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As the wheeling and dealing of bowl season begins, CMU remains optimistic

This week, after the conclusion of the regular season schedule, was a rollercoaster last season for head coach Dan Enos.

His 6-6 Central Michigan football team was in a bowl game, he was told. Then they were out. Then they were still out.

Then came the Sunday afternoon phone call from athletic director Dave Heeke, telling him they were in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.

This time around, with the Chippewas jostling for position with a similar 6-6 record, he’s trying not to pay attention to the speculation.

“It didn’t do me any good,” a laughing Enos said Tuesday evening. “I have a lot of people telling me this needs to happen and that needs to happen. Last year I heard all of that and none of it was true.”

Most projections have CMU out of the bowl picture, the victim of too many bowl-eligible teams and with not enough spots. As of Tuesday, 77 Football Bowl Subdivision teams were bowl eligible to play in 35 games with two others, Rutgers and Southern Methodist, both 5-6, playing Saturday. That means at least seven teams will be left out, making it more competitive than ever with programs trying to make a case for why they should be in the game.

Some will argue record and strength of schedule, neither of CMU’s strong suits. The Chippewas only have one win against an FBS opponent with a winning record, while their six wins came against teams with an overall winning percentage of .358 (it was .267 last year).

“We don’t control the schedule,” Enos said. “We’re 5-3 in our league, I know that. I think we got better as the year went on.”

Then there’s geography, a big sticking point with smaller bowls. This is where CMU can make inroads with its proven ability to draw a crowd, especially to the Pizza Bowl in Detroit. The Chippewas helped set the game’s attendance record, 60,624, in 2007 against Purdue.

CMU athletic director Dave Heeke, tasked with trying to juke CMU into a bowl, compared the bowl alignment to a chess game and the need to be a “step or two ahead.” He says he’s been tracking games for about three weeks now and has been in contact with several bowls about trying to get CMU in.

“You can’t predict anything,” Heeke said. “There are more teams eligible this year, quite frankly it’s as many as I remember, but there are a number of scenarios. Last year we took advantage of some things that we helped create and we’re going to try to do that again this year.”

Much like last year, CMU’s fate could rest on the shoulders of Northern Illinois. The Huskies (12-0, 8-0 MAC) play Bowling Green for the Mid-American Conference championship on Friday, one win away from their second consecutive BCS bowl appearance.

A loss would mean NIU would likely fall to one of the five MAC-affiliated bowls, effectively killing any chance of the Chippewas’ bowl hopes.

“We’re all rooting for NIU to make the BCS,”  Heeke said. “If they win, they deserve it. And that’s certainly one big component to the entire bowl scenario. It’s in the best interest of everyone that Northern Illinois make it to a BCS bowl.”

CMU, still unsure of its fate, took Monday and Tuesday off so players could focus on school while the coaches hit the recruiting trail. The players will workout Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before the real wheeling and dealing begins this weekend.

They remain optimistic. Could last year repeat itself?

“I definitely feel like we’ve got a shot,” Enos said. “I don’t think anybody really knows. There’s games to be played still, there’s a lot of situations to be looked at.

“The only thing that we can control right now is just trying to stay ready.”

One bowl set

CMU’s chances of making a bowl shrank just a little bit Tuesday as Tulane accepted an invite to play Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl on Dec. 21.

BYU (Kraft Fight Hunger, Dec. 27), Navy (Armed Forces, Dec. 30) and Arkansas State (GoDaddy, Jan. 2) have already locked themselves in for a bowl game, leaving 65 spots left.

Contact Aaron McMann: aaron.mcmann@gmail.com. Follow him on Twitter @AaronMcMann.

14 Comments

  1. So, Aaron, let me ask you: When you signed the dotted line to attend CMU, did you expect CMU to stand for Continuously Mediocre University?

  2. Florence Schneider says:

    The best way for CMU to return to a bowl game is by removing Dan Enos as head coach. Chippewa Nation has rejected him!

    CMU is NOT going to sell tickets with Enos as head coach.

    • unfortunately the AD thinks otherwise, worse attendance ever at K/S was set during the EMU game. Now it is confirmed Enos will be back. Absurd. Championship culture is a mere slogan. Ross and Heeke are clueless and are not listening to the fans and they certainly are not watching the product on the field.

  3. Fire Enos. The man doesn’t just wear it, he is a maroon.

  4. Looking at the bowl projections, it appears that CMU fans will likely have the worst of both worlds – a team with a record not good enough to earn a bowl bid but good enough for Heeke and the administration to keep Dan Enos around for another year.

    The turning point was blowing a 21 point lead against UNLV. Smart coaches make adjustments at halftime and throughout the game. Had the Chips won that game, they would have been a lock for a bowl.

    The Chips were lucky to beat Western, which was lucky to get past UMass and is the 5th worst team in the FBS.

  5. The Chips don’t deserve it, but if they went to Ford Field, I’d probably go to the game again and cheer them on. Hey, it’s a game that I can easily attend. So even if it is a poor bowl game, what else do I have better to do? I’ll be entertained.

