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Football team understands implications of Western Michigan's game, remains focused on Toledo

Central Michigan football players prepare to run out for practice Sept. 24 at the East Grass Field.

Senior center Steve Eipper smiled, leaned his body in a backward motion and made it pretty clear what plans he had for Tuesday night.

"I'm sure I'll have it on TV," Eipper said.

The senior leader is going to watch Western Michigan's football game against Northern Illinois on ESPNU, two teams that Eipper has faced this season.

It's an important game for Central Michigan, as Mid-American Conference West Division title implications are on the line.

Western Michigan's 7 p.m. Tuesday game on the road at Huskie Stadium in DeKalb, Illinois. The Broncos are 1-4 away from Waldo Stadium in Kalamazoo.

If the Huskies (4-7, 3-4 MAC) are able to secure a victory, it'll leave the Chippewas one win away from a trip to the MAC Championship.

The Broncos (7-4, 5-2 MAC) can secure their spot in the title game with a win, as Western Michigan holds the head-to-head tiebreaker over Central Michigan if both teams finish 6-2 in the conference.

First-year coach Jim McElwain understands what is at stake. He said the coaching staff won't have a chance to watch because they'll all be working to prepare for Toledo. However, the student-athletes will be done with practice in time.

"I hope they're watching, just from the standpoint that says they like football," McElwain said. "If they do get done with study hall and put an eye on it, it's totally up to them. I ask a lot from them here, so it's up to them what they do when they're not."

While Eipper plans to watch the Western Michigan game, senior linebacker Michael Oliver is unsure if he'll turn it on.

For him, it's a game-time decision.

"I might (watch)," Oliver said. "I don't know."

But if Oliver isn't watching the game or following along on his phone, he plans to do something productive – watch film to prepare for Toledo.

"We haven't beat them in 10 years, so that's all I got to say about that," Oliver added.

Eipper said his decision to watch the game is a no-brainer, but he doesn't want to get too engaged or obsessed over the fact that it could pave the way for Central Michigan to win the MAC West title. He's going to watch it with no emotions, just like any other football game. 

After all, there's still a game the Chippewas need to win, regardless of what happens Tuesday night. 

"I'm going to be hoping that NIU pulls something out, but we have to come do our thing on Friday," Eipper said. "You can't get too involved in that. It'll be a fun football game to watch, so I'll watch it."

Sitting at 7-4 overall and 5-2 in the MAC, Central Michigan takes on Toledo at noon Friday for a shot to finish with six wins in the conference just one year after going winless in the MAC and posting a 1-11 overall record.

McElwain's goal is to key in on keeping Toledo's defensive off balance. The Rockets are often successful in reading plays and countering, McElwain added.

Eipper said the turnaround was something he knew was possible, even though his team was picked to finish last in the MAC in the preseason poll.

"I knew it was possible," Eipper said. "They picked us last, and we knew that was something that wasn't going to happen because of the way we practiced in the spring and came together. It's November. We are still playing for something.

"It shows you how much growth this football team has had."