Good news is that last season is in the past. Bad news is that, while the Eastern Michigan Eagles should be much more talented this year than they were last year under first year head coach Chris Creighton, the rest of the MAC got better too.
Will the Eagles be able to hang around this year? Well, let's take a shot of optimism and look at their upcoming season.
September 5 vs. Old Dominion Monarchs
For the first time in forever, the Eagles will not be hosting an FCS opponent at Rynearson Stadium. Instead, ODU will be coming to Ypsilanti after the Eagles lost in Norfolk 14-7 in an ugly, rainy game. But this year, the team is more experienced under Chris Creighton and his staff, there's a damn promising recruiting class that's got a few players that could be getting some playing time in this game, and ODU is without Taylor Heinicke, who threw for nearly 3,500 yards with 30 touchdowns last season. The experience oughta pay off, even though the Eagles have their own QB situation to figure out. Prediction: Always a close game, Monarchs put up an early scare against a defense that isn't totally on the same page for a while. But Darius Jackson gets a pair of crucial rushing TDs late. Pat O'Conner gets to the QB twice. EMU wins 28-24.
September 12 at Wyoming Cowboys
When I think of Wyoming football, I think of my NCAA Football video game dynasties using this team. Why? Because I think brown and yellow work together.
At this point, you either do or don't have a "set" quarterback. Either way: somebody's feelings are gonna get hurt. If there's not a QB-1 before heading into this game, then there could be trouble for the Eagles. Also, Brian Hill is only going to be a sophomore this year, and he's pretty good. They've also got maybe the best wide receiver prospect from the state of Washington in their 2015 signing class. On paper, this seems like it could be a very balanced matchup, but the Eagles are on the road, which could end up being the difference maker. Prediction: The Cowboys get off to a quick 10-point lead as the Eagles come back and win the first half. Two big plays in the third quarter from the Wyoming offense is all it takes to turn the tables. Wyoming wins 34-18.
September 19 vs. Ball State Cardinals
Why should you have a QB1 against Wyoming? Because if your first in-conference game is going to be as early as this, you need to be as prepared as early as possible. The Cardinals lose both of their top running backs from last year to graduation and injury. Whoever Lembo gives the bulk of the carries to against the VMI Cadets and on the road to Texas A&M in the preceding weeks will be on the scouting report leading up to this. Prediction: Ozzie Mann was good last year. He will be good for Ball State once again in 2015. Turnovers for both teams will keep it close, but I think Mann is going to have too good of a day here. Ball State wins 26-14
September 26 vs. Army Black Knights
One thing that I'm excited for about this game is that it's against a P5 school. This is also a good time to EMU fans to remember that linebacker and leading tackler from the 2013 season Ike Spearman will be back this year after missing all of 2014 with a leg injury. It's not a good time to remember that the run defense as a whole hasn't been
stellar decent over the years, but maybe a second year under the new coaching staff could fix a few holes from last year's prototypical 3-4 Swiss defense. Prediction: EMU's pass game comes through in front of a home crowd, a fairly well-sized crowed for a game at Rynearson with all of the Army fans. If the newcomers on the defensive line can come in and play well, then the offense will eventually follow. EMU wins 23-19.
October 3 at LSU Tigers
When schedules get released, it's always a good time to segregate the "winnable" games from the "unwinnable" games. This game has been locked in for years and went into the unwinnable pile then and will probably stay there. Prediction: There's going to be an LSU freshman that gets 70-100 yards of total offense, and will be exciting for Eagles fans for the first ten-to-twenty real time minutes, but talent wins out. Be sure to overwatch the EMU offensive line in this game. LSU wins 43-18
The big 2015 Eastern Michigan football guide: Searching for sunshine in the Factory
The countdown begins its second conference: the MAC.
October 10 vs. Akron Zips
To be honest, I'm not sold on Akron. I think this will be a battle of the front 7's on both sides. If EMU is going to prove that they'll have a run defense against MAC opponents, this is a good time to do it. Of course, they'll already have played an intra-divisional opponent already, but this is the year for Akron with it being Terry Bowden's fourth year with juniors and seniors and a fairly impressive 2015 class, there's plenty of expectation for them to at least go .500 this year. Prediction: If the Zips come in to this game with a 4-1 or 3-2 record, then there will be plenty of hype around this Akron team around this time. If it's the opposite, then these two teams will be fighting for a lot of respect from other MAC programs. Let this be the game where transfer H-back Cody Tuttle makes a name for himself with the short passing game and Dustin Creel plays like a true first-stringer, beating out the man-to-man coverages. Dare I say, home field advantage? EMU wins 33-27.
