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What We Learned: Takeaways from Eastern Michigan’s 34-26 loss to Ohio

Lack of a run game kills the Eagles when they need it the most.

The EMU run game
Kenneth Bailey

The Ohio Bobcats defeated the Eastern Michigan Eagles by a final score of 34-26 in the weeknight slate this past week.

Despite the closeness of the final score, the game didn’t particularly reflect the result. Eastern Michigan was able to tie it up early in the second half but that didn’t last long as Ohio scored two touchdowns. With time waning, Eastern Michigan was able to put together a nice drive to bring it within a score but were not able to connect on the ensuing onside kick.

So what did we learn from this?

The EMU run game was lacking when called upon

First and foremost, the lack of a consistent run game has cost Eastern Michigan dearly. On paper, this seemed like a winnable game for the Eagles. Not only was it winnable but for the sake of going to MAC Championship, it was a must-win situation.

This was at least the third time that Eastern Michigan has ran for under 100 yards as a unit. I can excuse the lack of a running game against Wisconsin, but they should be able to run against their conference opponents, especially an opponent who came in several games under .500. Northern Illinois was probably a winnable game as well, but it’s hard to win when you only put 38 yards on the ground.

Considering the talent they have in the backfield, it is inexplicable that EMU should be this underwhelming at running the ball.

Not only was Eastern Michigan’s ground game lethargic, their run defense was not so good either. Ohio was able to gain 265 yards on the ground. This is not the first time that a team has been able to run roughshod over the Eagles. I hope this is an issue they will be able to address for next year.

Ohio has great spoiler potential— in both divisions

The Ohio Bobcats had quite a few players back from injury and it looks like they are peaking at about the right time. At 3-3 in league, they aren’t in a bad position in the MAC East. If they win their next two games, Kent State loses to Akron but beats Miami and Miami loses the next two games, Ohio would end up in the Championship Game.

Considering Ohio was a program that seemed dead in the water just over a month ago, that’s not bad.

Ohio has already eliminated EMU from the MAC title race, and nearly did the same to CMU earlier in the season. They’ll have the opportunity to force Toledo to earn their bowl eligbility two weeks from now should the ‘Cats win this week, too. If they can pull off the feat, Ohio will be going bowling in their first season under Tim Albin.

What does the MAC West race look like?

With the defeat of Ball State, Eastern Michigan’s slim chance of playing in the MAC Championship went with that. Northern Illinois stands atop at the MAC West at 5-1. Central Michigan is next at 4-2. Central Michigan would need to win out and Northern Illinois would have to lose both games for Central to make it. Of the rest of the MAC West that are standing at 3-3, Western Michigan has the best shot, but they need to win both of their next games and they need Northern Illinois would need to lose both. Since Western Michigan and Northern Illinois play the last game, that kind of meshes.

There’s still all to play for at season’s end in the MAC once again, so those three teams can never say die.

The crossroads EMU faces for the future

Next level?
Kenneth Bailey

Here, I’m going to speak as an Eastern Michigan fan. I love what Creighton has done with the program. It is nice that he has gotten Eastern Michigan to contention in the MAC, but I would like to see what the next level looks like. I would like to see Eastern Michigan play at Ford Field with a MAC Championship on the line.

It seems like the pieces are there to do just that. Maybe Creighton needs to find an offensive coordinator but with the scoring that Eastern Michigan does, I’m not sure that is the problem. There is one thing I like about this team and that it doesn’t quit.

But if EMU continues to perform like this, are we going to be okay with being mid-table every campaign? There will be some hard questions asked in the offseason.

A bonus observation: What will be enough to satisfy?

Anyway, in other related news, what does a Group Five team need to do to get consideration for the College Playoff?

Currently, the Cincinnati Bearcats are undefeated but they are still below a bunch of one- loss Power 5 teams. Granted, they have had some close games but they haven’t lost those. As a fan of a Group Five school and a Group Five conference, I think it is a shame that pretty much half of the FBS football teams are eliminated from contention because of the Conferences they play in.

Even when those teams upset a Power Five team, it’s never enough because it’s usually a team having a down year. The off-conference schedule is picked almost a decade in advance most times, and it creates complications down the line when being evaluated under a modern lens.

If it’s not going to be settled on the field, don’t call it a playoff, have the gumption to call it a beauty contest instead. At least the East German judge never kidded himself.