Fifth place prediction doesn't damper football title hopes

Central Michigan head coach John Bonamego observes as his team plays in the Spring Game on April 21 at Kelly/Shorts Stadium.

Central Michigan football was picked to finish fifth place in the Mid-American Conference West Division, and it brought a smile to linebacker Malik Fountain’s face.

“No, I’m not surprised,” Fountain said. “Because we always have something to prove, or at least it feels that way."

After finishing with a 6-2 record in MAC play in 2017, the Chippewas wound up in second place of the MAC West. 

While they lost starting quarterback Shane Morris and veterans Corey Willis, Mark Chapman, Tyler Conklin and Joe Ostman, the team feels it has enough back to compete for the ultimate goal — a MAC title.

“There’s nothing else to play for," said head coach John Bonamego. "To talk about anything less does a disservice to our staff, players and our fans. So yeah, that’s our expectations."

In two of Bonamego’s three seasons in Mount Pleasant, the head coach earned six conference wins. It was good for a four-way tie for first place in 2015 and second place in 2017.

Fountain, who has been with Bonamego since his first season, said being picked low works in his advantage for motivation. 

“It’s fun being the underdogs," Fountain said. "I like to be relentless. What relentless means to me is being able to do the impossible."

In all eight of the Chippewas league games last season, they were favored to win just twice. CMU was never favored to win a conference home game.

The Chippewas will open the 2018 season at Kentucky, where they are currently 17-point underdogs. Junior running back Jonathan Ward said the offense might surprise some people.

“We’ve got plenty of talent to replace what we lost, even though some of those guys were great for us, we have people who learned under them,” Ward said. “(The media) can predict us to finish where they want, we know we are capable of winning the MAC.”