Kentucky Wildcats vs. Central Michigan Chippewas
When: Saturday, Sept. 1
Game Time: 3:30 pm EST
Weather: Partly sunny with a 30-percent chance of showers and storms.
TV Channel: ESPNU
Online Stream: WatchESPN
Replay: WatchESPN and SEC Network (check local listings)
Announcers: Kevin Brown and Andre Ware will be on the call today.
Odds: Kentucky is a 17-point favorite.
Radio: Tom Leach and Mike Pratt will have the UK radio network call on 630 AM and 98.1 FM in Lexington or online at UKAthletics.com.
Kentucky Roster | Central Michigan Roster
With gameday here, Kentucky has a new hype video to get fans fired up for the return of football in the Bluegrass:
The Kentucky football team has high expectations; to not just reach a bowl game at six wins, but also to break the seven-win threshold they’ve been stuck at the last two seasons.
To do so, not only will they have to navigate through the SEC East, but will play a non-conference opponent who has had success against power-five teams.
The Central Michigan Chippewas, the school that produced the NFL’s best wide receiver in Antonio Brown, will visit Kroger Field on Sept. 1 to open the college football season.
When Kentucky fans go through the schedule trying to find a path to six wins to earn a bowl bid, many will automatically write a W next to Central Michigan.
Be aware, this is no pushover.
CMU, of the Mid American Conference, is coming off an 8-5 season where they went 1-1 against power five teams. CMU has made it to a bowl game in each season since 2012 and has had their fair share of big wins.
In their six-year bowl streak, the Chippewas defeated four Power-Five conference teams. The biggest of them came in 2016 when they visited #22 Oklahoma State in Stillwater and won the game on a controversial last play.
Last season, they grabbed a win over power five Kansas and defeated three bowl-bound teams.
Heading into 2018, CMU has solid talent on the roster.
Kentucky senior safety Mike Edwards understands beating CMU won’t be an easy task.
“They beat some power five teams and always do well in the MAC. We had a tough game with Eastern Michigan they pretty much beat them by a land side. They’re a pretty good team with good players on both sides of the ball.”
Running back Jonathan Ward ran for 1,017 yards, averaged 5.7 yards per carry, and scored 10 touchdowns.
Behind him, the team also has two solid running backs in Romello Ross (450 Yards, 5 TD’s) and Kumehnnu Gwilly (204 Yards, 2 TDs). This talented rushing group may find success against a Kentucky defense that finished middle of the pack at 58th in the nation at stopping the run a season ago.
Defensively, the team will have the majority of their front seven returning. The defense is highlighted by linebacker Alex Briones, who in 2017 started all 13 games, making 83 total tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, and three sacks.
Benny Snell Jr. is as good as it gets but may have his hands full against this stingy front seven.
The team overall is pretty well-rounded, though there are areas on both sides of the ball Kentucky can exploit.
CMU lost their quarterback Shane Morris (graduated) and will have to find themselves a quarterback in camp.
The starter is Tony Poljan. Poljan has more career rushing yards than passing. He’s 13-21 passing for 97 yards, and in 27 rushing attempts has 195 career rushing yards.
Not only does Poljan lack experience, but he also won’t have too many weapons to throw to.
CMU lost all three of their top Wide Receivers and their number one tight end from a year ago. Junior Cameron Cole had the most receiving yards of any returner at Wide Out in 2017 and only had 104 yards.
Kentucky will need to keep CMU from running the ball and make them go through the air.
Defensively CMU lost a lot of talent in the secondary.
They do have a stud in corner Sean Bunting but with all the options Kentucky has at both wide receiver and tight end, either Terry Wilson or Gunnar Hoak should find smooth sailing through the air.
Kentucky should defeat CMU at home. However, this game is no walk in the park. There is talent on the CMU side and players used to winning the last handful of seasons.