If you had told Central Michigan Chippewas fans in 2015 when John Bonamego was beginning his tenure in Mount Pleasant that the first two seasons would compile a .500 record and two bowl appearances, I have to believe that most would have taken that on the spot. As 2017 opens, though, a new thing exists in Mount Pleasant: expectations.
Bonamego and company now find themselves unable to play the underdog card, and not just in Thursday’s season-opener against FCS opponent Rhode Island. The expectations surrounding “Coach Bono” and the Chips range far beyond an opening game victory against an outgunned FCS squad. The Chips are the trendy pick for those looking for an anyone-but-Toledo champion for the Mid-American conference, and with fifteen returning starters it’s not a crazy pick. The schedule is challenging, QB Cooper Rush is gone, and there are questions about the defense, but Thursday’s game should tell fans, supporters, and prognosticators whether the Chips are real or really overvalued.
Rhode Island comes into Mount Pleasant with a considerably unpleasant recent track record. 2016 saw the Rams finish 2-9, which was actually an improvement over the prior two seasons, each with one victory. Head coach Jim Fleming’s career record at URI is 4-30, so Chips fans worried about a standout FCS team springing an upset on the road may want to have a Coke and a smile and in the words of Aaron Rodgers, RELAX.
It’s the classic FBS/FCS matchup and one that CMU should be able to handle easily. For Chips fans, Thursday looks to be a solid night of football in Mount Pleasant, and the opening of a season that should see the Chips contend for the MAC West.
The pertinent information:
Kickoff time: 7:00PM
Stream: Watch ESPN app, pending cable provider
Radio: Central Michigan IMG Sports Network, streaming on CMUChippewas.com
Weather: Sunny, 64*
Line: Not available for FBS/FCS matchups