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Today at No. 124: CENTRAL MICHIGAN Coach: John Bonamego (0-0, entering first season) 2014 record: 7-6, 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference, fourth in the...

clemson pickToday at No. 124: CENTRAL MICHIGAN

Coach: John Bonamego (0-0, entering first season)

2014 record: 7-6, 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference, fourth in the West Division

Look back: After a couple of rough years, Central Michigan appeared to be getting back to its winning ways. The Chippewas won seven games in 2012 and six games in 2013, and the forecast seemed just as positive for 2014. After a mid-season three-game slump, Central Michigan wrapped up the season by winning five of its last seven games to finish with another seven-win season. Despite a disappointing loss in the Bahamas Bowl, things looked good for CMU. But in late January, coach Dan Enos surprised everybody by leaving the program to become offensive coordinator at Arkansas. The school hired John Bonamego in early February.

Offensive starters returning: 6

Offensive starters lost: 5

Defensive starters returning: 6

Defensive starters lost: 5

Key losses: RB Thomas Rawls, FB Anthony Garland, WR Courtney Williams, WR Titus Davis, RT Kevin Henry, LG Andy Phillips, TE Mike Kinville, NT Leterrius Walton, MLB Justin Cherocci, LB Cody Lopez, ST Kevin King

Top returnees: QB Cooper Rush, LT Ramadan Ahmeti, C Nick Beamish, RG Kenny Rogers, WR Jesse Kroll, DL Joe Ostman, DT Jabari Dean, DE Blake Serpa, S Tony Annese, DB Brandon Greer

Strengths: Cooper Rush is one of the up-and-coming quarterbacks in the Mid-American Conference. Last season, he was third in the league in passing efficiency after completing close to 64 percent of his passes for 3,157 yards with 27 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Rush’s 21 consecutive starts at the position make him a solid foundation for the offense to build on in 2015. The return of three starters should help Rush and the offense. Center Nick Beamish anchors a line featuring more than 70 career starts.

The defensive front returns three starters from last season, led by defensive end Joe Ostman (60 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss).

Weaknesses: Thomas Rawls was one of five players in the Mid-American Conference to rush for more than 1,000 yards in a season when he registered 1,103 yards and 10 touchdowns for the Chippewas last season. His departure leaves a major gap in the team’s production, with Devon Spalding (371 yards, 4 TDs) and Saylor Lavallii (298 yards, 4 TDs) forced to pick up the slack in 2015.

Titus Davis leaves Central Michigan as one of the most decorated wideouts in school history. He holds school records for career receiving yards (3,700), receiving touchdowns (37) and ranks third in the MAC in touchdown reception and fourth in receiving yards. The loss of Davis, Courtney Williams and Deon Butler means CMU must replace nearly half of its production from the position.

Central Michigan featured the top defense in the conference last season, but the unit has lost several key components from the group with the departures of linebackers Justin Cherocci — who led the team in total tackles (117) and sacks (4.0) — and Cody Lopez.

Outlook: Enos’ startling departure left the program scrambling to fill the position. Longtime NFL assistant John Bonamego could turn out to be a smart hire, but there’s no denying the loss of Enos will have an impact on this team. Will the players pack it in or gel behind their new coach? The schedule presents early challenges that won’t make the transition any easier.

2015 schedule

Sept. 3 Oklahoma State

Sept. 12 Monmouth

Sept. 19 at Syracuse

Sept. 26 at Michigan State

Oct. 3 Northern Illinois

Oct. 10 at Western Michigan

Oct. 17 Buffalo

Oct. 24 at Ball State

Oct. 31 at Akron

Nov. 10 Toledo

Nov. 18 at Kent State

Nov. 27 Eastern Michigan

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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