Central Michigan is not a brand name, but they aren’t a bunch of pushovers.
The Chippewas will enter Kroger Field Saturday after posting an eight-win season in 2017. They’ve defeated a Power Five opponent in each of the last two seasons, including a win over No. 22 Oklahoma State in the second game of the 2016 season. Mark Stoops’ squad isn’t taking them lightly.
“You know, they finished second in their division in the MAC,” Stoops said today. “They beat, what, two Power Five teams in the last two years? That’s not a big deal to them. Believe me. They went up to Kansas last year and put a beating on Kansas. They’re used to playing Power Fives. They’re used to playing very good football teams.
“They’re a winning program. I believe they won eight last year, 8-5 last year. They’re a good football team that’s well coached. That’s probably what stands out to me as you watch them and watch a lot of MACs. They do a very good job of not beating themselves and kind of sticking to what they do and play it well.”
The Chippewas are led by running back Jonathan Ward. Last season the junior rushed for 1,017 yards, gained 470 yards through the air and accounted for 13 total touchdowns.
“He’s a big-time player. He really is,” Stoops said. “He’s dynamic. He’ll play football for a long time. He’s got great vision, great patience, he’s strong. He’s explosive. He’s a very good football player.”
Under center they have quite an athlete at quarterback. Standing six feet seven inches tall, Tony Poljan is a dual-threat quarterback who spent some time catching passes last year for the Chippewas.
“He’s an athlete. He’s a dual guy. He’s played both. He also played quarterback. I think that’s one of those situations where they had a very good quarterback a year ago and had some experience. He’s a very, very talented guy and when he was a backup, they just felt like he was too athletic to not play him at all.”
Central Michigan has enough tools to take Kentucky down to the wire if the Wildcats aren’t ready to play when the ball is kicked off Saturday at 3:30 on ESPNU.