#90 Central Michigan Football 2016 Preview

Central Michigan Chippewas
Overall Rank: #90
#5 Mid-American
There were so many reasons why Central Michigan should have had a terrible 2015 campaign. There was a lot of departed talent, Coach John Bonamego was a late hire so he missed the recruiting cycle, plus Bonamego hadn’t coached at the collegiate level in a long, long time. So there were certainly many reasons for the Chippewas to struggle in 2015. But that did not happen. Instead, CMU was very good and very consistent for a young team. They tied for the MAC West title and ended up with a seven win season. With the young team growing up, this group should be even better.
2015 Record: 7-6, 6-2
2015 Bowl: Quick Lane Bowl vs. Minnesota (L 14-21)
Coach: John Bonamego (7-6 at Central Michigan, 7-6 overall)
Offensive Coordinator: Morris Watts
Defensive Coordinator: Greg Colby
Returning Leaders:
Rushing: Jahray Hayes, RB, 324 yards
Passing: Cooper Rush, QB, 3,848 yards
Receiving: Jesse Kroll, WR, 866 yards
Tackles: Tony Annese, DB, 84
Sacks: Tyree Waller, LB, 2.0
Interceptions: Tony Annese, DB, 2
Other Key Returnees: RB Romello Ross, WR Anthony Rice, WR Mark Chapman, WR Corey Willis, LB Malik Fountain, LB Nathan Ricketts, DB Josh Cox, K Brian Eavey
Key Losses: RB Martez Walker, TE Ben McCord, OL Nick Beamish, OL Ramadan Ahmeti, DB Kavon Frazier, DL Blake Serpa
In a conference that can score some points, the Chippewas’ defense was impressive. They ranked 24th in the country in pass defense, 29th in rush defense and 16th in total defense. The line has a bit of retooling to do with the loss of end Blake Serpa, but the hope is Joe Ostman, who missed 2015 with an injury, can slide into his place as the team’s most dangerous pass rusher. At linebacker, sophomore Malik Fountain could be a breakout star after recording 51 tackles as a freshman. With Nathan Ricketts, Tyree Waller and Jeff Perry also back, the linebacker corps should be a strength for this team. However, it is not as strong as the secondary. Safety Kavon Frazier is gone after leading the team with 108 tackles, but Tony Annese is a great safety and cornerbacks Josh Cox and Amri Coleman are also back. If the front seven can get more pressure on the opposing quarterback, this will easily be the best pass defense in the MAC. CMU will not have any trouble throwing the ball themselves though. Quarterback Cooper Rush threw for 3,848 yards and 25 touchdowns and receivers Jesse Kroll, Anthony Rice, Mark Chapman and Corey Willis are back after having great seasons in 2015.  
There are some potential problems with the offense though. Central Michigan passed so much because the run game was non-existent. Martez Walker was the team’s top rusher with a mere 373 yards. And now he is gone. There is guarded optimism about Romello Ross though. He was thrown into the fire as a freshman and rushed for 247 yards over the last six games of the season, including a 100 yard effort against Minnesota in the Quick Lane Bowl. He could be the answer at running back and at least be a much needed threat to run the ball. But there are questions on the line too. The unit was not very good last year, but center Nick Beamish and tackle Ramadan Ahmeti need to be replaced. The offense proved to be alright even when the line was not performing well in 2015, but it could get worse in 2016.
The Bottom Line:
There is potential here for a great year in Mount Pleasant. The schedule is not very kind though and if this CMU team is anything like they were last year, they just cannot beat good teams. The offense is too one-dimensional to fool good teams and the defense is not good enough to make up for it. And the slate this year has more good teams on it. The MAC West is tough with Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan. On top of that, CMU plays Ohio from the East and Oklahoma State and Virginia in non-conference play. If the Chippewas are not good enough to beat any of those teams, they have no margin for error when it comes to bowl eligibility. With a tough MAC this year, there may not be enough bowls for MAC teams and, as it looks now, Central Michigan is on the outside looking in, but six wins is a very reasonable goal and there should be an open bowl somewhere else for CMU to slide into.
Projected Bowl: None
2015 Team Stats:
Rushing Offense: 101.3 (124th in nation, 13th in conference)
Passing Offense: 300.4 (19, 2)
Total Offense: 401.7 (63, 5)
Scoring Offense: 25.8 (88, 7)
Rushing Defense: 139.2 (29, 3)
Pass Defense: 193.0 (24, 1)
Total Defense: 332.2 (16, 2)
Scoring Defense: 22.0 (28, 3)
Turnover Margin: 0.15 (51, 5)
Sacks: 1.08 (123, 13)
Sacks Allowed: 2.15 (68, 7)