October 17 at Toledo Rockets
If there's one thing that you need to learn about MAC football, it's that the West is #talented. Toledo's so talented, that they had a kid switch from quarterback to wide receiver for more playing time, then played quarterback at home against NIU. They've also got Kareem Hunt, who may or may not be the best running back in the MAC, even though Jarvion Franklin is the sexier name to pick for that claim right now. But that's arbitrary, we'll just have to wait and see how this season goes. Prediction: EMU coughs up the ball on stupid turnovers; "The Dream" runs for 261ish yards. EMU's passing defense is torn to shreds. Toledo wins 33-10.
October 24 at Northern Illinois Huskies
While EMU has gotten better all around from talent to resources to coaching, the West is going to be too damn good of a conference to be in right now. Drew Hare will probably never put up Jordan Lynch numbers, but he doesn't have to. The Eagles haven't beaten NIU since 2007, and there's plenty of reason why most of those games haven't been close. Prediction: The Eagles show improvement with a solid running game by Darius Jackson and maybe even Breck Turner or Shaq Vann, but the Huskies know how to reload. Losing Cameron Stingily, Tyler Loos and Da'Ron Brown won't be an issue. Huskies win 37-22.
Thursday, October 29 vs. Western Michigan Broncos
This is a tough one. Everybody had WMU winning only three or four games last year, but they ended up going to the Idaho Potato Bowl instead and is currently the sexiest name in MAC recruiting. Chris Creighton might not be able to have the recruiting dominance that Fleck has, but if the Eagles can have a huge turnaround much like WMU did last year, then this is anybody's game. Prediction: Jarvion Franklin was limited against EMU last year, but that might not happen again this year. Rivalry games are weird, but I'm siding with talent again. WMU wins 29-25.
November 7 at Miami RedHawks
Miami might be the best team in the East in 2015. Or they're a really good cluster of kids that will get their daily ass-beatings from head coach Chuck Martin (not literal ones, but the metaphorical football coachy kinds), and maybe come up just disappointingly too short in one too many games this season. A formidable ground game is all Miami really needs in Marin's second year as their head coach, and their passing game would probably benefit from that. Prediction: If Billy Bahl is as good as many expect him to be, this could be dangerous for EMU. I'm going to make Dustin Creel the difference maker again, but I'm also going to hold this to the turnover battle, which isn't the battle you'd exactly want to deal with when you're on the road. Miami wins 24-14.
November 14 vs. UMass Minutemen
UMass might be the best team in the East in 2015. Or they're a really good cluster of- well you get the point. There's a lot of reason to believe that Mark Whipple could help lead this team to an appearance in Detroit. There's a lot of reason to believe that they won't, but should be one of the better teams from the East this year, especially with Blake Frohnapfel and Tajae Sharpe as the noteworthy stars on this offense. Prediction: My gut tells me that this is going to be a high-scoring affair. Why? Because this is parking lot #MACtion, that's why. EMU wins 44-41 in OT.
Friday November 27 at Central Michigan Chippewas
Are the Eagles going to a bowl game at this point? Nope. Is CMU? It's too hard to tell if they will. New coach, no more Titus Davis, no more Thomas Rawls, no more Leterrius Walton, and many other starters from last year will be gone. New CMU head coach John Bonamego will still get to have Cooper Rush as his quarterback, which is a bigger deal than many may realize. Prediction: CMU may have lost a lot of pieces, but they'll still have plenty of fire power to work with. If this were a game played six weeks sooner, maybe I'd have a different response, but a rivalry game with a CMU graduate as CMU's head coach at CMU is hard to trump. CMU wins 34-16.
I've got EMU going 4-8 overall, 2-6 in MAC play, another year without a bowl game. The Eagles might be the worst team in the MAC on paper, so a 4-win season is fine to build off of to head into 2016. Having only six wins in your first two years as an FBS head coach after 17 years of winning seasons at other programs can be concerning, but unfortunately for EMU fans, everybody knew that this process would take longer than just a 2014 campaign and the two signing classes, especially since they didn't have a lot of time to help build Creighton's first class.