Central Michigan aiming for major upset at Michigan
Appalachian State did it in 2007.
Toledo managed the same feat in 2008.
Can Central Michigan pull off a similar historical upset victory at the University of Michigan in 2013?
The Chippewas enter Saturday’s 3:42 p.m. kickoff at the Big House in Ann Arbor as a massive 31.5-point underdog according to odds in Las Vegas, not exactly surprising news even if the point spread might seem a bit excessive to some.
To put it in some perspective, Central Michigan was a 14.5-point underdog last season at Iowa when it shocked a lot of people with its last-second 32-31 victory on a David Harman field goal.
But with the Appalachian State and Toledo upsets at the Big House within the last seven years at the Big House plus what the Chippewas achieved at Iowa in 2012, there is always a chance.
That’s sports. That’s college football.
“Any time you get to play on national TV against a Big Ten team, I think it is a great opportunity,” Enos said. “Our team plays Division I football to play in environments like this in front of big crowds and this type of fanfare, so everybody is really excited. Everybody’s excited about playing a different team rather than ourselves. I can tell you that.”
Central Michigan comes into the 2013 campaign with some serious momentum after winning four in a row to end last year, including the 24-21 victory over Western Kentucky in which it was much smaller underdog (3.5 points) than it will be Saturday at U-M.
On the other hand, the Wolverines finished 8-5 a year ago and lost in a down-to-the-wire finish to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl. Overall, it was a season Michigan head coach Brady Hoke has gone on record many times calling “unacceptable” and that any year U-M does not win the Big Ten Conference championship is considered “a failure”.
But while Michigan is very well one of the favorites for the Big Ten title, it could be a couple years before the Wolverines enter the discussion for a national championship as Hoke’s recruiting classes in 2014 and ‘15 are currently among the top ones in the country.
As for this year, U-M has plenty to replace due to graduation and injuries but Enos points out that it is the norm all around college football.
“I say this all the time, but every year in college football there is graduation,” said Enos. “Guys leave. There are always those unknowns about who is stepping up and who is replacing them. I think they have question marks just like we do, just like any team in college football does. I see a very solid football team and I think they are very well-coached. They are big and getting bigger. I think Coach Hoke has made that an emphasis since he arrived there to get bigger and more athletic and you can see that on their roster right now.”
Michigan has won 17 consecutive games at Michigan Stadium and is 109-21-3 all-time in season openers. The Wolverines are 3-0 all-time against Central Michigan, the last meeting a 41-17 final at the Big House in 2006.
Getting his first career start at quarterback for the Chippewas will be junior Cody Kater, who won the well-documented three-way quarterback battle this fall. Kater saw action in two games in 2012, going 2-for-4 for 12 yards.
Kater’s backup quarterback, sophomore Alex Niznak, could also potentially see some snaps although Enos is understandably keeping that information under wraps.
“He might (play). We’ll see,” Enos said.
Zurlon Tipton, who was named to the Maxwell Award and Doak Walker Award watch lists in July, will almost certainly be a focal point of the Michigan defense as the Chippewas break in a new starting quarterback. Tipton rushed for 1,492 yards and 19 touchdowns last year, while also picking up another touchdown through the air.
Enos is well aware that Michigan will likely key in on Tipton.
“I’m sure they want to make us one-dimensional like any team would,” Enos said. “Especially with a guy coming back for us who rushed for 1,500 yards. I’m sure it’s going to be a focus trying to get us in passing situations. They do a very good job on third down with their sub packages and those kind of things to get pressure on the quarterback. It’s very important that we remain two-dimensional and it is going to be a huge key to the game in my opinion.”
Tipton certainly has the attention of Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison.
Here is what Mattison had to say in a recent story done by Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press: “Very good running back. I’m talking about a very good running back in the country, compared to other good running backs, not a good running back compared to the Big Ten,” U-M defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said this week. “Great cutback runner, and he is a very physical back. He earns a reputation. You watch him, he’s running down the sideline and a lot of guys would step out of bounds. He turns back in to try and hit somebody. He’s a very physical running back.”
After the setbacks to Appalachian State and Toledo under previous coaching regimes, do not expect the Wolverines to come out with anything less than a full focus Saturday as it opens its season with big goals in mind.
Hoke won’t allow anything less than full effort and he made it clear during Tuesday’s Big Ten teleconference that he has the utmost respect for the Central Michigan football program.
“Well, you know, Dan has done a really good job,” said Hoke. “I think you look at how they play and I know some of the coaches who are on that staff and have a lot of respect for them – Mike Cummings, up front – and you watch those guys play and the pad level. Then defensively, I think they do a nice job scheme-wise, and they do a nice job in the effort that they play with. They’ve got a veteran team, I think eight starters on one side of the ball and seven on the other, so they’ve got guys who have been in big games. They played a great bowl game, beat a very good Western Kentucky team, so obviously that program has continued to grow under Dan’s leadership.”
To their credit, the Chippewas have ended every practice leading up to Saturday’s showdown by huddling up and yelling “Beat Michigan” in unison.
Central Michigan might have to play a near-perfect game for it to happen that way, but in the world of sports the word impossible is outlawed.
“The one thing we do with our opponent is talk about ways we can wins,” added Enos. “Things we need to do to win. This is no different. I know they may have lost five games last year, but the bowl game was a last-second game and had many other close games. I really thought they improved as the season went on. I think they are a good football team and preseason ranked in the top 20 for a reason.”
The game will air live on the Big Ten Network, while it can also be listened to on the IMG Sports Network (WCFX 95.3 FM and WUPS 98.5 FM).