13 Teams/13 Days Countdown: Central Michigan Chippewas

Updated 8/16/2013

Conference: Mid-American, West Division
Location: Mount Pleasant, Mich.
Nickname: Chippewas
Returning starters: 14 (7 offense, 7 defense)
2012 record: 7-6 (4-4 MAC)
Aug. 31 -- at Michigan, 3:30 p.m. (Big Ten Network)
Sept. 7 -- New Hampshire, 3 p.m. (ESPN3)
Sept. 14 -- at UNLV, 10 p.m. (Mountain West)
Sept. 21 -- Toledo, Noon (ESPN Regional)
Sept. 28 -- at N.C. State, TBD
Oct. 5 -- at Miami, 1 p.m.
Oct. 12 -- at Ohio, 2 p.m.
Oct. 19 -- Northern Illinois, 3 p.m.
Nov. 6 -- at Ball State, 8 p.m.
Nov. 16 -- at Western Michigan, Noon (ESPN Regional)
Nov. 23 -- Massachusetts, 1 p.m.
Nov. 29 -- Eastern Michigan, TBD (ESPNU/ESPN3)
SOCIAL MEDIA (Accounts to FOLLOW on Twitter if you are a Central Michigan Fan)
University Accounts: @CMUAthletics; @CMU_Football; @Dave_Heeke
Media Coverage/Beat Writer: @Natejschneider
Fan Accounts: @ChippewaCountry
SEASON BREAKDOWN & PREDICTION (courtesy of USA Today's Paul Myerberg)
In a nutshell: I'm not confident in Central Michigan's ability to follow last season's bowl run with another dash to the postseason, not when CMU draws its three deciding games – UNLV, Miami (Ohio) and Western Michigan – away from home while still dealing with MAC West frontrunners Northern Illinois, Toledo and Ball State. Enos has done a nice job developing his young talent; the rest of the MAC has made similar strides, however, and I'm not convinced that the Chippewas are ready to make a push into one of the top three spots in the division.
In my mind, the season comes down to CMU going no worse than 4-1 in the following games: UNLV, Miami (Ohio), Western Michigan, UMass and Eastern Michigan. This assumes a win over New Hampshire giving CMU five wins; that would leave the Chippewas needing only one win from Michigan, Toledo, N.C. State, Ohio, NIU and Ball State – doable, at least. Keep in mind the fact that CMU has won only five road games over its three seasons under Enos, with two of those wins coming at EMU and UMass last November. Due to difficult stretches in the schedule, several moving pieces on offense and a defense that may struggle getting a pass rush and in coverage, I think this team ends up with four or five wins during the regular season.
Let's focus on one significant positive. Thanks to last year's postseason berth, Enos and his staff have bought themselves time to continue the development progress we've seen over the last 12 months. Enos himself is also developing; I think he made some errors early, but his growth has likewise been evident over the last two seasons. There are some very nice pieces on the roster, mostly in underclassmen, and there's little doubt that CMU is in a far better place today than at any point in either 2010 or 2011, when the jury remained out on the staff's ability to build a consistent winner. Last season ended those questions: Enos deserves time to take a slight step back in the win column in 2013 while the Chippewas continue to build from the bottom up.
READ MORE of USA Today's Preview (courtesy of Paul Myerberg) by CLICKING HERE