Eastern Michigan (6-4, 3-3 Mid-American Conference) will host its final home game of the 2021 campaign on Tuesday night against their in-state rival Western Michigan (6-4, 3-3 MAC.)
I would like to say their season started with promise. The Eagles went 3-1 in the non-conference slate, with two handy victories over teams they sohould have beaten, as well as a revenge win over UMass after the latter left the MAC. Even in the Wisconsin loss, they were punching above their weight class. It would have been nice to see a stronger showing, but Wisconsin was not allowing it.
EMU started the MAC season with losses against Northern Illinois and Ball State and that put them behind the eight ball, as both teams would win the tiebreakers should the season end up the way it might end up. So once again, Eastern Michigan will not be playing for the MAC Championship, despite coming pretty close.
Western Michigan also had a fairly strong start to their 2021 campaign. After beating Pittsburgh on the road in a shootout, and easily dispatching defending Mountain West champion San Jose State, they posted wins against Buffalo and Kent State to start the conference slate, so it looked like they may have been in position to contend for the MAC.
However, the ghost of expectations haunted the Broncos, with egregious losses to Ball State, Toledo and Central Michigan basically taking them out of contention for the MAC Championship. After their magical season in 2016 where they went 13-1 after a close loss to Wisconsin in the Cotton Bowl, they haven’t come close to that mark.
WMU could find themselves playing spoiler at season’s end if Central Michigan beats Ball State this week and Northern Illinois loses at Buffalo, but the Broncos being able to control their destiny to the MAC title game is all but gone.
Eastern Michigan has had a pretty potent scoring offense, scoring an average of 34 points per game. Unfortunately, their defense has given up an average of 28 points per week. It’s a trend which forces EMU into a lot of one-score contests, and in football, those are more or less coin flips on a weekly basis. I think those stats are reflected in their overall 6-4 record and 3-3 in the MAC.
Their offense has been led by Ben Bryant who has an almost 70% completion rate for 254 yards per game. He typically has been able to go to multiple targets for that passing game. If there has been an Achilles heel this season, it has been the Eagle running game. It averages around 115 yards per game, but has dipped under 100 yards in their last handful of MAC games, a damning indictment of their ability to create holes. Their run defense has given up close to 200 yards per game. The defense has been pretty good at producing turnovers by averaging a turnover per game.
Western Michigan is no slouch in the points game, as they average nearly 31 points per game. Their defense hasn’t been that helpful by allowing 30 points per game. They have the same exact record as Eastern Michigan, which, when diving in to the stats isn’t a particular surprise. The offense has been led by Kaleb Eleby, who has a 61% completion rate and averages 247 yards per game through the air. Their ground game has been averaging 194 yards per game and has been led by Sean Tyler who has gained roughly 42 percent of those of those yards. Their defense against the run has allowed an average of 124 yards per game. Their defense averages a turnover a game.
On paper, these two teams look fairly evenly matched, but as always, they don’t play the game on paper. These two teams in particular also do a good job of finding themselves in unreasonably close games, so that should paint an idea of what to expect. The line gives Western Michigan a six-point edge. I don’t think I would be that generous, especially given both teams’ propensity to play down. Based on the fact Eastern Michigan is playing at Rynearson, I would give them a field goal advantage. That being said, Eastern Michigan can’t afford letting Western Michigan getting a head start.
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. Eastern time, and will be shown on ESPN2, as well as the ESPN App. A valid cable subscriuption is required.