CM Life sports staff predicts CMU 2021 football season


Defensive coordinator Rob Akey attempts to hype up his defense ahead of the New Mexico Bowl against San Diego State Dec. 22 at Dreamstyle Stadium in Albuquerque, New Mexico. 

After a 3-3 finish in a Mid-American Conference-only season, Central Michigan football returns to normalcy.

The 2021 season will return to a regular schedule with four non-conference games, including two matchups against Southeastern Conference's Missouri and LSU and a full slate of MAC games featuring three Wednesday night MACtion games in November.

With the season under two weeks away from starting, Central Michigan Life beat writer Christian Booher and Sports Editor Mitch Vosburg make their predictions for CMU’s 2021 season:

Week 1: at Missouri

Vosburg: The Tigers finished 5-5 in their 2020 SEC season and struggled to defend rushing attacks. With linebacker Nick Bolton and leading rusher Larry Roundtree in the NFL I really think that this matchup is going to be tighter than people assume. I think the Tigers pull away late, but not without a fight. 

Missouri 31 CMU 27

Booher: Missouri is not on the level of it’s SEC powerhouse competitors, not yet at least. However, Eli Drinkwitz did a good job in year one of getting the team to .500 despite lacking at several key positions. The Chippewas will battle and the offense will put on a show, but it’ll be Missouri pulling away late with the win. 

Missouri 38, CMU 24

Week 2: vs Robert Morris

Vosburg: This will be the first home game since 2019 with fans at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Emotions will be running wild for every soul in the stadium, and that could lead to a sub-par first half for CMU. The Chippewas will win this game running away in the second half, but it will be within 10 points at halftime.

CMU 45 Robert Morris 16

Booher: What better way to unveil the Chippewa Champions Center in front of fans than by beating up on an opponent? CMU gets Robert Morris in its home opener, a team that scored 30 points total in its three-game spring season. The Chippewa defense wreaks havoc, giving the offense plenty of opportunities. 

CMU 41, Robert Morris 7

Week 3: at LSU

Vosburg: Would I love to tell you that the Chippewas will walk into arguably the most hostile environment in the nation to play a team that’s produced 39 NFL draft picks in the last five years? Absolutely. While I think the Chippewas will put up a fight, they have the same odds of beating the Tigers as Doctor Strange gave the Avengers to defeat Thanos in Infinity War.

LSU 62 CMU 10

Booher: This feels a lot like a game where CMU is simply overmatched. Derek Stingley patrols the secondary while playmakers run wild on offense for the Tigers. While the Chippewas’ run game gives them a fighting chance, LSU simply has too many athletes. 

LSU 52, CMU 20

Week 4: vs Florida International

Vosburg: After an 0-5 season, FIU head coach Butch Davis is on the hot seat and may be starting the season 0-3 after a road game at Texas Tech the week prior. If there’s an ideal opponent to give the Chippewas a confidence boost after LSU, it’s FIU. CMU will have a chip on its shoulder, and the Panthers will be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

CMU 48 FIU 17

Booher: Though FIU was statistically one of the worst teams in the country last season, this has the makings of an entertaining game. Max Bortenschlager is an enigmatic quarterback, meaning he just might bring his best stuff to Mount Pleasant. This could be a shootout, but the Chippewa defense makes enough plays for the offense to run away late. 

CMU 35, FIU 20

MAC slate

Week 5: at Miami (Ohio)

Vosburg: This will be CMU’s first trip to Oxford, Ohio since 2016, a 37-17 loss, and its first game against the RedHawks since the 2019 MAC Championship game, a 26-21 loss. This stretch of games will make or break CMU’s quest to win the west. Miami also has uncertainty at quarterback, but whoever does the little things best wins. 

Miami (Ohio) 29 CMU 27

Booher: CMU will be looking to enact revenge on the RedHawk team that destroyed the dream season that was 2019. Many playmakers on each side from 2019 are still around, meaning it might be much of the same. The Chippewas are in it late, but a lethal turnover costs them their first road win of the year. 

Miami (Ohio) 31, CMU 28

Week 6: at Ohio

Vosburg: Three high-pressure road games in four weeks will fatigue any team, and CMU is no exception. I think this game is winnable for the Chippewas, but this could be the one game of the year where CMU comes out flat and can’t catch a break. If CMU can knock off both the Bobcats and RedHawks the west division better be on notice, but I’m not betting on it.

