Eastern Michigan is 2-0 for the first time since 1989. Former Michigan football players Kurt Anderson, Mike Hart and Steve Morrison are now part of the Eagles’ coaching squad, and long-time Michigan assistant coach Ron English is now the Eagles’ head coach. Will the former Wolverines be able to work up some old magic to help give the Eagles their first-ever victory against Michigan?

There’s a chance, but not a very good one. Here’s a breakdown of Saturday’s matchups:

Michigan pass offense vs. Eastern Michigan pass defense

In victories against Howard University and Alabama State, the Eagles gave up an average 171 yards per game in the air. They’re not horrible numbers, but when you consider the opponents Eastern Michigan faced (both are FCS schools), the numbers aren’t exactly eye-popping. Sophomore defensive back Marlon Pollard, a transfer from UCLA, has been a nice addition for the Eagles and has already snagged one interception. Senior defensive back Latarrius Thomas, a transfer who started as a true freshman at Louisville, has also improved the defense.

The Michigan offense has seen some troubles of its own through the air, as junior quarterback Denard Robinson has completed just over 50 percent of his passes and has thrown three interceptions, often having trouble with his footwork and accuracy. At times, the receivers have shown an inability to hang onto balls that they should have caught.

But you can bet that the Eagles have never faced a versatile quarterback quite like Robinson (except for Robinson himself in 2009), and he should be successful as long as he stays poised.

Edge: Michigan

Michigan rush offense vs. Eastern Michigan rush defense

For the most part, the Michigan running backs have struggled so far this season. Redshirt sophomore Fitzgerald Toussaint appeared to have taken hold of the starting job after his 80 yards and two touchdowns against Western Michigan, but a shoulder injury kept him sidelined against Notre Dame last weekend and his role on Saturday is up in the air.

Senior Michael Shaw stalled in the starting role last week, tallying two carries for minus-three yards. Sophomore Stephen Hopkins didn’t fare much better, with just 10 yards on five carries and one fumble. Junior Vincent Smith has shown flashes of potential, but it appears he will be primarily used as a third-down back.

The Eastern Michigan defense excels against the rush. The Eagles have given up an average of just 41.5 yards per game on the ground, including minus-13 yards in their 14-7 victory over Alabama State. Pollard and Thomas received preseason All-MAC recognition, and senior defensive end Brad Ohrman leads the MAC with three sacks already this year.

But Michigan still has the most dangerous rusher on the field in Robinson, who is averaging 77 yards per game and can break loose at any point. That’s enough to give the Wolverines a slight edge.

Edge: Michigan

Eastern Michigan pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense

The Eastern Michigan passing game has been far from stellar this year, but then again, so has the Michigan pass defense. Eagles quarterback Alex Gillett has completed just 47 percent of his passes for 176 total yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions. His longest completion went for just 25 yards.

The Wolverine defense has given up an average of 249 yards per game in the air — over a third more yards than Gillett has passed for in two games. But Michigan has forced three interceptions so far, and Gillett is a prime subject to toss up a few more.

Edge: Michigan

Eastern Michigan rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense

The Eagle running backs have proven to be a two-headed monster so far this season. As a whole, Eastern Michigan is averaging 331 yards on the ground in two games. Redshirt junior Dominique Sherer and sophomore Javonti Green crossed the century mark in each of the Eagles’ first two games. Green is averaging 133 yards per game, and Sherrer is averaging 115.

That could spell trouble for the Wolverines, who are tenth in the Big Ten in rush defense and have given up an average of 147 yards on the ground per game. Redshirt junior safety Jordan Kovacs is tied with redshirt junior linebacker Kenny Demens for most tackles (18), meaning the opposing running backs have often made it through the initial line of defense and into the Wolverine secondary — something Michigan will hope to avoid on Saturday.

Edge: Eastern Michigan

Special Teams

In seven attempts last Saturday, Eastern Michigan junior punter Jay Karutz pinned Alabama State inside the 20-yard line five times, and he’s proven to be one of the better punters in the MAC. Michigan freshman kicker/punter Matt Wile, who took over for suspended sophomore punter Will Hagerup, has looked decent at times, averaging 39 yards per punt.

Eastern Michigan sophomore kicker Kody Fulkerson, who surprisingly snagged the job away from redshirt junior and former starter Sean Graham at the beginning of this season, has been solid so far, going 7-for-7 on extra points and 2-of-3 on field goal attempts.

The Wolverine field goal kickers have yet to attempt a field goal. Michigan would probably like to keep it that way. Its kickers finished 4-for-13 on field goals last year — good for last in the nation. But you’ve got to believe the Wolverines will have to attempt a field goal eventually, and there’s a good chance it won’t be pretty.

Edge: Eastern Michigan

Intangibles

Coming off an incredible 35-31 comeback win over Notre Dame last Saturday night, Michigan’s biggest concern could be avoiding a letdown against Eastern Michigan in an ordinary noon game.

But Michigan coach Brady Hoke has stressed many times that he will not let his team take the Eagles lightly, and he’ll have the Wolverines ready. Redshirt sophomore Taylor Lewan echoed Hoke’s comments and tabbed Saturday’s game as another opportunity for Michigan to improve its record.

In Hoke’s 100th career game as a head coach, the Wolverines won’t let him down.

Final Score: Michigan 38, Eastern Michigan 14

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published.