Team preview: Central Michigan

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(All information as of July 1, 2006)


From pretenders to contenders, that's the jump the Central Michigan football program made last season in Brian Kelly's second year as head coach.

Or did it?

The Chippewas achieved a winning record for only the second time in a decade by going 5-3 in the MAC West and 6-5 overall. But Kelly is hardly pleased with the way the team wrapped up the season, dropping two of its last three games to fall from the top of the division standings and miss a chance at postseason play.

"Last year we were still pretenders," he said, "we got there and we couldn't finish at the end."

The rest of the league might disagree. CMU posted its first winning season since 1998, when it also finished 6-5. More importantly, the Chippewas proved they could play with the West's perennial powers, Northern Illinois and Toledo.

CMU beat Toledo, 21-17, and just missed the next week against NIU, which won, 31-28. The Chippewas also beat two of the East's top teams in Akron and Miami (Ohio).

Even though Kelly realizes the Chippewas let an opportunity get away in 2005, he remains pleased with the direction of the program.

"In year three we want to be serious contenders," he said. "I think we are contenders, but we have to show that."