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Jim McElwain discusses importance of Ball State game

Central Michigan coach Jim McElwain walks on the field at UB Stadium prior to playing Buffalo on Oct. 26 in Buffalo, New York.

At this point in the season last year, Central Michigan had one win and was on its way to finishing 1-11.

Under first-year coach Jim McElwain, the Chippewas are 6-4 overall, in second place in the Mid-American Conference West Division and still have a chance to make the MAC title game. 

A win Saturday against Ball State will keep the Chippewas hopes alive.

After a convincing win against Northern Illinois, McElwain briefly discussed having a chance at the MAC West this late in the season.

“When you’re playing in November and games kind of having something to them,” McElwain said, “that kind of means you’ve had a pretty decent season so far. That’s huge.”

Now after a bye week, CMU will be looking for its second road win of the season in Muncie, Indiana. In order for the Chippewas to make it to the MAC title, they have to win the final two games of the season and get help from a Western Michigan loss.

”I think it will be a great test to see how far we’ve come as a program and as a team,” McElwain said. “A lot of things to look forward to, but we just have to go take care of what we control.”

Both CMU and Ball State trails Western Michigan which controls the division and, with a win in their final game against Northern Illinois, will lock its place into the championship game.

A win against the Huskies is no sure thing for the Broncos who have been involved in closely contested games the previous two weeks, squeezing by Ball State, 35-31, last week and needing overtime to beat Ohio, 37-34, on Tuesday.

As long as CMU can continue to win, the pressure will be on WMU to finish out the season. A Bronco loss and two Chippewa wins would propel McElwain and his team to first in the MAC West Division.

With all of that in the background, the focus remains on this week‘s opponent, and McElwain expects a tough, hard-nosed matchup – similar to a heavyweight boxing match.

”It’s a really good football team,” McElwain said. “You look at the games that they played early on the road, and they had an opportunity in all those to win on the road. In the last game they played, they played Western a heck of a lot better than we did.”

A loss will eliminate either team from the division race, and it’s safe to say both teams are aware of that.

“It will be one of those deals where two teams are scrapping for something, and we will see who comes out on top,” McElwain said.