CM Life sports staff predicts CMU 2022 football season


The Central Michigan University Cheerleading team cheers on the Chippewas football team during the 2021 Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas on Dec. 31.

After a 9-4 finish and a win over Washington State in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl, Central Michigan football looks to have similar success in 2022. 

The 2022 season will include four non-conference games, with matchups against power-five forces Oklahoma State and Penn State, and a full slate of Mid-American Conference games featuring three Wednesday night MACtion games in November. 

With the season set to begin, Central Michigan Life beat writer Ryan Colores and sports editor Sean Chase make their predictions for CMU’s 2022 season:

Week 1: at Oklahoma State

Chase: The Cowboys ended 2021 with an 8-1 record in the Big-12 and nearly made it into the College Football Playoff with the help of a stellar defense. Although linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez is in the NFL, I think the defense will continue to be a strong point for Oklahoma State this season. The Cowboys will stack the box and force CMU quarterback Daniel Richardson to beat them through the air. The Chippewas put up a fight, but Oklahoma State’s defense overwhelms them in the second half. 

Oklahoma State 42, CMU 28

Colores: In what will perhaps be the Chippewas’ most impassioned matchup due to the history between these teams, CMU will look to build on their infamous win against Oklahoma State in 2016. AP ranks Mike Gundy’s squad as the #12 team in the FBS, fresh off of a Fiesta Bowl victory over Notre Dame to close out their 2021 season. The CMU defensive line will sometimes make life difficult for Oklahoma State’s offense. But all told, Gundy’s loaded defensive unit will prevail, and Oklahoma State exacts its revenge.

Oklahoma State 38, CMU 17

Week 2: vs South Alabama

Chase: Following a drubbing in Stillwater, CMU returns to Mount Pleasant ready to show off its retooled offense and South Alabama lands directly in the cross-hairs. Lew Nichols returns to his 2021 form after being stifled in Week One, finishing the day with 250 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns. With the Jaguars stacking the box, wide receivers Dallas Dixon and Carlos Carriere exploit a weak South Alabama secondary for a touchdown a-piece. Looking to keep pace with their counterpart, the Chippewa defense silences the Jaguar offense in part to linebacker Kyle Moretti recording his first career sack.

CMU 42, South Alabama 7

Colores: South Alabama’s winning percentage has improved each of the last three seasons, but the Jaguars haven’t had a winning season in a decade. Head coach Kane Wommack is helping turn the program around, but they still aren’t on the level of the Chippewas. CMU doesn’t let off the gas pedal throughout the game, and its defense forces four turnovers, giving the offense ample opportunities to take it to Wommack and company.

CMU 37, South Alabama 16

Week 3: vs Bucknell

Chase: With its first win secured, CMU finishes a two-game home stand against Bucknell spectacularly. After an outstanding performance, expect the Bison to load the box to deal with Nichols. However, he still eclipses 100 yards rushing and punches one in. As attention shifts to CMU's running game, Richardson takes advantage and torches the Bucknell secondary for 350 yards and four touchdowns. While Bucknell will expect a bit of respite when head coach Jim McElwain sends on the second-stringers, the score will get out of hand in the end.

CMU 52, Bucknell 9

Colores: Similar to how Oklahoma State overmatched the Chippewas with its sheer talent, the same is the case in CMU’s second home game of the season against Bucknell. The Bison only won a single game last year, and CMU will look to go home with a statement win over a team that probably has no business playing it competitively. CMU will play to its strengths, getting out to an early lead and running the ball down the throats of Bucknell’s defense, and will serve up a routing reminiscent of its win over Robert Morris last season while Bucknell’s offense fails to find the endzone.

CMU 55, Bucknell 6

Week 4: vs Penn State

Chase: Heading into Happy Valley is an enormous proposition for the Chippewas. The teams last played in 2005, with the Nittany Lions securing a 40-3 victory. Although it will be closer than that, CMU will be playing from behind all game ultimately taking the ball out of Nichols' hands. Richardson will impress, but it won't be enough to keep pace with the Penn State offense led by redshirt senior quarterback Sean Clifford. The young Chippewa secondary keeps it close through two, but Clifford's experience will eventually push the lead into double-digits.  

Penn State 35, CMU 24

Colores: At times, it feels like CMU models its game plan after what has become staples of Big Ten football: gritty play on both sides of the trenches. But can CMU beat James Franklin at his own game? In short, no. Happy Valley is one of the most intimidating venues in all of college football. While it won’t be a white-out game, the fans will still bring an unrelenting spirit that the Chippewas just won’t be able to rival on-field. Penn State takes away CMU’s run game and leaves the Chips scrambling to adjust effectively. As fantastic as it would be for McElwain to stun Franklin and the Penn State faithful, it’s just not in the cards.

