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2016 Week 5 Preview: Eastern Michigan at Bowling Green

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Can the EMU success wagon roll on?

Will Brogan Roback lead the Eagles on Saturday?
Kenneth Bailey

Week Five brings us to the beginning of conference play. Despite their mirror image records, there are still several questions that remain to be answered. First of which, will Eastern Michigan’s success against their non-conference foes translate to continued success in the MAC? Will Bowling Green find their way out of the dumps by defeating an Eastern Michigan team that appears to be on the upswing? Will our author/photographer go mad trying to navigate the construction around Toledo?

The normally high flying Falcons find themselves in a new place
Kenneth Bailey

When the Falcons have the ball.

Since Eastern Michigan is my team, I normally start with them. I figured I would try something different this time. To say that Bowling Green has been woeful this year is probably an understatement if you look at the tale of the stats. In the first act of the season, Bowling Green has averaged 15 points per game. Their best outing so far was when they scored 27 points against North Dakota. It looks like their starter is James Knapke who averages 159 yards per game with a 50% completion percentage. However, I can’t forget James Morgan who has played in every game so far. He averages about 50 yards per game with a 59% completion rate. (UPDATE: It looks like James Morgan will be the starter this weekend) The passing game has given up 12 interceptions so far this season. They might be able to find some success in the air against Eastern Michigan’s air defense that has yielded 272 yards per game but I’m not sure.

The Bowling Green rushing attack appears to be split between Josh Cleveland and Fred Coppet. Combined they run for about 123 yards per game. If I were writing this last year, I would not have said this but they are going to be running against a run defense that has yielded only 107 yards per game. I would expect that they might find themselves in trouble facing that defense. I suspect that if Eastern Michigan’s run defense can hold, Bowling Green may be in for a long game.

The Eagles are flying high, can they maintain their altitude?
Kenneth Bailey

When the Eagles have the ball.

In the first act of the season, Eastern Michigan has scored 36 points per game. Over half of these points have come from the ground game. With Shaq Vann out, Ian Eriksen had to pick up the load and based on the 122 yards he gained against Wyoming, he’s almost there. Unfortunately, the next leading rusher besides Todd Porter was Breck Turner who had 50 yards in that game. I think the rushing game could use a little improvement but it might find this against a Falcon defense that has yield 231 yards per game on the ground.

Ian Eriksen running for a touchdown Kenneth Bailey

The important question is who would lead at Quarterback? So far Todd Porter has started all four games but he gave up four interceptions in the Wyoming game. Both of those were run back for touchdowns by Marcus Epps and Logan Wilson. In fact, their yards in both interceptions would put them near the top of the Eastern Michigan receiving chart. Porter has thrown at least one pick in the other three games as well. So it is possible that Brogan Roback will get the nod on Saturday. Coach Creighton has not said which quarterback will start.

All of this is against a Falcon defense that has given up an average of 55 points per game. This defense has also given up 327 yards per game in the air, so I expect whoever starts should find his grove against Bowling Green.

Conclusions from all of this.

I’ve been following Eastern Michigan football for too long to get my hopes too high. If I looked at the game on paper, Eastern Michigan should win but there are so many intangibles. The Eastern Michigan defense has improved considerably. This is evidenced by the fact they have forced almost 2 fumbles per game. They have almost an interception per game so far. Their offense has shown some ball control in that they have not coughed up a fumble yet, however they have made up for that by throwing eight picks so far. If I were going to go by the strict averages, Eastern Michigan should win but as I said, you never know.

How to watch (or listen to the game).

You could always go to the game if you are in the area. If you are coming from Ypsilanti, there is some construction on US-23 still. It looks like we might get rain on Saturday but you never know. TV coverage is on ESPN3. If you’re old fashioned and want to listen to the radio broadcast, you can tune into WEMU at 89.1 on the FM dial if you are near Ypsilanti. You can also pick this up streaming at wemu.org. If you prefer the other point of view, there is the Falcons Radio Network. Either way, I’m hoping for a good game.