Watching Central Michigan beat Northern Illinois Wednesday night, I got the feeling next September 12th's game in East Lansing with the Spartans won't be the usual automatic pushover against a Mid American Conference team.  CMU won 33-30 in overtime and nearly blew a 30-6 lead, but the Chips are indeed now 8-2.  They host unbeaten Ball State on ESPN2 next Wednesday and the winner likely moves on to the MAC title game.  If CMU quarterback Dan Lefevre returns for his senior year, the Chips should come into East Lansing full of confidence for what could well be a competitive game.  CMU should have won at Purdue this fall and then later did win at Indiana 37-34.

     Other games next year include Notre Dame in South Bend and Western Michigan at Ford Field.  Western has already beaten Illinois at Ford Field last Saturday.  WMU is now 8-2 with plenty of good young players returning next fall.  Remember, MSU will have a new quarterback and new running back, with Brian Hoyer and Javon Ringer graduating.  And the Big Ten road games will be a challenge-- at Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota and Purdue.  The home games are with Iowa (second straight year, don't ask me why), Michigan, Northwestern and Penn State. 

     I guess you can make a point that MSU will be an underdog at Penn State and then likely in its Florida New Year's Day bowl game.  IF MSU loses both and finished 9-4, that is an improvement over 7-6 last year.  But winning nine games next year might be a bit tougher given the skilled position players that must be replaced.


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