Ohio 31 CMU 24

Booher: The loss at Miami is a wake-up call. The Chippewas were rolling at home against the Bobcats before a kick-return touchdown swung the momentum. Now, McElwain and company finished their two-game road swing with a eyebrow-raising double digit win over a good MAC East team. 

CMU 38, Ohio 28

Week 7: vs Toledo

Vosburg: The 2020 matchup was a nail-biting 24-23 CMU loss with Ty Brock at QB. The Chippewas will return for homecoming and start the critical six-game stretch that will make or break the season. CMU gets a big win, starts 1-0 in the west and finds its mojo. 

CMU 34 Toledo 23

Booher: With alumni new and old back in town for homecoming, the Chippewas ride the wave of momentum into their showdown with Toledo. The Rockets are good defensively, but the offense can’t score with that of CMU. Kalil Pimpleton accounts for 200 yards between offense and special teams and the Chippewas roll. 

CMU 35, Toledo 21

Week 8: vs Northern Illinois

Vosburg: NIU is still a work in progress. There’s no doubt in my mind that the Huskies will be competitive in 2022 and beyond. With that said this should be an easy win for the Chippewas, which honestly makes this a trap game for CMU with a critical game against Western Michigan next on the schedule. The Chippewas win, but not without a tremendous fight from the Huskies. 

CMU 27 NIU 24

Booher: This spells trap game. NIU is much improved at quarterback, as Rocky Lombardi brings experience. He’ll cause problems early with his advanced knowledge of the game, but the defense adjusts and CMU comes out with its third straight win. 

CMU 31, NIU 10

Week 10: at Western Michigan

Vosburg: In 2020 this was the matchup that exposed CMU’s weakness in the secondary. WMU QB Kaleb Eleby fired five touchdowns and 384 yards off 12 completions. CMU’s secondary will either win or lose this game for them in 2021. For now, I’ll bet that the secondary is shored up and CMU gets a win in Kalamazoo.

CMU 37 WMU 31

Booher: Last season, CMU had no answers in the secondary against the Broncos. This year, however, D’Wayne Eskridge is off to the pros. Though one man never wins a game for their team, Eskridge did everything but last year. Now it’s Pimpleton who acts as the game-breaker. The Chippewas win a heart-stopper in the final minute. 

CMU 28, WMU 24

Week 11: vs Kent State

Vosburg: If you love low-scoring, physical football this will not be the game for you. This game will be a fireworks show at Kelly/Shorts. Kent State averaged nearly 50 points a game in 2020, yet the Golden Flashes defense allowed 38 points a game. While KSU can move the ball, teams with this mold fold when they can’t match up physically. Advantage Chippewas.

CMU 38 Kent State 31

Booher: Offense, offense, offense. That’s what you’ll get here. In what is shaping up to be the game of the year, both teams roll into Kelly/Shorts Stadium with one loss fighting for their respective lives. At the end of the day, Dustin Crum is simply the best player in the conference and wins the game for his team with his legs. 

Kent State 52 CMU 49

Week 12: at Ball State

Vosburg: First of all, Ball is not a state. Since that’s settled, I think the Chippewas will put up an improved battle compared to their 2020 game, and while the Cardinals say they’re not buying into the preseason polls, it’s rare to see the preseason favorite win their division. This will be the most intense win in the Jim McElwain era that will go down to the wire and not for those with blood pressure issues. 

CMU 31 Ball State 30

Booher: Reeling from a crushing defeat at the hands of Kent, CMU goes to Ball State needing a win. This Cardinal team has almost its entire MAC championship team back from a year ago. Drew Plitt and company feed off the energy of the Muncie mid-week crowd, and the Cardinals dash the Chippewa championship hopes. 

Ball State 27, CMU 21

Week 13: vs Eastern Michigan

Vosburg: If EMU can figure out how to win tight games this will be the biggest matchup between the in-state foes in a long time. EMU has dropped 24 one possession games since 2016 and may be due for a breakout season. Quarterback Preston Hutchinson will make his case for MAC Player of the Year, but the Eagles won’t find his complement, ending the Chippewas regular season on a high note.

CMU 45 EMU 17

Booher: Not happy about losing two in a row, CMU comes home with a vengeance. McElwain pulls out all the stops as Pimpleton throws for a score and runs for another out of the wildcat package. EMU makes a habit out of playing the Chippewas close, but on this day they’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. CMU wins, big. 

CMU 38, EMU 14

CMU final record

Vosburg: 8-4, 6-2 MAC, wins MAC West division

Booher: 7-5, 5-3 MAC