The Central Michigan Chippewas are coach by Mike Debord, in his fourth season at CMU after serving as Michigan Offensive Coordinator from 1997-99.
Central has improved in each of Debord's seasons, from 2-9 to 3-8 to 4-8 in 2002. However, the 2002 season was a disappointment because the Chips opened 3-0 and led Indiana 26-16 at halftime in the fourth game before losing 39-29. Central only won one more game the rest of the season, against Eastern Michigan, the only team they finished ahead of in the MAC West Division. Especially disappointing were back-to-back home losses to end the season against the two teams that finished ahead of them in the MAC West, Ball State (which finished 6-6 but still fired its coach and hired another U-M Assistant, Brady Hoke) and Western Michigan (which also finished 4-8).
CMU's finished the 2002 season 12th (out of 14 teams) in points allowed on defense, 34; they gave up 399 yards per game including a league-worst 65.1% pass completion rate. On offense they also finished 12th in points scored, 21.5, and dead last in pass completion percentage, 48.8%.
Will the Chippewas improve in 2003? The consensus opinion is yes. They only lose 15 of 56 lettermen from 2002. On offense, they return nine starters, and welcome back to full health senior running back Terry Jackson (6-0, 235 lbs.), who in 2001 gained 1,194 yards and was second team All-MAC, but who in 2002 struggled to recover from a broken foot and only gained 399, still team-leading). At quarterback, 2002 starter Derrick Vickers (5-11, 195 lbs.) returns but lost his job in the spring to junior Jeff Perry (6-1, 210 lbs.). The strength of the offense is the line, which returns all five starters including preseason All-MAC pick OL Derek McLaughlin (6-5, 315 lbs.). On defense there are a new coordinator and six returning starters, including two preseason All-MAC picks, junior safety James King (6-1, 215 lbs.) and senior DE Matt Wohlgemuth (6-5, 265 lbs.).
In short, Central Michigan will improve in 2003. They open the season at Michigan and end at Navy. In between they have two 1-AA games and a fairly average MAC schedule, and so continued improvement to a 5-7 or 6-6 record is not out of the question. However, against Michigan the Chips will be in over their heads.
Tom Beaver's Michigan/Central Michigan Game Prediction: Coach Carr is likely to call off the Wolvs early against former U-M coach Debord and play lots of youngsters; U-M wants a shut-out but … Michigan 40, Central 10.
GBW's CMU Game Preview
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