Wednesday, December 8, 2021

CMU no big deal? Think again before ruling Chips out; history can happen

September 5, 2001

With Saturday’s matchup between MSU and Central Michigan around the corner, the media, fans, players and coaches have been packing on the hype.

But with every team comes first game jitters and questions marks.

When MSU runs out of the Spartan Stadium tunnel for the first time, it’s uncertain if expectations will be met.

The hope is they are.

The Chippewas and Spartans don’t share much of a storied history. In fact, the schools have met only four times on the gridiron - a series that rests at 2-2.

The last matchup between the two universities was in 1998 when MSU destroyed CMU, 38 -7.

When this series began in 1991, it was CMU that spoiled the Spartans’ fun with a 20-3 routing of the green and white. And in 1992 CMU was victorious again with a 24-20 win. MSU handed the series to the maroon and gold.

It wasn’t until 1993 when MSU tallied its first win against CMU and then completed the series tie in 1998.

Mark Saturday as the tie-breaker.

A game between MSU, a Big Ten team, and CMU, a Mid-American Conference team, shouldn’t be a big deal, but if history were in charge of the bets for this game, the bookie might be caught in a toss up.

CMU wants to strip itself from the MAC label and become a team that can compete against any in the country. MSU doesn’t want to settle with a loss from a MAC team - teams that usually include rosters full of lower-tier Division I athletes. A CMU loss would leave a rancid taste in the mouths of MSU fans who expect a bounce-back season from last year.

Winning is foremost in the Spartans’ minds. But with the season about to begin, speculation is high.

For instance:

If junior tailback T.J. Duckett, who sits at 10th on the ESPN.com Heisman Poll, wants to win that coveted award, MSU will have to hang out above .500 and be in bowl contention.

And head coach Bobby Williams must be aware of his sketchy job status if this season isn’t a winning one. If Williams can’t find himself in a bowl this winter, it’s almost certain Spartan fans will not give him the same reception they did when he took over after Nick Saban’s exit to the Louisiana bayou.

It’s obvious CMU has a lot of respect for MSU. In the team’s 2001 media guide, Duckett is the featured photo for the “Chippewa Opponents” section. And on paper MSU looks to be CMU’s hardest contest of the season.

But college football is unpredictable. Just as a 6-6 Spartan team stunned Ohio State in 1998 and stripped the Buckeyes of any national championship hopes, CMU could just as easily lead MSU to a path of disappointment.

But let me look into my crystal ball and tell you the result Saturday probably won’t leave Spartan fans thinking, “What just happened?”

CMU is not coming to East Lansing to spoil a season that many have claimed will be a good one. And why should they? The Chips are still working out the kinks of a 2000 season that left them with a 2-9 record and a last place finish in the MAC West Division.

No one will see the Chips messing with the Spartans’ game Saturday. The CMU players, coaches and fans should be on the bus and belted in by 5 p.m., ready to head back to Mount Pleasant - at least there they have a chance of winning at the Soaring Eagle Casino.

If CMU thinks it has a chance to take back the MSU/CMU series lead, it’s seriously mistaken. Saturday is the start to another bowl season for the green and white.

And the time when CMU realizes it belongs right there in the ranks of the MAC.

Paul Day hates MAC schools because Miami of Ohio denied him. Give him condolences at daypaul@msu.edu.

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