Expectations for the Central Michigan Chippewas are low, to say the least. Last year, CMU suffered through a 1-11 season that was epitomized by a 51-13 loss to Toledo in their season finale, after which former head coach John Bonamego was fired. The Chippewas went 0-8 in their own Mid-American Conference, with their lone win on the season coming against the University of Maine. CMU’s search to replace Bonamego concluded with the hire of Jim McElwain. McElwain most recently coached wide receivers at the University of Michigan, with previous head coaching stints at Colorado State and Florida.
McElwain’s team is anchored by transfers from more prestigious schools and home-grown veteran talent. On the offensive end, the spotlight is firmly on former Houston and Tennessee quarterback Quinten Dormady. The redshirt senior has underperformed since his freshman year at Tennessee.
Michigan native Kalil Pimpleton is the other transfer in the spotlight. After an unimpressive stint at Virginia Tech, Pimpleton transferred to CMU and is now eligible to play after sitting out a year. The sophomore receiver played in five games for Virginia Tech, and got one carry for four yards. Coaches are still excited about his potential, as he was named the Muskegon Chronicle Offensive Player of the Year in both 2015 and 2016.
Running back Jonathan Ward is one of the few proven talents on the roster. The senior from Kankanee, Illinois was the Chippewas’ leading rusher in 2017, but tallied just 200 yards in 2018. Despite the down year, Ward still managed 1000 scrimmage yards two years ago and looks to be the featured back in the CMU offense.
On the defensive end, Central Michigan loses a significant amount of production. Sack leader Mike Danna and team leader in both interceptions and tackles Malik Fountain have left the team, with the former transferring to the University of Michigan and the latter graduating.
Last week, the Chippewas matched their win total from last year in a 38-21 victory over the Albany Great Danes. Dormady completed 27 of 37 passes for 285 yards and three touchdowns and connected with Pimpleton for one of them. Ward tallied 211 yards on 25 touches but no touchdowns. Kicker Ryan Tice also drilled a 50 yard field goal.
Looking forward to their matchup against Wisconsin, it’s unlikely that CMU fans will have as much to cheer about. Wisconsin’s defense shutout South Florida last week, and Central Michigan’s inability to force a turnover or sack Albany’s quarterback does not bode well for them against a Badger team with an elite offensive line and the best running back in the country.
Badger fans shouldn’t expect a shutout, though. CMU’s improved offense is nowhere near elite and likely won’t win them any conference titles. It is good enough to have a special day, and BYU taught Wisconsin last year that all it takes is one special day to pull off a major upset.