All I can figure is that, after going two years with no games against Football Championship Subdivision teams, Eastern Michigan athletic director Derrick Gragg decided it was time to double up.
Either that, or somebody with some pull wanted to see some great HBCU marching bands. The Howard University "Showtime" Marching Band was the best-sounding collegiate marching band I've ever heard (and person-for-person, the loudest), and I hear good things about the "Mighty Marching Hornets".
These games certainly don't make financial sense -- even if they sold out Rynearson Stadium, EMU would lose money on each -- they don't make for good football games, and they don't help the Eagles win the MAC or get into a bowl.
Alabama State was the 2010 Southwest Athletic Conference East Division champion, losing the conference championship game to Texas Southern, 11-6. That makes them one of the better teams in one of the worst conferences in Division I. Think of them as the Troy University of the FCS, only not quite as good. The comparison to the Trojans is apt, because Alabama State's starting quarterback, Greg Jenkins, transferred from Troy.
The Hornets' 2010 season was primarily fueled by their ball-hawk defense, led by FCS second-team All-American Kejuan Riley, who picked off seven passes and recovered two fumbles in 2010. In the first game of 2011 they picked up right where they left off, grabbing two interceptions and five fumble recoveries at Mississippi Valley State.
On offense, Alabama State seems to be a pass-first team. Last week Jenkins completed 19 of 27 passes for 188 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. All three touchdown passes went to wide receiver Nick Andrews, who is on pace to end the year as Alabama State’s career receptions and receiving touchdowns leader.
Despite all that, EMU shouldn't have much trouble in this game. It's taken several years, but Ron English has brought toughness and a "grind it out" mentality to Ypsilanti. Alabama State allowed 5 yards per carry in their win last week, and Eastern Michigan's three-headed rushing attack of Dominique Sherrer, Javonti Greene, and Alex Gillett will be too much for the Hornets to handle. Expect to see a lot of this:
Eastern should win this game by at least 17 points -- more if the Eagles can limit their turnovers -- and will again put up some impressive rushing numbers.