Jim McElwain knows what it’s like to play in difficult road environments around the SEC. He experienced it plenty while serving as Florida’s head coach from 2015-17, as well as when he was Alabama’s offensive coordinator from 2008-11.

Now, McElwain is getting to see it firsthand again a couple times early in the 2021 season. He’s been the head coach at Central Michigan since 2019, and this year, the Chippewas have a pair of SEC road matchups within the first 3 weeks of the season.

After opening the year with a 34-24 loss at Missouri, Central Michigan heads to LSU in Week 3 for a Saturday night matchup.

“You don’t see these places in the Mid-American Conference like this,” McElwain said when speaking to the media on Wednesday.

McElwain is especially aware of how challenging it can be to lead a team into Death Valley to take on LSU. And he’s hoping his Chippewas players can learn from the experience, perhaps even more so than the Week 1 trip to Mizzou.

“Believe me when I tell you this, the difference between playing at Missouri and playing at LSU in Death Valley at night is quite a bit different,” McElwain told reporters. “It starts with the fans, the fans are great. They are rabid about their home team. They make it something special and they don’t cut you any slack when you go in there, I’ll tell you that.

“And yet, that’s what makes college football so great. The stadium itself, obviously they’re right there on top of you, there’s no hiding. I think part of it, too, they’re really football smart. They really understand the game of football, they understand how to help their Bengal Tigers in situations. I think that has maybe something to do with it as well.”

If Central Michigan wins, it would be a big upset. It’s the first time the Chippewas are taking on LSU in their program’s history.

LSU and Central Michigan are set to kick off on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET on SEC Network.

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