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2021 Mid-American Conference Football Game Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles at UMass Minutemen

Eastern Michigan travels to Amherst, Massachusetts to face an old, familiar foe.

NCAA Football: Massachusetts at Pittsburgh
Massachsetts Quarterback Tyler Lytle setting up a pass.
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend, Eastern Michigan gets to travel to Amherst, Massachusetts, where they get to face an old Mid-American Conference opponent in the form of the University of Massachusetts Minutemen.

The Minutemen joined the MAC in 2012 after bumping up to FBS, but would eventually bolt to the independent ranks in 2016. But the Minutemen didn’t leave before facing the Eagles twice in cross-division action— winning both times.

In 2014, Eastern Michigan lost 28-17 at Rynearson Stadium. In 2015, Eastern Michigan lost 36-14 in Amherst. A lot of time has passed since then, and both programs are certainly in much different situations now than they may have been in in the mid-2010’s, to say the least.

One of my pictures from the Eastern-Massachusetts game. I was not expecting the eagle to come out, so the picture kind of looks like, “Well, he was taking eagle pictures and this was the last one in the camera”.
Kenneth Bailey

In 2019, Massachusetts hired their new coach Walt Bell. The young up-and-comer, formerly from Boston College, has been at the helm for 16 games, winning only once after taking over from Mark Whipple’s second tenure. He’s UMass’ third coach since their jump from the FCS. Eastern Michigan’s Chris Creighton is in his eighth season in Ypsilanti, and has a 31- 52 record at Eastern Michigan, including the two losses to UMass in 2014 and 2015 as a rookie FBS head coach.

Eastern Michigan enters the game with a 1-1 record against two very different teams, which their current stats reflect. Eastern Michigan has scored an average of 21 points and has given up an average of 24.5 points. On the ground, Eastern Michigan has gained an average of 118.5 yards and has given up 228.5 yards but given that 228.5 yards includes a team that runs really well, it’s hard to use that average.

In the air, Eastern Michigan has gained 132.5 yards per game and has given up 176.5 yards per game. But again, this is another spot where the stats don’t really tell the tale. Eastern Michigan has two interceptions and has given up two interceptions. They have also recovered one fumble while losing one fumble.

They’re truly a team right in the middle at current.

I like this picture....
Kenneth Bailey

I think this is the game where Eastern Michigan gives the nod to Ben Bryant at quarterback. He is 12-of-17 with no picks, averaging 74.5 yards per game. I expect that Eastern Michigan is going to open up the passing game against the Minutemen after not being able to really digf into the playbook against their last two opponents. The leading Eagle rusher is Darius Boone with 53.5 yards per game. I expect his total rushing to be closer to his total against St. Francis rather than his total against Wisconsin, given UMass’ woeful defensive numbers. Since Eastern Michigan hasn’t passed much this year, there isn’t a receiver that stands out yet, but I expect Hassan Beydoun to have a big game if the passing game is opened op.

The Minutemen have terrible stats and their 0-2 record plays that out. They have been outscored an average of 48 to 17.5 points. They have been outrushed and outpassed by severe margins as well. UMass comes in with the 121st total offense in the country (272.2 yards per game average) and are third-last in the country defensively, coming in at 128th with an astounding 534.5 yards per game allowed. That’s 12 more average yards per game allowed than the Akron Zips, who sit at 127th.

The football punditry are saying that Eastern Michigan is going to get beat by the Minutemen. I’m not really seeing it yet, but I suppose that’s why the games are played. I expect that Eastern Michigan will be leaving Amherst with a win, given the paper matchup. And maybe we might finally learn who the real Eagles are after two weeks which haven’t really revealed very much.

Another picture from the time the two teams played at Rynearson.
Kenneth Bailey