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2023 Week 1 Game Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Howard Bison

The Eagles open the season in Ypsilanti against an HBCU opponent.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 15 Harvard at Howard Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Another Eastern Michigan football season starts on Friday night at Rynearson Stadium, as the Eagles will open up their home slate with a matchup against the Howard University Bison, a Historically Black College or University which plays in the FCS. This will be the fourth matchup all-time between the two teams, with Eastern Michigan winning the three previous contests.

Game notes

  • Time and date: Friday, September 1st at 6:30 p.m. ET
  • Network: ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required.)
  • Location: Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, Michigan
  • Spread and over/under: N/A
  • All-time series: EMU leads, 3-0
  • Last meeting: EMU triumphed 34-24 in a close contest on Aug., 31, 2013.
  • Current streak: EMU (3, 2007-present)

Eastern Michigan is coming off a 9-4 season, coming within minutes of beating Toledo and possibly getting a berth to the MAC Championship Game. They did cap the season with a victory at the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl over San Jose State by 41-27 clinching Eastern Michigan’s first bowl win since they beat San Jose State in the California Bowl 35 years prior.

The Bison, meanwhile, finished 5-6 overall last year, but they were 4-1 in MEAC play. Howard scored an average of 28 points per game, and gave up an average of 25 points per game. They average 166 yards per game on the ground and 207 yards in the air, while giving up 167 yards on the ground and 168 yards in the air. They had eight interceptions and were intercepted 10 times, and picked up 21 sacks while giving up 29 sacks.

The Bison running attack will likely be led by Jarett Hunter. Last year he was named an All-MEAC second-team selection, averaging 57 yards per game with five touchdowns. He is probably followed by Ian Wheeler, who was also named to the All-MEAC second team. Their likely quarterback is Quinton Williams. Williams was 173-for-267 through the air for 1,185 yards and 16 touchdowns, with eight interceptions.

The Eagles will likely be led by quarterback Austin Smith. He played in nine games last year rotating with since-departed Taylor Powell. He was 68-for-119 in passing for a total of 774 yards. He threw for six touchdowns, but had four interceptions. He is also a pretty decent threat to run, as he ran for 255 yards on 61 attempts.

Eastern Michigan’s receivers will likely be Tanner Knue, J.B. Mitchell and Hamze El-Zayat. Of the three, the most likely threat will be Tanner Knue who played in twelve games last year. He caught for 632 yards and nine touchdowns. El-Zayat is a transfer from Fordham who led the Rams in receiving yards in 2021.

The rushing attack will likely be split between Samson Evans and Jaylon Jackson. They ran for a combined 1500 yards last year. Both represent different types of threats from the backfield.

Given the previous history between both teams, this should be a good tune up game for the Eagles and I expect we will see some other players than the one I mentioned. I’m pretty sure that the Eagles will be on the winning side when the clock reads zero.