Winless Eastern Michigan travels to undefeated Western Michigan tomorrow in part two of the Michigan MAC rivalry series.
Eastern Michigan comes off a loss where they had what seemed to be a pretty commanding lead to Central Michigan last week, while Western Michigan comes off a game where they squeaked by a winless Northern Illinois squad, in what surely was a reminder of how close the margins of the shortened seasons are.
So what’s at stake in this game?
With a victory against Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan is all but assured to earn a spot to the MAC Championship in Detroit, pending the result of the Ball State/CMU game. If Eastern Michigan wins, they win some pride and make next week’s game between Western Michigan and Ball State a little more interesting. Regardless of the result, the Michigan MAC trophy will stay with the Broncos for another year because of the round robin thing.
Anyway, you would think writing about a game where an undefeated team playing a winless team at this point in the season would be pretty easy. With the exception of one game, Eastern Michigan has kept it pretty close this season. However, when I look at the stats for the two teams, I don’t see that happening in this game.
Eastern Michigan has scored an average of 26 points, while giving up 35 points per game. Western Michigan has scored 45 points per game, while giving up 30 points. Based on that, one would think WMU would run away with a pretty significant gap, but with the penchant both these teams have for putting up impressive offensive numbers, it could be anything goes.
The Eastern Michigan ground game has pretty much been led by quarterback Preston Hutchinson with 42.25 yards per game. Overall, Eastern Michigan has put up 107 yards on the ground per game. I don’t see that number changing much tomorrow. However, if a miracle should occur and Eastern Michigan does establish its ground game, things may look bright for them.
The Eastern Michigan passing attack has been decent with quarterback Preston Hutchinson throwing 86 for 139 for 276 yards per game on average, with 7 touchdowns through the air and six on the ground. However, he has thrown 6 interceptions and has been sacked 10 teams. Given that the the Western Michigan defense has found the quarterback 14 times this season, I think Preston Hutchinson is going to be scrambling quite a bit.
The Western Michigan aerial attack is led by Kaleb Eleby. He’s gone 56-of-89 for an average 284 yards per game. He’s thrown 12 touchdowns and only has one interception. I don’t see Eastern Michigan’s pass defense covering that.
The Western Michigan ground attack is two-pronged, with Sean Tyler and La’Darius Jefferson each averaging over 80 yards per game. Given that Eastern Michigan has given up an average of 259 yards on the ground this season, I see no reason why Western Michigan won’t wear down the Eastern Michigan defense.
So what do I predict?
I really hate to predict things because you never know what Chris Creighton will pull out of the hat. I could see the game staying close for three quarters and then Western Michigan pulling away in the fourth quarter. I could also see Western Michigan striking fast and not looking back. I suppose, I could also see Eastern Michigan keeping it close and pulling a steal in Kalamazoo. Of the three scenarios, that is probably the least likely.