We’re just a week away from the conference slate for the Central Michigan Chippewas, Eastern Michigan Eagles and West Michigan Broncos. And next week should be a doozy. The Chips host the Broncos in Mount Pleasant next Saturday, October 1. The game has been wildly lobbied and petitioned to have ESPN CollegeGameDay set up shop at Central next week, and it could be a launching pad for both teams to perhaps complete an undefeated regular season.
But for now, all three Directional Michigan schools have one more non-conference game before MAC play kicks off next week.
CENTRAL MICHIGAN CHIPPEWAS
Central arguably drew the short straw this week in terms of strength of opponent. They are on the road again against a Power 5 program. However, Virginia is not perceived as ‘power’ among the ACC. But by no means does that make it a gimme for the Chips and head coach John Bonamego.
Central has gotten to 3-0 thanks to a balanced and effective offense combined timely aggressive defense. What they can’t do is overlook the Cavaliers and already be thinking about Western Michigan at home next week. While Virginia is not as strong as a team compared to the first Power 5 team they faced on the road (W vs. Oklahoma State, 30-27), a pair of road victories against Power 5 schools improves the resumé of a Group of 5 team like CMU.
As for their opponent. Virginia (0-3) started off the season losing by more than two scores at home against FCS opponent Richmond. They’ve dropped the last two games on the road at Oregon and Connecticut respectively. Clearly they are not in a position to win this year. Clearly first-year head coach Bronco Mendenhall has a long road ahead of him trying to rebuild that program.
Kickoff is set for 12:30 p.m. ET on Saturday, September 24 and can be viewed on Fox Sports Detroit.
EASTERN MICHIGAN EAGLES
The Eastern Michigan Eagles know exactly the feeling that CMU’s opponent Virginia is going through, that feeling if being virtually uncompetitive for a rather long span. But very few programs have been as inept as EMU over recent years. That’s evident in the fact that should they win, the Eagles would already eclipse three wins on the season, something they haven’t done since 2011.
Hoping to prevent that and push EMU back to the .500 mark heading into conference play are the Cowboys of Wyoming. The Pokes are off to a 2-1 start in 2016 with victories over fellow MAC foe Northern Illinois (40-34 in Week 1) and FCS opponent UC-Davis (52-17 in Week 3), both at home. Their load road game, they got waxed by Nebraska 52-17.
So this match-up between the Eagles and Cowboys is one between a pair of middling programs with not the richest football history, hoping to gain momentum heading into conference play. They both sport similar resumés so far in 2016. Both teams picked up blowout victories over FCS foes, a second victory over a fellow Group of 5 program, and got pasted by Power 5 schools.
The Eagles actually host the Cowboys Friday night under the lights in Ypsilanti. You can catch that game at 7:30 p.m. ET on CBSSports Network.
WESTERN MICHIGAN BRONCOS
Like their rivals up in Mount Pleasant, the Broncos are hoping not to completely overlook their Week 4 opponent and already be thinking about the Chips. First thing’s first, they have to take care of business at home this weekend against Georgia Southern.
Now so of you may be thinking, “Georgia Southern? This should be a walk in the park for WMU, right?” Oh, but on the contrary, it will be a tough test for both teams. The Eagles of Georgia Southern, who are one of the handful of FBS programs to showcase a triple-option offense, are another one of those former FCS powers to make the jump to the FBS level and seemingly have success right away. They have six national championships, the first coming in 1985 and most recently in 2000. And from 1993-2002, the Eagles took home 11 Southern Conference championships. And in 2014, their first year as part of FBS, they took home the Sun Belt league title. They’ve won at least nine games in each of their first two seasons at the FBS and are off to a 3-0 start.
Western actually traveled down to Statesboro, Georgia and got taking to the cleaners by the Eagles, 42-17. Now the scene shifts to Kalamazoo, a pair of undefeated teams with bigger and better things on their mind come bowl season. This game is slated for Saturday night at 7 p.m. ET on ESPN3.