as last seasons starter Malcom Long was lost to graduation. Derrick Wiley is expected to start the year at QB for the Bulldogs, and in extremely limited playing time, he went 10-14 for 103 yards, 1 TD, and 0 INT last season. SCSU also looks to fill the void at Left Tackle, as Johnny Culbreath left, and was drafted in the 7th round of the NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.
As mention earlier, South Carolina State is lead by their defense, particularly their ability to pressure the quarterback. The Bulldogs are lead by the return of their leading tackler Donovan Richards. He racked up 98 tackles last season, in addition to 12 tackles for loss, and 6 sacks. Another player CMU must keep their eye on is Pat Washington, who only had 48 tackles, but 17 were for loss, and 8 were sacks.
For CMU this will be a solid early test to see how their rebuilt offensive line performs. According to CMU Insider Justin Hoff, the CMU projected starting offensive line averages 6-6, 299lbs. Enos has said in the preseason that one of the goals for the team this year is to run the ball better than it did last year, and not be forced to throw it as often, so this is also a chance for the Chippewas to try and set the tone for the season with their running game. Paris Cotton, Zurlon Tipton, and Tim Phillips all figure to see plenty of action Thursday night.
One thing to watch will be how Radcliff handles some of the potential pressure he may face Thursday night. In many cases last year he looked hesitant under pressure, and would often hold onto the ball too long. The Bulldogs have a good pass rush, and should be a good test to see how much Radcliff has progressed in his second season as the starting QB.
On defense, the Chippewas will be looking to solidify the linebacking corps with the loss of Matt Berning and Nick Bellore to graduation. Armond Staten is the only returning LB, so they will look to build around him. This will also be a chance for some of the incoming freshman DBs to make an impact and possibly make a statement to the coaches. The CMU defensive backfield returns 4 players with starting experience, but only 2 played significant minutes.
Prediction: South Carolina State is a good FCS team, but should not give the Chippewas too many problems, especially having to replace the two most important positions on the offensive side of the ball. This game is mainly about making sure the CMU offense is where it needs to be, and trying to find playmakers on the defensive side of the ball. 41-14 Central Michigan.
The is no TV coverage, but those wanting to listen in can find the game on 95.3 WCFX either in the Mt. Pleasant area, or streaming online.