Eastern! Respected intra-county rival! How we respect you and your respectable program which is worth respecting!
Run Offense vs. EMUPittsburgh, last seen losing by ND-like margins to UConn and Virginia, is the best team Eastern has played this year, and they're still 83rd in rush defense. But things, while uneven, haven't been totally humiliating. Vandy put up 173 yards but needed 44 carries to do it. Ball State's RBs combined for 35 carries at 3.4 YPC. It hasn't been a total slaughter.
Those numbers came against Howard, which isn't a guy (or a duck) but a I-AA HBC. While Michigan is no stranger to giving up mind-bending numbers of rushing yards to I-AA schools, neither is it in the practice of having the equivalent of a I-AA rushing attack. Though there were significant struggles against Northwestern, apparently John Gill is one of Northwestern's anomalous badasses; no one on Eastern will come close to matching that performance. If this is not a steady grind reminiscent of the first three games, it will bode very unwell for future contests.
One note: there are well-sourced rumors flying around that Brandon Minor is going to miss this game. Carlos Brown might get extensive time, assuming we don't trail at the half.
Key Matchup: Interior OL versus DT penetration. Mike Hart has had to deal with DTs in his grill for two straight weeks, breaking 100 yards only via repetition and, well, that's it: repetition. Also his ineffable greatness, but mostly just getting pounded into the line 30 or 44 times. If Eastern Michigan DTs cross the LOS just cancel the season. Again.
Pass Offense vs. EMUHenne is back as Michigan's full-time starter, so the training wheels can come off the offense and we can risk things like simple outs against terrified three-deep coverage. Like the rush defense, EMU's pass defense has been erratic. They held NIU's QB to 128 passing yards in a win and intercepted Vandy's Chris Nickson four times but also gave up 308 yards and four touchdowns to Ball State's Nate Davis and allowed Pitt's Bill Stull to have an efficient 14 for 20, 177 yard, 1 TD day. I am confident in saying that Henne is better than Davis or Stull and whatever grab bag of wideouts and tight ends we have still includes a few guys who Eastern is going to cower before.
One item to look for: who replaces Massey? Tight end depth was a major issue in the spring when Carson Butler was off the team and Massey was dinged up. The spring game featured Chris McLaurin, a converted linebacker, and Andre Criswell, a converted fullback, conclusively proving McLaurin couldn't block, and Criswell couldn't run, and neither could catch. We could just go with a three-wide set and force opponents to respect it by, like, passing out of it. We could more heavily feature Mark Moundros, though he's been uninspiring and with Moudros comes the dread fullback shuffle. More likely we'll try to sort through the wreckage at TE to find an acceptable alternative. McLaurin saw Massey's time against Northwestern.
Key Matchup: Mike Debord versus throwing only when we have to.
Run Defense vs. EMUEastern ran for 37 yards against Pitt and 62 yards against Vandy. Only one anomalous 68 yard romp against NIU is keeping their 100th-ranked rushing offense from levels of epic suck matched only by Notre Dame. They run a spread unless they've vastly changed their offense from last year, so there's always the chance Michigan implodes and Eastern puts up like 300 yards, but... uh... no.
Key Matchup: Ron English versus Getting Too Cute. Stunting all over creation has gotten Michigan in trouble against both Appalachian State and Northwestern; simply driving EMU's crappy OL back should be sufficient.
Pass Defense vs. EMUEMU QB Andy Schmitt against Vandy:
Yikes. Eastern's passing attack is thus far even worse than their run game, 110th in the country largely because Schmitt went nuts against Howard.
Meanwhile, Michigan's secondary turned in an excellent day versus Northwestern a week after leaving a lot of Penn State receivers open but getting away with it due to a fierce pass rush and the tao of Morelli. Things are on the upswing after the worst performance ever by a Michigan secondary against Oregon -- probably not even exaggeration, that -- and Eastern seems more likely to threaten themselves instead of Michigan.
Key Matchup: Safeties versus enormous screwups that cost Michigan touchdowns. We had another against Northwestern; these must halt.
Special Teams...will not be relevant, and if they are you probably don't want to know about it.
Key Matchup: KC Lopata, please don't suck..
IntangiblesVast spreads against MAC teams do not warrant kitten talismans.
Cheap ThrillsWorry if...
- Eastern runs for anything at all.
- Eastern throws for anything at all.
- We can't run. Worry lots if that.
- Mallett plays the second half...
- ...with Carlos Brown.
- Uh... we kick off? It's EMU.
Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5; +1 for We Must Maintain In-County Bragging Rights, +1 for If This Happens Twice In One Season My Brain Might Melt, +1 for It's EMU, +1 for Seriously, +1 for SERIOUSLY.)
Loss will cause me to... iiiiiiiiit's kitten time!
Win will cause me to... shrug, watch OSU-Purdue with great interest.
The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:
Eastern Michigan is the worst team Michigan will play all year and should roll over and die. Yeah, there's a chance things implode but... no.
Finally, three opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:
- Mike Hart sets the record at the end of the first quarter.
- 6 sacks.
- 42-17, Michigan.