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Preview: Eastern Michigan vs. Howard

Less than 36 hours remain until EMU's 2011 football season kicks off, and at last the Eagles will have the chance to put some distance between themselves and the stink of 71-3. It's been 1009 days since the home crowd at Rynearson Stadium witnessed a win, but tomorrow, barring a catastrophe, it will happen.

Howard has had a very bad football team the last several years. Just how bad have they been? In 2010, they went 1-10, with the sole win coming over Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, whose football team just moved up to Division II in 2009. That wasn't a single-season fluke, either; in the past three seasons they've managed just three Division I wins.

Howard hasn't just been one-dimensionally bad either, they've been all-around bad. Last season they allowed opponents to score 50 or more points 5 times, while only clearing 22 three times themselves. So at the end of last season, Howard athletic director Louis "Skip" Perkins fired Carey Bailey and hired an alumnus with no head coaching experience, Gary "The Flea" Harrell.

It's hard to know what to expect from Howard in this game. The Bison seem to get even less media coverage than does EMU, and with a first-year head coach, there's no telling how things will go. The expected starting quarterback, Greg McGhee, is a true freshman, which makes setting expectations doubly hard.

Key players for Howard are senior wide receiver Willie Carter, who averaged 19.4 yards per catch last year, senior defensive end Sackie Kerkulah -- can you think of a better name for a defensive end than "Sackie"? -- and junior linebacker Keith Pough, each of whom was named to the 2011 Pre-season All-Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference team. The Flea has commented that he likes their running game this year, and last year's leading rusher, junior Charles Brice is back, along with several younger contenders.

EMU's new scoreboard lost power in the 2010 season opener

EMU's new scoreboard lost power in the 2010 season opener.

I've seen predictions for this game ranging from a 27-point EMU win to a 38-point EMU win. Against a team as weak as Howard is expected to be, anything closer than 24 points is too close, and to me this has all the makings of a blowout: Howard will be overmatched by EMU's improving talent and EMU's secondary will shut down Howard's passing game, picking up several interceptions due to bad decisions by McGhee. With EMU wide receiver Kinsman Thomas suspended due to an unspecified violation of team rules the Eagles will run the ball early and often, and as long as Rynearson Stadium doesn't lose power again, this should be a relatively quick game.