After going 7-6 and going to the Bahamas Bowl in 2016, Eastern Michigan had sort of disappointing season last year by going 5-7 and missing a bowl game. Given Eastern Michigan’s history over the past 30 years, 5-7 isn’t all that disappointing though. One of the promising things about their record last year is that it could have easily gone 7-5 or better. Eastern Michigan was in each of the games they played. In each of the games during their 6 game losing streak, they lost by a touchdown or less. The one bright spot is that they won their first game against both a Big Ten* and Power Five team.
Looking at their schedule next year, it seems favorable. They play three out of four games on the road in September but that is tempered by having three of their last four games at home. I would say their two biggest tests on the road are when they travel to Purdue and Western Michigan. If they can put in a win against Purdue, they can prove their win against Rutgers last year wasn’t a fluke. If they win against Western Michigan, they can show that they can hang in the MAC. In my mind, that is more important than beating the Power Five teams on their schedule.
Games to Watch:
Monmouth - Eastern Michigan opens against Monmouth on August 31st at Rynearson Stadium. This is generally the game where Eastern plays in front of its largest home crowd. It is also the game that sets the tone for the season. Monmouth was 9-3 last season but they play in the FCS.
Purdue - It’s always a big game when Eastern Michigan plays the Big Ten. Purdue was 7-6 last year and probably represents another beatable Big Ten team. I think a win against them would be huge.
Western or Central Michigan - Both teams are the natural rivals to Eastern and therefore a win against either is huge.
Toledo - It always seems like Toledo is one of the toasts of the MAC. This year’s game is at Rynearson for Eastern Michigan. That may help. We’ll see.
At quarterback, Isaac Stiebling returns to the lineup and could be the heir apparent to Brogan Roback. He only got mop up time against Ball State last year. Standing in his way is the grad transfer from Iowa, Tyler Wiegers. He looked promising during the spring game. I wont say there is a quarterback controversy until I see both play in a real game.
At wide receiver, Eastern Michigan loses Sergio Bailey II, Antoine Porter and Johnnie Niupalau. That is a huge loss in experience but I think their shoes are going to be filled by Line Latu, Isaac Holder and Eddie Daugherty. Line Latu is a transfer from the same community college that brought us Johnnie Niupalau. Isaac Holder and Eddie Daugherty showed promise in the spring game and the games they played last year. I’m not sure if the Eastern quarterbacks can live up to Brogan Roback but if they do, Eastern’s aerial attack may look pretty good.
On paper it looks like Eastern Michigan is stacked at running back. Three of their likely running back are returning starters in the form of Shaq Vann, Breck Turner and Ian Eriksen. Shaq Vann can be very explosive if he stays healthy. Given that four of Eastern’s linemen are seniors, I hope that Eastern Michigan can improve upon the 130 yards they rushed per game last year.
On defense, they lose a major player in the form of Ike Spearman but they retain the services of Kyle Rachwal, Maxx Crosby, Jeremiah Harris, Vince Calhoun and Ikie Calderon. Maxx Crosby led the team in sacks last year with 11. He was closely followed by Jeremiah Harris with 6. Eastern Michigan forced 18 turnovers last year between interceptions and fumbles. I see no reason why they don’t improve on that. They allowed 173 yards rushing per game and 190 passing yards per game last year. Again, I don’t see any reason to see defensive production slip this year.
I’m not going to put a number, but I will predict that Eastern Michigan will have a better record this year. I think it will be good enough for them to go to bowl game. I’m not sure if they will be traveling down I-94 to Detroit for the MAC Championship but it seem more likely this year.