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Eastern Michigan Eagles at Old Dominion Monarchs Football Preview: A Q&A With Underdog Dynasty

The Eagles travel to Norfolk, Virginia to take on the Old Dominion Monarchs. Thankfully Sydney Hunte of Underdog Dynasty – SB Nation’s Blog for the American, Conference USA, Sun Belt, and Independent Conferences – was nice enough to give me some insight into the game.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Hustle Belt: The Monarchs played a competitive game last week against N.C. State, leading at the half. What were some of the positives that emerged from that game?

Underdog Dynasty: I think that a major positive they gained from Saturday is that they are able to stick around with those Power 5 teams. Granted, N.C. State is no Florida State, but it would have been a great sign of progress moving forward for a team whose only win against an FBS opponent (thus far) is a lowly Idaho team last year, and who came very close to topping Pitt on the road, also last year. Of course, the Wolfpack ended up winning on Saturday, but I think the team came away with a better sense of what they need to do moving forward, because from here on out, they aren't just playing a few FBS teams here and there--they're almost exclusively playing them (besides a FCS game or two to kick off the schedule).

HB: Head coach Bobby Wilder has experienced some success, ultimately building (from scratch) a competitive program within the FCS. What has been the mindset of Coach Wilder and his staff as they have made the transition?

UD: They understand that it's a big step up in weight class from where they were before to where they are now. The talent is better on the opposition, the teams they're playing have access to better resources than teams they've played in the past, and along with that there will be some growing pains and an adjustment period as they see some things that they've never seen before. Despite that, Wilder's mantra has been "aim high"--he's not settling for status quo, and even though this is different than what they've seen in the past, he's not going to use that as an excuse; his goal is to get his players playing 100% each time out and ideally be in the hunt for a conference championship (they are eligible to play in the championship game if they make it, but only have partial bowl eligibility until next year). Will they win every game? No, but if his team leaves it all on the field and makes progress throughout, I think Wilder will be happy.

HB: While the Monarchs’ performed admirably on offense, the defense appeared to be a work in progress. According to Coach Wilder, 24 players played on defense last week. Who are some of the defensive players that the coaches will be looking to step up this week?

UD: I'm looking for that front four on the defense to generate a little more pressure on the quarterback and force him to make quick decisions. Jacoby Brissett looked like he had a great deal of time to get set in the pocket last week, survey the field and make plays, and it hurt the Monarchs in the end. The team also shuffled a bit in the LB corps with Andre Simmons not starting at the rover against EMU. He might be transitioning to SS from what I've read, so he'll need to rise to the occasion if that's the case.

HB: What do the Monarchs need to do this week against Eastern to win the game?

UD: I think the key is stopping the run. They had a little trouble with that against N.C. State, so that's probably the main thing they need to do. Also, continue to limit the penalties. ODU committed three penalties for 20 yards on Saturday, so it wasn't a big problem at all, but they'll need to carry that on into this upcoming game. Finally, that offensive line has been playing well over the first two games (Taylor Heinicke wasn't sacked on Saturday), so that will need to continue.

HB: Prediction?

UD: I'll have to go with the Monarchs in this one; they should be able to put up some points against the Eagles D.

Old Dominion 38 Eastern Michigan 24