The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. The Sentinel staff will take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 125 to our projected No. 1 team.
Today at No. 83: Central Michigan
Coach: Dan Enos (13-24, fourth season; 13-24 overall)
2012 record: 7-6 (4-4 in Mid-American Conference, fourth in West Division)
Look back: After back-to-back 3-win seasons in 2010 and 2011, things seemed to start coming together for Dan Enos and Central Michigan in 2012. Although it didn’t seem like at times. After starting the season by winning two of their first three games, including a last-second victory at Iowa, the Chippewas lost their next four games. Victories over Akron, Eastern Michigan, Miami (Ohio) and UMass in the team’s final five games helped the program secure its first postseason bowl bid since 2009. A 24-21 win over an up-and-coming Western Kentucky team in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl was the program’s third postseason victory in seven attempts.
Offensive starters returning: 7
Offensive starters lost: 4
Defensive starters returning: 7
Defensive starters lost: 4
Key losses: QB Ryan Radcliff, WR Cody Wilson, Jahleel Addae, DL Caesar Rodriguez, DL Joe Kinville, LT Eric Fisher, RG Darren Keyton, RT Mike Repovz
Top returnees: RB Zurlon Tipton, WR Titus Davis, WR Courtney Williams, LB Justin Cherocci, LB Shamari Benton, DT Jabari Dean, NT Leterrius Walton, S Avery Cunningham
Strengths: Running back Zurlon Tipton rushed for close to 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in 2012 and the senior will be leaned on heavily this season as the team works to develop a quarterback behind center. … The Chippewas lost their top receiver Cody Wilson (74 receptions/840 yards/3 TDs), but have plenty of talent at the position including Titus Davis (43 /860/8) and Courtney Williams (24/260/2). … The defense returns leading tacklers linebackers Justin Cherocci (132 tackles) and Shamari Benton (126) as well as three returning starters in the secondary. The front line features plenty of experience including Jabari Dean and nose tackle Leterrius Walton.
Weaknesses: Under offensive coordinator Mike Cummings, the Chippewas offense has been one of the most explosive in the Mid-American Conference. Part of that can be attributed to quarterback Ryan Radcliff, who passed for close to 10,000 yards during his career. Finding a replacement won’t be easy. Junior Cody Kater, a junior college transfer in 2011, was Radcliff’s backup in 2012 but only attempted four passes all season. … The offensive line losses three starters including left tackle Eric Fisher, who was the No. 1 pick in this past April’s NFL Draft. The group was responsible for only allowing 15 sacks and finding depth up front will be crucial.
Outlook: After two sub-.500 seasons, a 7-6 season was just what the doctor ordered for Central Michigan and Dan Enos. If the Chippewas can survive the first two months, this team can head back to a bowl game.
Aug. 31 Michigan
Sept. 7 New Hampshire
Sept. 14 at UNLV
Sept. 21 Toledo
Sept. 28 at N.C. State
Oct. 5 at Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 12 at Ohio
Oct. 19 Northern Illinois
Nov. 6 at Ball State
Nov. 16 at Western Michigan
Nov. 23 UMass
Nov. 29 Eastern Michigan
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