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Archive for Saturday, August 11, 2007

Central Michigan won’t be cupcake opener

August 11, 2007

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Kansas University coach Mark Mangino is leery of season openers, since college football has no preseason games or intersquad scrimmages to knock the inevitable rust off.

He really isn't going to like this year's debut.

Though not a BCS big boy, Central Michigan University is the regining Mid-America Conference champion, a 10-win team returning most of its offensive skilled players and quickly building hype it's expecting to live up to.

The Chippewas travel to Lawrence to face the Jayhawks on Sept. 1.

It will be the head-coaching debut of Butch Jones, a former West Virginia assistant who took over for the Cincinnati-bound Brian Kelly in January.

With a new head coach, things won't be smooth sailing. But it's not expected to be a bumpy ride in Mount Pleasant, Mich., either.

Not considering who's coming back.

Sophomore quarterback Dan LeFevour returns after earning MAC freshman-of-the-year honors in 2006. LeFevour threw for 3,031 yards as a freshman, and it could keep going considering Bryan Anderson and Justin Gardner - two of LeFevour's favorite targets - return.

In addition, CMU has a proven running game with the return of tailback Ontario Sneed, who will be in competition with Notre Dame transfer Justin Hoskins.

All of those guys helped string together a 10-4 season for CMU last year, which was accomplished despite losses to Top 25 teams Boston College and Michigan. A victory over Ohio in the MAC championship cemented the Chippewas' berth in the nearby Motor City Bowl, which it also won over Middle Tennessee State. In all, Central Michigan won eight of its last nine games.

With all the Chippewas have returning, they still aren't without some missing parts. Three players from last year's team were selected in this spring's NFL Draft, including left tackle Joe Staley, who was a first-round selection of the San Francisco 49ers.

And of course, the head coach is wet behind the ears as well.

As leery as season openers make Mangino, KU's sixth-year coach may be beat in the uneasy department.

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