The football team steps onto the field at Michigan Stadium on Saturday as significant underdogs.
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have the Chippewas pegged as a 31.5-point underdog, ultimately signifying a major upset — it would be the biggest in school history — should they walk out of Ann Arbor with a win.
But it won’t be easy, as head coach Dan Enos and the players have said this week.
“We have to be able to run the football on offense, stay two-dimensional, not allow them to force into third-and-longs,” Enos said Wednesday during a radio interview with The Huge Show on 107.3 WBBL-FM. “On the flip side of it all, we’ve got to get them in some third-and-long situations and try and eliminate them to run the football. I know they’re going to try and pound the ball at us and be physical, play-action and get big plays that way.”
Staying balanced has been an offensive approach Enos has preached since coming to CMU in 2010, and he has slowly molded his team to fit that strategy. The Chippewas struggled with the run-game prior to last season, when running back Zurlon Tipton rushed for nearly 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns, the first time a running back has rushed for 1,000 yards since Ontario Sneed in 2005.
On Saturday, the run-game will become CMU’s bread and butter. If Tipton can find some openings and run the ball effectively, they might be able to keep it close for a bit.
Junior quarterback Cody Kater remains the team’s biggest question mark. Which Kater will show up to the Big House: the one who lit up the field in high school and at Grand Rapids Community College, or a first-year starter who looks like a deer in headlights?
He has options at wideout, with junior standout receivers Titus Davis and Courtney Williams, along with veteran Jerry Harris and sophomore Andrew Flory, who emerged late in his freshman season.
“The big thing for Cody is not to win the game by yourself,” Enos said during the Mid-American Conference coaches teleconference. “Do what you’ve been coached to do. Read your keys, get us in the right run plays, don’t try to be a hero and win the game. Just let the game come to you and take whatever they give you, and let your instincts and athletic ability take over.”
It was revealed earlier this week that Michigan will be without senior safety Courtney Avery, who is out for the first two weeks after having arthroscopic knee surgery. Sophomore Jarrod Wilson is expected to replace him, but expect to see coach Brady Hoke use more than one player to fill that spot.
Aside from typical bumps and bruises from preseason camp (sophomore tackle Jabari Dean, sophomore running back Saylor Lavallii and redshirt back Martez Walker), no one for CMU is expected to sit out Saturday’s game due to injury.
CMU (0-0) vs. Michigan (0-0)
Kickoff: 3:30 p.m.
TV/Radio: Big Ten Network/95.3 WCFX-FM
For in-game updates during Saturday’s game, follow @CMLIFE_football.