Why ESPN 'College GameDay' should stop by Central-Western

ESPN has a big decision to make on where to send its "College GameDay" crew for Oct. 1.

There's Ann Arbor, where No. 5 Michigan will host No. 10 Wisconsin. There's Athens, Ga., where No. 11 Georgia will host No. 12 Tennessee. And then there's the likely favorite: Clemson, S.C., where the No. 3 Tigers host No. 4 Louisville.

We have another idea, we'd like to present to the committee: Why not Central-Western?

Central Michigan is set to host Western Michigan at 7 p.m. Oct. 1 at Kelly-Shorts Stadium in Mount Pleasant in what could be the most pivotal game on the Mid-American Conference schedule.

Both teams are favored to enter the game with a 4-0 record -- WMU plays Georgia State on Saturday, while CMU travels to play a brutally bad Virginia team -- and already have three combined wins against Power 5 teams in non-conference play.

We're not the first to think of this idea. Central Michigan student Joshua Scramlin created an online petition on Change.org suggesting it, with a goal of 500 signatures that'll likely be obliterated sometime this afternoon.

In all likelihood, "College GameDay" will head to Clemson-Louisville, assuming both teams stay undefeated for their 8 p.m., ABC showdown. But we have a few reasons for ESPN to consider Central-Western (Disclosure: The writer of this story is a CMU alum):

• ESPN has a recent history of picking nontraditional "College GameDay" sites, usually one or two per year at a Football Championship Subdivision school. The crew traveled to Fargo, home of FCS superpower North Dakota State, in 2013 and 2014. It also ventured to Yale-Harvard in November 2014, then covered Richmond-James Madison in October 2015.

• It's been a while since "College GameDay" stopped by a big MAC showdown. The last time was 2003, when it traveled to Bowling Green, Ohio, before the No. 23 Falcons took down No. 12 Northern Illinois, 34-18.

• Both CMU and WMU look really good. You remember the Chippewas' miracle Hail Mary play against then-No. 22 Oklahoma State; they also pounded inferior foes Presbyterian and UNLV. The Broncos already have wins over two Big Ten foes (Illinois and Northwestern) and demolished North Carolina Central 70-21. Though neither team is ranked in the Top 25 polls, each are receiving votes.

• Both CMU and WMU have premiere senior quarterbacks who are four-year starters. The Chippewas' Cooper Rush ranks 12th in the nation in quarterback rating (174.2) through three games, while the Broncos' Zach Terrell ranks 16th (167.4). At the very least, you're watching a battle between two potential NFL quarterback prospects.

• There are interesting characters to cover in this match-up, none better than WMU coach P.J. Fleck, the inventor of "Row the Boat" in Kalamazoo and one of the game's rising college football coaches. There's sentimental value, as well, with CMU coach John Bonamego, who overcame a battle with tonsil cancer last year

• Kelly-Shorts Stadium provides an outstanding game-day atmosphere for a mid-major team. It was consistently rated among the best in the MAC during CMU's stretch run of three MAC championships in four seasons (2006-09) and should attract a large crowd for Central-Western, especially if both teams enter the game unbeaten. The stadium seats 32,885 and hosted more than 35,000 when CMU hosted Michigan State in 2012.

• Outside of Michigan-Michigan State, this is the biggest in-state rivalry in Michigan. Though WMU leads the all-time series 47-37-2, the two teams are tied 4-4 in the series since introducing the "Victory Cannon" trophy.

• It's not like "College GameDay" can't cover Clemson or Louisville at another point this season. Clemson plays at Florida State on Oct. 29 (though so do Michigan and Michigan State). Louisville plays at Houston on Nov. 17 in what could be a late battle of unbeatens. There are also conference championships to consider.

Obviously, this is a tall tree to climb; the Worldwide Leader has several signature match-ups to choose from Oct. 1 and doesn't normally shed light onto mid-major showdowns when it has the option not to. But we'd argue this year's Central-Western rivalry is a biggie, and this may be the best opportunity to feature the MAC all season before it's relegated to mid-week games on ESPN2 in November.

Detroit Free Press


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