Michigan cornerback Brandon Harrison doesn’t think it’s possible for the Wolverines to overlook another opponent after the Appalachian State fiasco.
But c’mon. It’s Eastern Michigan, a perennial bottom dweller of the Mid Athletic Conference.
See if the Eagles have a chance to compete against the heavily favored Wolverines.
Michigan rush offense vs. Eastern Michigan rush defense:
Mike Hart may have topped the century mark for the fifth-straight game last weekend, but it wasn’t pretty. It took him 30 carries to reach 106 yards, and even that stat line was padded by a late-game 23-yard run.
Most think this will be a low-volume game for the Heisman Trophy candidate, but if last weekend showed anything, assume the worst.
With Mario Manningham suspended, Hart could surpass 25 carries and should definitely become Michigan’s all-time leading rusher by Saturday afternoon.
Eastern Michigan’s Daniel Holtzclaw is among the nation’s elite in terms of tackles, but the Eagles will need every one to stop a hungry Hart ready to get back on track.
Michigan pass offense vs. Eastern Michigan pass defense:
Chad Henne made a successful return last weekend, but if he wants to keep his momentum going Saturday, he’ll have to do it without his favorite target, Manningham.
Henne will still have Adrian Arrington, who is quietly having a very strong season, and Greg Mathews, Michigan’s emerging third-down passing threat, at his disposal.
That should be enough to gain the edge over an Eastern Michigan team that has surrendered more than 200 yards a game through the air this season.
Eastern Michigan rush offense vs. Michigan rush defense
Michigan coach Lloyd Carr specifically challenged Michigan’s rush defense this week, saying it’s something the team definitely needs to improve. This comes after Michigan’s less-than-stellar performance against Northwestern, in which the Wolverines allowed the Wildcats to run all over them in the first half for more than 300 total yards.
Eastern Michigan enters the game averaging just a hair more than 100 yards per game as a team.
With Carr specifically calling the front seven out, expect some positive results. I’m not predicting a repeat of the Notre Dame performance, but be surprised if the Eagles near their triple-digit season average on Saturday.
Eastern Michigan pass offense vs. Michigan pass defense
Bad news for Michigan: Eastern Michigan runs a spread offense.
Good news for Michigan: It’s Eastern Michigan.
Despite the Wolverines’ inauspicious start to the season against spread teams, they seemed to show at least a little progress last weekend against Northwestern. The Eagles run a similar offense, so expect Michigan to continue improving against it.
Even though Eastern Michigan quarterback Andy Schmidt began the season with five touchdowns to just one interception, his solid season hit a bit of a speed bump last weekend against Vanderbilt. The Commodores met the Eagles’ spread offense with pressure, forcing Schmidt to toss three interceptions. Expect a similar strategy from Ron English and the Wolverines, with similar results.
Eastern Michigan could have a quasi-trained seal as a kicker and a one-eyed goat as a holder and there’d still be no way Michigan escapes with more than a push in this category.
No matter how well Zoltan Mesko punts – and he’s punting well this season – special teams have been a big question mark for Blue. Jason Gingell has gone just 3-for-9 in his field goal attempts, and Carr reopened competition for the spot this week.
Our bet for starting kicker is K.C. Lopata, but no matter who it is, Michigan hasn’t earned its way to an advantage in this category.
Advantage: Eastern Michigan
Eastern Michigan has a chance to slay Goliath, but the Eagles will probably be satisfied with leaving Ann Arbor with a nice fat appearance check. Michigan, on the other hand, has to prove it can be a mid-major at football. The last time a huge underdog entered the Big House, the Wolverines were a part of college football’s greatest upset.
Something tells me the words Appalachian and State have been heard quite a bit this week around Fort Schembechler. I’m pretty sure motivation won’t be an issue this time around.
Prediction: Michigan 41, Eastern Michigan 10