Column: Rivalries are college football's biggest twist to success, and Central Michigan is in the thick of it
Any sport, no what level, has the same general ending goal — to win, and win a lot.
In college sports, there is twist on how you are graded as an athletic program, which makes it more than just winning games.
Winning against your rival schools.
For the Central Michigan football team, holding up its end of the bargain hasn't been done recently against in-state foe Western Michigan.
It was 2013 when the Chippewas last prevailed over the Broncos, winning 27-22 at Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo.
Since then, it's been nothing but pure domination for WMU.
Three-straight Bronco wins, with the most recent being a 49-10 blowout at Kelly/Shorts Stadium in 2016 in front of a packed student section and lively crowd.
Both teams had good starts to the season and the atmosphere of a rivalry game was in full affect on CMU’s campus the entire week building to the game.
In the end, it was all for nothing. Both teams seasons went in opposite directions after that night.
The Broncos went on to an undefeated campaign capped off by a Mid-American Conference crown before being edged by Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl.
CMU on the other hand, stumbled to a 6-7 finish, barely making the Miami Beach Bowl where it was defeated 55-10 by Tulsa.
Now, a year later, with the records a little different, the game serves as a similar purpose — a breaking point.
The Chippewas (4-4, 2-2 MAC) come in riding a roller coaster 2017 season, with their most recent game resulting in a blowout win over Ball State, 56-9.
WMU (5-3, 3-1) is also entering this matchup on a positive note, defeating Eastern Michigan 20-17 in overtime. The Broncos are just one game ahead of CMU in the MAC West Division.
Both teams since their last game will have had over a week to prepare for the game. Every way I look at it, with both teams having flaws, it is very winnable for either side.
Even more so now for the Chippewas, with the recent news of WMU quarterback Jon Wassink being ruled out 6-8 weeks with a broken collarbone. The redshirt sophomore was having a solid season, throwing for 1,411 passing yards and 14 touchdowns in eight games.
Injuries are a part of the sport and shouldn't be used as an excuse, but it is obvious that this plays to CMU’s advantage.
True freshman Reece Goddard replaced Wassink after the injury, and completed 2-of-3 passes for for 12 yards while rushing for 20. So while he has played, there is little experience.
With CMU senior defensive end Joe Ostman (leading the nation in sacks with 10) and company recording eight sacks last weekend against the Cardinals, it should have a huge impact on the game.
Ostman described the game as “the most important one” on the schedule.
“They have gotten us the past couple of years and were excited to go back to Waldo Stadium,” Ostman said. “We have business left that needs to be taken care of.”
All of the momentum and time to prepare is in head coach John Bonamego’s favor, leaving no excuses to not go on the road and come out with his first victory over WMU as a head coach.
While he has led CMU to a bowl game in each of his first two seasons, with a MAC West co-championship in his first year, beating WMU means something to people in Mount Pleasant and alumni that follow this program.
To get to the next level and fulfill his expectations, getting this win will relieve any negative pressure he has from fans at the moment.
While his other accomplishments with the program may seem like they should outweigh this one matchup with WMU, they don't.
It is the twist in college sports you just can’t get away from, and dropping a fourth-straight game in the series to the program's biggest rival could doom this season.
It could also leave more questions than answers for Bonamego and the football program.