Well, it is the moment you have been waiting for, the return of college football. In Ypsilanti, it returns on Friday night as the Monmouth Hawks travel to Rynearson Stadium to face the Eastern Michigan Eagles. This is the first meeting of the two teams and on paper it looks like it could be a good matchup.
The Monmouth Hawks are an FCS team in the Big South Division. They are coached by Kevin Callahan, who has a 144-118 overall record in his tenure as the only coach in Hawks history. Their football program started in 1993 and their first points were scored on a defensive interception of a 2-point conversion.
The Hawks were 9-3 in 2017 and are predicted to finish second in the Big South. They return a large number of starters from that team, include their redshirt senior quarterback Kenji Bahar. Their main receiver, Reggie White is also a returning senior. Their sophomore running back Pete Guerriero appears to be their starter but they have a senior as his back up.
On offense, Eastern Michigan appears to giving the starting quarterback duties to Tyler Wiegers, who is a graduate transfer from Iowa. The record on him is inconclusive. It is at running back where Eastern Michigan seems to have a large advantage. The official starter is listed as Ian Eriksen but he is being backed up by two very capable backs in Shaq Vann and Willie Parker. I expect that we will get to see each of them play during the game.
Withthe loss of Sergio Bailey, Eastern loses a ton of experience at wide receiver but I expect Arthur Jackson or Blake Banham, a recent position convert from RB, to step up.
The Eastern Michigan offensive line is returning a ton of experience.
Eastern Michigan is facing a Monmouth defense that only gave up 140 yards per game last year. With three experienced backs and an experienced line, I expect to see Eastern Michigan improve their running game against that defense. The Eagles appear to be weak on passing offense, but they are facing a defense that gave up 250 yards/game last year. I hope this gives their inexperienced quarterback and receivers a chance to tune up.
On defense, I expect to see Eastern Michigan continue their aggressiveness. They return Maxx Crosby, Jeremiah Harris, Brody Hoying and Vince Calhoun, among others. It seemed like they were a sack machine. And in order to beat Monmouth, they are going to have to contain their quarterback. They are facing an offense led by red shirt senior quarterback Kenji Bahar, who had 197 yards/game last year. He has two senior wide receivers to pass to. In the back field, rushing duty will probably go to Pete Guerriero who averaged 91 yards/game last year. This will be a good experience game for Eastern Michigan.
Eastern Michigan is facing an experienced team for their home opener. Even though Monmouth is an FBS team, I don’t think this is going to be an easy win for the Eagles. In order for the Eagles to pull it off, their experience defense is going to have to hold Monmouth down while Eastern figures out their offense. I think Eastern Michigan will prevail but it will be a close one.
The game is at 6:30 P.M. and will be shown on ESPN+.