Head football coach Dan Enos said he is asked every summer about the difficult schedule his team has to endure.
This summer was no different. And for good reason.
Central Michigan faces two BCS schools, a team that went to a BCS bowl last season, and it has to play seven games on the road.
The Chippewas will be presented their biggest audience and most difficult test in its first game of the season against the University of Michigan at the Big House on Aug. 31.
Enos has had his own success in Ann Arbor, beating then-No. 1 Michigan Wolverines 28-27 in 1990 as the starting quarterback for the Michigan State University Spartans. But it won’t be easy for his team, who is 0-3 all-time against the No. 17 Wolverines.
“I have the upmost respect for their program, for Brady Hoke, his staff,” Enos said. “It’s going to be good for our football team to go play in that environment on the opening week and say ‘Hey guys, you’re on national TV and you’re going to have 100,000 in the stands.’”
Senior cornerback Avery Cunningham has connections with a team that detests Michigan in Ohio State, which he rooted for as a child growing up in Cincinnati.
“I definitely hold a grudge against Michigan. Being from Ohio, I really don’t like them,” he said. “I always watched the Ohio State versus Michigan rivalry. That’s probably the biggest rivalry in college football, so I definitely watched that, and still watch it to this day.”
Cunningham and his teammates have another chance to prove themselves against what could be a top-25 opponent on Oct. 19 against Northern Illinois, which finished No. 22 in the final AP Top 25 Poll last season and came in as the No. 38 team in the USA Today Poll.
At least the Chippewas will be in the friendly confines of Kelly/Shorts Stadium on Homecoming against the Huskies and also on Sept. 21 against Toledo, who also received a vote in the USA Today Poll and has been high in the standings of the West Division over the years.
In a bit of an oddity in the schedule, CMU has two and a half weeks off after the NIU game and then plays an all-too-typical weekday game at Ball State on Wednesday, Nov. 6.
“I don’t mind it, because it gives our conference exposure,” Enos said. “My whole thing on weekday games is this – don’t make us play on short rest. I think that puts the student athletes at risk.”
Senior running back Zurlon Tipton said, as a player, he could not care less when he plays.
“Whatever day you play football, you’re blessed and you’re just happy about playing on that day,” he said. “So if it was on a Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, I’m excited just to play the game.”
The team will travel to Kalamazoo on Nov. 16 to play Western Michigan, which is under new head coach P.J. Fleck.
Tipton, the workhorse for the offense, has a 2-2 record in his time at CMU against its rival as he and his teammates look to bring the Victory Cannon back to Mount Pleasant.
“You definitely don’t want to have a losing record against anybody,” Tipton said. “With this win, I’ll definitely enjoy it for the rest of my life and I’ll be like, ‘yeah I went out on a win against Western.’”