Team preview: Central Michigan

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(All information as of June 20, 2008)


Second-year Central Michigan head coach Butch Jones adopted a slogan last year to emphasize the importance of teamwork as the Chippewas secured their second straight Mid-American Conference title.

"Hold The Rope" was the team's catch phrase, as in everybody holding the rope for their teammates while pulling in the same direction, much like teammates in a tug of war competition. But you can forgive the Chippewas' offense if that rope felt more like a veritable life line being floated out to support the rest of the team.

The Chippewas raced through the MAC, compiling a 6-1 conference mark en route to their second straight MAC title and appearance in the Motor City Bowl, on the strength of a pretty audacious offensive performance. Yet, no matter how high-flying the CMU offense was in 2007, and it was among the nation's best, ranking 20th nationally in scoring offense (34.8 points per game), the unit was repeatedly called upon to bail out a defense that ranked 109th nationally in total defense, allowing 460 yards per game and giving up 36.9 points per game (111th nationally).

"Last season we had to work to come together and trust each other as a team," Jones said. "We had a lot of challenges that I think we were able to answer and in the process took major strides in developing not just a team, but a foundation for the program."

The Butch Jones era started out in shaky fashion, as Central Michigan dropped three of its first four games. Coming off a championship the season before, folks around Mt. Pleasant weren't pleased with a start that included a 30-point blowout loss to FCS member North Dakota State, but that loss would serve as a rallying point for a team that would go on to win five of its next six games.