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We are truly blessed here in the state of Michigan. Football is thriving in this state and there are more than just the two biggest powers in the state to thank for that. We in the Mitten State have four FBS schools that are solid programs and each school is undefeated as of the writing of this piece. Not only are the Michigan Wolverines and Michigan State Spartans getting it done as usual, but the Central Michigan Chippewas and Western Michigan Broncos from the Group of 5 are off to dynamite starts it 2016.
All four have all shown that the state of Michigan has football thriving.
Many would think of Pennsylvania, Texas, California, or Ohio as the best states for football. Yet we in Michigan know the truth; we have two directional schools that have beaten the likes of Illinois, Northwestern, and Oklahoma State.
Central Michigan has always had a very respectable and modest football program for some time now. Since 2009, they have toppled numerous Big Ten teams like Indiana, Iowa, Purdue and the aforementioned Spartans. The Chippewas have produced NFL talent Antonio Brown, Eric Fisher, Cullen Jenkins, Thomas Rawls, Joe Staley, and J. J. Watt (2007-08 before transferring to Wisconsin). That’s quite the list for a school that has only won three bowl games in its history, all coming in the previous ten seasons.
The Chips have also nine winning seasons since 2000, two of those seasons saw double-digit wins, and their lone appearance in the AP Top 25 Poll came in 2009 when they won 12 games. The three-time MAC champions have had big-name coaches like current Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly and current Tennessee head coach Butch Jones help put the program on the map.
Central Michigan has a lot of trophies in their case and have pumped out solid and consistent NFL talent in a bevy of positions. Despite losing some steam to the Broncos in recent years, second-year head coach John Bonamego has the Chippewas in a strong position again. They have the most impressive win possibly ever by a MAC school by going to Stillwater, OK to beat a Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma State, a program that has gone to ten straight bowl games and been ranked in the top 25 six times in that stretch.
Western Michigan respectively has eight winning seasons since 2000 with victories over Virginia, Iowa, Illinois, UConn, and Northwestern in that stretch. Some notable NFL talent come out of their program as well in the form of Jason Babin, Louis Delmas, Greg Jennings, and Tony Scheffler. The Broncos have had a trio of quality receivers play for them in the form of Jennings, All-American Jordan White, and MAC Freshman of the Year/potential 2016 All-American Corey Davis. Not to be forgotten is the recently-graduated Daniel Braverman, who ranks 6th all-time in school history with 2,499 receiving yards
The Broncos have had a more tumultuous tenure since 2000 than the Chippewas but the Broncos have had a strong resurgence under state-wide favorite P. J. Fleck. He has brought a solid brand to the Broncos program in the form of “Row the Boat”. WMU has real promise and have shown a lot of pride and quality performances under Fleck, continuing that in 2016 by beating a former 10-win team in Northwestern and completely outclassed Illinois in their home stadium.
Even the Eastern Michigan Eagles have started the year 2-1 despite their recent track record prompting rumors of a program shutdown. Kudos to Chris Creighton and his staff for still fighting the good fight in Ypsilanti. If they can somehow salvage four or five wins in 2016, that is a huge step forward for the program, considering how close to the death penalty they were. It’s going to be a steady uphill climb for anyone trying to bring the Eagles back from the dead, but an increased win total and better showing in some notable conference games will be plenty of positive signs moving forward in Ypsi.
Aside from the two directional schools doing a fine job representing the state of Michigan, MSU and U of M have proven to be the best in-state tandem in the modern college football world. The rivalry between these two schools has been heightened to national levels due to the “Trouble with the Snap” play and the constant hatred that has arisen in the 21st century between them. The schools have combined for six Big Ten conference titles, 16 Top 25 finishes, ten bowl victories, and ten double-digit win seasons. Players of the caliber of Braylon Edwards, LeVeon Bell, Kirk Cousins, Brandon Graham, Mike Hart, Jabrill Peppers, Darqueze Dennard, Jeremy Langford, and Domata Peko have graced the rivalry.
That all is stacked on top of Michigan State and Michigan (along with the dreaded Buckeyes) have turned the Big Ten East into one of the most daunting divisions in college football. Both schools tout two of the top five best coaches in the country along with an identifiable brand for both schools. They have the national prowess and the power to bring the likes of College GameDay to their campuses year after year. College GameDay featured the Spartans four times last year, has involved either MSU or U of M 38 times and visited a state of Michigan campus 20 times.
All of our schools here in Michigan are excelling. The national narrative may go the coasts or stick south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but we Michiganders know better. We know that Pure Michigan isn’t just our state’s tourism slogan, it’s a descriptor of the prowess and passion that our state has for our schools. From Mount Pleasant to Ann Arbor, we have the best state for college football and there is nothing anyone can do to stop the Mitten State.