  6. Listen to us…bowl eligible? Sweating out the likes of Tulane, Louisiana Lafayette and Nutsto U. How pathetic. And how interesting the workings of the mind when rationalizing a program in declivity. From the board to the president and supporters thereof: just exactly WHAT has Dan Enos done to lead a team into a bowl game except beat the very bottom feeders in FBS football? Dan Enos meant the end of CMU Football-ascending; worst of all for the players and our alumni. So, onward to the Carnation Milk Bowl and a net loss in revenue to be there.

  7. We need to start over.

    Obviously CMU can win with the right kind of coach, with a background in smaller college football. That calls for a guy not from the MSUs of the world.

    This style of coaching and offensive scheme is just not a winning approach.

    It is not personal, nobody is stupid, CMU just needs to look at the recent past to see what was successful. Then Just Do It.

    • The MSUs of the world just won the big ten championship! But, according to genius it is not a winning formula,must be a typical u of m fan. Enos is rebuilding this program just like coach D did at State. Heeke understands that when Enos came in he had a depleted roster. It is a slow process, not magic. They also finished with a better record in MAc play than last year without their best player most of the year and a freshmen Qb. Some of you are delusional and…. Cmu had great little run, but lost their best players and the bottom fell out. Now Niu is the king, but let’s see how good they will be without Lynch

      • Florence Schneider says:

        Pete –

        Your support for CMU football is admirable, however, you are the one who appears to be delusional.

        Here are some facts for you to consider.

        In 2010 when Enos arrived he inherited the following:

        1) A program that had won three championships in four years that had only graduated 13 seniors from the 12-2 MAC Champions

        2) 18 players who had starting experience from the 2009 season

        3) Recruiting classes from 2008 and 2009 that VanDelay Sports rating amount the finest, if not THE finest, in the MAC.

        In a December 2009 issue of CM Life, athletic director Dave Heeke said Enos’ predecessor built the program for “…sustained success.” Seeing what that Coach did at Cincy after leaving CMU, and is now doing at Tennessee, there is no reason to think Heeke was lying.

        You are correct that CMU did lose some significant talent after the 2009 season. It lost too much talent for Chippewa fans to expect the program to have continued to win championships. However, a CONSIDERABLE amount of talent did return. Clearly, more than enough to provide winning seasons and maintain the true “Championship Culture” Enos’ two predecessors had worked so hard to create.

        Unfortunately, Dan Enos arrived at CMU with nothing but contempt and disdain for everything his two predecessors had accomplished (pictures of the 2009 victory over MSU were promptly removed from the CMU football office). He has intentionally and irresponsibly torn down the program built for “sustained success.”

        As a CMU fan, I am insulted by his actions and his very presence on the sideline.

        FIRE DAN ENOS!

        • Florence did you take you medication today????? rant…….. Butch Jones went 4-8 his first year at Cinci with Kelly’s recruits. He won as usual off Kelly’s recruits. Cinci won 9 games this year without Butch, and Butch also lost to Toledo last year!Cmu scored almost twice as many points on Toledo that Cicni did! What is he doing at Tennesse they were not even competitive this year with the best o-line in the SEC! Who is delusional????? I gues I am because I am posting back to some ?? on a blog.

          • Florence Schneider says:

            John –

            Do you really want to compare the accomplishments and background of Butch Jones to Dan Enos?

            Didn’t think so.

            Butch Jones is a champion.

  8. Some on these posts now want to compare Enos to Coach Dantonio as how to build a winning program. If you rationally do this, you will see that Enos should be sent down the road. MSU went 4-8 in 2006 and John L. Smith was sent packing. Coach D inherited this so-called lousy team and went 7-5 in 2007. He did not use the tired excuse of the “cupboard was bare” that losing coaches (Enos) use in their first few years at a program. In his 4th year at MSU, with all of his own recruits, he went 11-1. His regular season record his first four seasons at MSU? 37-15, a .688 winning %. Compare that to Enos. His first two seasons at CMU? 3-9 in each of these years and countless press conferences as to how he was left with minimal talent, which was a total smokescreen. Now after four seasons at CMU, with ALL of his own recruits, we can look at his record. 18-30 for a winning % of .375. His record in MAC play is slightly better at 13-19 for a winning % of .406 We beat teams each season that are bottom feeders. The final rankings for 2013 of the 125 D1 schools put CMU at #88. Teams we beat? Ohio (#75), EMU (#116), UMASS (#120), WMU (#122), and MIAMI (#124). Those who still believe he is on the right path I say keep drinking the Kool-Aid. I sat in the stands his first 3 seasons after taking over from Jones but my season tickets are a distant memory until such time that Heeke and/or Enos put a better product on the field. Discussing a possible Bowl bid this year is laughable.

    • This is spot on. Now everyone can shut up and stop comparing Enos to Dantonio as there is no comparison. Just like cmu isn’t msu. The problem is Enos brought a system here that he can’t recruit for because the majority of players he needs for a pro style aren’t going to go to a mid major conference which is why programs that run the spread in the midmajors are much more successful. Hey you never know Enos might win 10 games next year as he gets a lil better each year and the schedule seems to get easier and easier.

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