Penn State 27, CMU 10

MAC slate

Week 5: at Toledo

Chase: With the majority of its starters returning, on paper Toledo presents a huge hurdle for the Chippewas. The Rockets struggled to close out games in 2021, ending 7-6 and suffering five one-point losses. But still, they come into the season projected second in the MAC West Division. After a 2,500-passing yard season, quarterback Dequan Finn is expected to take a step forward in 2022. While Richardson and Nichols will put on a show for CMU, the Rockets' front seven, led by First-Team All-MAC linebacker Jamal Hines on the edge, come up big and help secure a last-second victory.

Toledo 31, CMU 28

Colores: Rest assured Toledo has not forgotten the result of last year's contest at Kelly/Shorts Stadium. Dequan Finn, once viewed as the future of CMU’s football program, didn’t have the performance he would have hoped for against the Chippewas. Finn and the rest of the Rockets take care of business, leaving a sour taste in the mouths of everyone in the program, but specifically the fans. CMU keeps it as close as Toledo did last year, but the results are flipped. Toledo wins, though this time around the game is decided within regulation.

Toledo 33, CMU 30

Week 6: vs Ball State

Chase: Following back-to-back losses, CMU takes its frustration out on Ball State in the friendly confines of Kelly/Shorts Stadium. The Chippewas will feed Nichols early, and he will rattle off his second 200-yard game of the year. With three-year starting quarterback Drew Plitt trying his hand at the NFL, the Cardinals will look to senior John Paddock as his replacement. Although the Chippewa secondary is young, Paddock's inexperience will help them build confidence for the stretch run. 

CMU 35, Ball State 17

Colores: Ball State was picked to finish last in the MAC West in its 2022 preseason media poll. Despite winning the MAC Championship in the shortened 2020 season and almost breaking even last season, things aren’t necessarily looking up in Muncie at the moment. CMU, coming off of a MAC West loss, is playing motivated and rides the coattails of Lew Nichols to the tune of 200 rushing yards.

CMU 31, Ball State 21

Week 7: at Akron

Chase: After securing three wins in three seasons, Akron is looking to rebuild under head coach Joe Moorhead. However, all of the excitement surrounding the future of the program will be put on hold when the Chippewas arrive in town. Looking for back-to-back wins for the first time all season, CMU gives the Zips a heavy dose of Nichols. Although Akron has bolstered its defense through the transfer portal, Richardson will pick them apart as Nichols' aggressive running style wears them down. This is another game that could get out of hand late.   

CMU 38, Akron 14

Colores: Though it’s a new week and a new location for Central, the outcome is virtually identical to last week’s matchup. New head coach Joe Moorhead assuredly would like to see a bounce-back campaign, after the Zips only mustered one win against an FCS program, Bryant, a season ago. Moorhead turned around the Fordham program before becoming a top assistant at Oregon. I believe he and Akron will find success in the MAC in due time, but he’ll need a few years to rebuild before his team is competitive.

CMU 41, Akron 14

Week 8: vs Bowling Green

Chase: Returning nine offensive starters and adding Memphis transfer Jakari Robinson, has many people high on the Falcons. However, Bowling Green's defense was a liability in the run game in 2021, allowing 187.8 rushing yards per game to opposing running backs. And they never faced Nichols. From the opening drive, McElwain will test the Falcon defense's ability to handle Nichols between the tackles. Bowling Green quarterback Matt McDonald struggles with accuracy and I see Trey Jones taking advantage of that at some point in the game. When all is said and done, the nation's leading rusher in 2021 ends the game with three touchdowns.

CMU 38, Bowling Green 21

Colores: As the conference slate pushes forward, the Chippewas begin looking forward to the remainder of its schedule. This matchup marks the last time the team will play a weekend game at Kelly/Shorts this season, as midweek MACtion for CMU begins the following week, and will persist over three of its final four regular-season contests. Despite the potential distraction, Daniel Richardson takes the reins as the leader and delivers a stellar performance through the air. McElwain and the team know how important the following week is, and losing this game could have dashed the Chippewas' vision of success heading into the home stretch.

