If Eastern Michigan is going to have a chance, they will need to both run the ball and stop the run. (Same as it ever was.)
Eastern Michigan is currently on a three-game winning streak against the Big Ten teams, and all three of their victories have come in a pretty exciting fashion. In 2017, they beat Rutgers at the last moment. In the next year, they beat Purdue on a last minute field goal. In 2019, they beat Illinois. Because of the COVID-shortened season, they didn’t play anyone out of conference last year. So the first question for this year, will they continue their streak against the Big Ten?
Eastern Michigan has played Wisconsin three times. All of these times were at Camp Randall Stadium and all three games were losses. In 1991, they lost 21-6. In 1994, they didn’t score any points against Wisconsin as they lost by 56 points. The last matchup was in 1996 and Eastern Michigan lost that one 24-3. The Eastern Michigan of today is completely different from the Eastern Michigan of yesterday, so will that be enough to play Wisconsin closer in this upcoming game?
Wisconsin is coming off a 16-10 loss against the Penn State Nittany Lions last week, and will surely be hungry to take out those frustrations on their next opponent. Wisconsin was able to rush for a total of 180 yards versus the 50 yards that they gave up. They passed for 185 yards against the 247 yards that Penn State put up. The Badger offense was led by quarterback Graham Mertz, who was 22-of-37 for 185 yards and two interceptions. Chez Mellusi ran for 121 yards and Danny Davis received 99 yards.
The Badgers defense had two sacks and seven tackles-for-loss. They had no interceptions or fumble recoveries. The Badgers currently stand at #18 in the Associated Press Top 25 poll, dropping six places from their preseason ranking.
Eastern Michigan is coming off a 35-15 victory over the St. Francis (PA) Red Flash. They used the quarterback pair of Ben Bryant and Preston Hutchinson to gain 187 yards in the air. Their 221 rushing yards were led by Darius Boone, with 107 of them. Their defense had an interception and fumble recovery. The Eagles scored all five of their touchdowns on the ground, with three different running backs responsible for scoring, including Boone, Samson Evans and Jawon Hamilton.
If the Eagles are to escape Wisconsin with a victory, I think they need to continue to establish their running game, something which they did very well in Week 1. Wisconsin is traditionally a running school and will probably do well against the Eastern Michigan defense, so EMU will have to possess the ball as long as possible and finish drives as often as possible to be able to keep pace. I also think that the Eastern Michigan defense will have to create some breaks in order to win. They didn’t show much against St. Francis (and really, had no reason to do so,) but Neal Neathery has built a pretty aggressive defense. If they can win the turnover battle, I think they can win the game.
That being said, I think Wisconsin will probably emerge victorious— though I would expect Eastern Michigan to cover (if I gambled.)