CMU 45, Bowling Green 13

Week 9: at Northern Illinois

Chase: In 2021, NIU quarterback Rocky Lombardi's best game came against the Chippewas. It will only get better for him in his second year. CMU linebacker Kyle Moretti and defensive lineman Maurice White have huge games against the Huskies' rushing attack and force Lombardi to win it. Although last year, the game was decided by a botched field goal, NIU takes control in the third quarter by attacking the CMU secondary. Richardson slings the ball around Huskie Stadium, but the Chippewas lose by a touchdown.

NIU 31, CMU 24

Colores: I know I mentioned the OSU game as potentially the most impassioned matchup, but certainly keep an eye on this one as well. Both teams will leave everything they have on the field. They have to. NIU is coming off of a dream season where it won the MAC, and head coach Thomas Hammock established himself as a bright spot in a program that has otherwise struggled with him at the helm. But Hammock’s resume pales in comparison to McElwain’s. McElwain out-coaches NIU, knowing he needs to get one back for his team after a botched field goal lost CMU the game and effectively killed its bid to Ford Field for the MAC Championship. CMU was a better team at the end of last season than NIU, and the same will be the case this year.

CMU 28, NIU 24

Week 10: vs Buffalo

Chase: After suffering two losses in MAC play, every game counts down the stretch for CMU in the race to a MAC West Division title. As if perfect timing, the Chippewas return to Kelly/Shorts. Head coach Maurice Linguist is in his first year at the helm for Buffalo and the cupboards were left bare for his rebuild. Returning nine starters, the Bulls have massive holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Although those problems should be somewhat resolved by this point in the season, the Chippewas overwhelm them from the start. It's never close as Richardson throws for 375 yards and four touchdowns.

CMU 38, Buffalo 21

Colores: Um, what just happened? After coming off of a triumphant win against perhaps the best MAC West opponent on their home turf, the Chippewas look off their game. Buffalo will surprise some folks this year, CMU included. The Bulls won’t run away with the game, and CMU still plays them close by way of efficient offense, but Buffalo has the Chippewas’ number.  Buffalo’s rushing attack took a hit with the loss of running back Dylan McDuffie, but quarterback Matt Myers picks up the slack and punishes CMU’s defense with his legs for employing an ultra-aggressive pass rush. 

Buffalo 24, CMU 17

Week 11: vs Western Michigan

Chase: While WMU won't soon forget Kalil Pimpleton's heroics in Kalamazoo during 2021, it doesn't have the firepower to enact revenge in Mount Pleasant. Redshirt freshman quarterback Jack Salopek is tasked with replacing Kaleb Eleby, but he won't be ready for the hijinx CMU defensive coordinator Rob Akey will throw at him. Justin Whiteside and Moretti lead the way as the Chippewas front seven suffocate Salopek all game. As a result, CMU runs away with it in the second half, ensuring the Victory Cannon remains in Mount Pleasant.

CMU 45, WMU 24

Colores: Fans will recall the dazzling ‘Kalil Pimpleton Show’ in last year's matchup. Unfortunately for CMU, the dynamic receiver/returner no longer resides in Mt. Pleasant. However, the Broncos must replace a gaping hole of their own in 2021 All-MAC second-team quarterback Kaleb Eleby and his top option of last year in receiver Skyy Moore. Western underperformed last year without a doubt. Can they right the ship this year? Well, not against Central. CMU bounces back after a bit of a confusing loss to Buffalo and takes care of business, once again hoisting the Victory Cannon.

CMU 49, WMU 34

Week 12: at Eastern Michigan

Chase: With nothing to play for besides upsetting the Chippewas' dreams of securing a MAC West Division Title, EMU comes to play in Ypsilanti. Both teams struggle to gain an inch early and the score remains low until the second half. Then the fireworks happen. Quarterback Taylor Powell, a Troy transfer, rallies the troops and shows off the Eagles' talented wide receivers. Richardson responds and keeps CMU in the hunt. But, in what could be his final regular season game as a Chippewa, Nichols rattles off a 50-plus-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth to seal the game.

CMU 35, EMU 32

Colores: This almost feels like a game in which the current situation and overall talent disparity of these two teams will have little bearing on the outcome. The final regular season game against a MAC West foe who won’t be in contention for the MAC Championship game steals a meaningless game; wouldn’t that be just swell? Kidding aside, this game is closer than it really should be. CMU knows it needs a win, and Chris Creighton makes sure his team knows that Eastern won’t go down without a fight. In a surprising twist, this game ends up in somewhat of a shootout. But with its season on the line, CMU does what it needs to claim a victory in the final regular season contest.

CMU 41, EMU 39

CMU final record 

Chase: 8-4, 6-2 MAC, wins MAC West Division title

Colores: 8-4, 6-2 MAC