I told y'all about EMU, now lets read about their football team.
(Oh, and, if you want shorter posts, tough.)
Historically vs. NU: The Eagles and the Cats have two meetings, in 2006 and 2007, one at Ryan Field, and one at Detroit's Ford Field. NU won the '06 game 14-6 on the strength of running touchdowns by, oddly enough, quarterbacks Mike Kafka and Andrew Brewer, and the '07 game was a 26-14 win led by 361 yards passing by Mike Kafka and 122 on the ground from Omar Conteh. Still remaining on the squads that played then are Kafka and Brewer (who combined to go 16-26 with 110 yards and a Kafka pick through the air), QB Andy Schmitt, who went 3-9 as a backup in '06, EMU starting running back Dwayne Priest, who had four yards for 19 carries as a backup in the 07 game, and stud EMU wideout Jacory Stone, who caught 8 passes for 85 yards at Ford Field. The starting QB for EMU in '07, Kyle McMahon, is now the backup, which probably disappoints any of you who remember his 28-48 three pick, no touchdown performance.
Hard Times: EMU hasn't experienced a winning season since a 6-5 campaign in 1995, and didn't have one since 1989 before that. Against Big Ten teams, they're a remarkable 0-15, and 0-14 on the road, with the Ford Field game being the only time the Eagles have "hosted" a Big Ten opponent.
Overview: EMU, like Towson, isn't a very good football team. They, like Towson, went 3-9 last year, although against a higher caliber of opponents. (except Indiana State, who they beat 52-0. Towson could probably manhandle them.) They showed some offensive promise scoring 108 points in the last two games of the season, with Andy Schmitt throwing for exactly 1000 yards between the two games while throwing eight touchdowns and only one pick (and rushing for three more!) but on the flip side, they gave up 107 points in those games. This year, their extreme spread offense is gone, and they didn't start off well by dropping their home opener to an Army team that also went 3-9 last season. New coach Ron English look promising, but, progress takes a while, and it won't be happening this year with a team with a new coach, new coordinators, and seven new position coaches. Also, "promising" in regards to EMU is a mid-place MAC finish in a few years, so, that doesn't mean much.
Sense the Depression: EMU's marketing slogan for this football season is thus: "Embrace the Process." That's near starving puppy on the sadness level. I don't think I've ever seen a marketing slogan acknowledge that the team is in the midst of a giant ocean of suck, and that it will take years to get out of.
This tells you more about EMU's team than the following several thousand words, so, skip it if you wanna.
Offense: As noted, Schmitt had some serious stuff going on in those last two games of the season, averaging 500 yards passing and scoring 11 TD's. Well, it was a little fluky: take away his two nova games (in which, it should be noted, he threw 156 times) against Temple and Central Michigan, and in the other ten games, Schmitt was 153-261 for 1648 yards with seven touchdowns and seven picks. Luckily for Schmitt's arm of going Kerry Wood on him, the Eagles have slowed down their pace, as coach English has installed a more pro-style offense, meaning he only threw 31 times against Army, completing 18 for 183 yards with a TD and two picks.
The running back is Priest, who was a backup RB in last year's "pass until Schmitt's arm falls off" offense up until this year, but still managed about 500 career yards. He looked decent against Army, carrying 19 times for 83 yards and a TD. However, the team only had 40 yards rushing total because of some pretty poor pass protection leading to a bunch of sacks.
On offense, the person to watch will be Jacory Stone, a wide out who is on the Biletnikoff award watch list. (Then again, 17% of Americans are on a college football award watchlist, including one of my aunts.) Stone led the team in receiving yards and receptions last year, and had a pretty nice 25-yard grab against Army which you saw in all its pixellated glory on the video I posted today.
The offensive line is sieve-like, allowing seven sacks against Army for a loss of 53 yards, meaning that pretty much one in every five times they dropped into pass protection, they failed, and I'd bet there were a decent amount of hurries with numbers like that.
Overall, not an impressive unit to me. A quarterback with two impressive games that account for about a third of all his career stats is not, as many previewing this game will say, the sign of a dynamic offense. It's a unit adapting to a new system under a new coach and a new coordinator, and, with the pasta strainers up front on the o-line, not much will get done.
Defense: Defense? Pshh. The team gave up 35.33 points per game last year in the MAC, and when you remember that one of those was a 52-0 romp over Indiana State, who have lost 52 of their last 53 games, that becomes even less impressive. This is a team that nearly lost both of those games in which Schmitt was busy breaking the laws of physics by throwing 80 times a game, allowing 55 points against Temple and then 52 in the win over Central Michigan.
People will pass off Army's 300 yard rushing game this past weekend as a fluke because Army runs a crazy triple-option running attack that will make any defense's rushing stats look bad. But consider that EMU gave up 341 on the ground to Akron last year, in a game where the Zips also passed for over 200 yards. This is a really, really weak defense.
The new coordinator, Eric Lewis, has never had a coordinating gig - for the record, his offensive counterpart, Ken Karcher, has held head coaching jobs and offensive coordinating jobs at multiple levels - so this defense won't get better right away. On the plus side, they have DB Johnny Sears, who transferred to EMU after being kicked off of Michigan, so he's clearly got talent (although this blog documenting his departure from Michigan notes that he was "really bad", and the commenters agree), and he hasn't gotten into the starting lineup yet. Senior DE Brandon Downs looks to be the leader of the defensive unit after getting ten tackles and two sacks against Army. However, the "star" of the defense is Jermaine Jenkins, whose listed position is... "star". The team's depth chart for the front seven shows three d-linemen, three linebackers, and Jenkins, who is neither here nor there. He's listed as a linebacker on the team roster, but I guess in actuality he plays on the line occasionally, allowing the team to vary 4-3 and 3-4 sets without having to switch in and out defenders.
Transitive Property Logic that leads me to believe that we'll win by a lot:
9/27, 2008: Northern Illinois, 37, Eastern Michigan, 0.
8/30, 2008: Minnesota, 31, Northern Illinois, 27.
11/22, 2008: Iowa, 55, Minnesota, 0.
9/27, 2008: Northwestern, 22, Iowa, 17.
Transitive Property Score Differential: 101.
(By the way, I obviously could've gone straight to Minnesota to NU, since we beat them, but... I figured adding the extra 55 points made this whole thing more convincing, right?)
All Name Team: Pretty strong competition on the Eagles, but I narrowed it down to four runners-up and a winner.
Runners-up, listed in ascending order of name goodness: There's junior offensive lineman Bridger Buche (Bushy?), redshirt freshman wide-out L'Shane Bynum, true freshman wide-out Kinsman Thomas (The fact that Kinsman is third really attest to the deepness of this name class), and, in a shocking second place finish, senior linebacker Lorenzo Seaberry. First off, it should be noted that Lorenzo is my second favorite name, (behind Marcus) because you can be either an Italian renaissance statesman or a member of N.W.A. with that name. I swear, my child will be named either Marcus or Lorenzo. But moving on, Seaberry's full name is Lorenzo Seaberry III, which is an astoundingly great name, and sounds like something I'd say my name was if I was prank calling someone as a pretentious wasp character but hadn't bothered to think up an actual name until the person actually asked what my name was, and I had to come up with it really quickly on the spot.
Winner: Junior linebacker Nate Paopao, who has one of the best football names I've ever heard. Nate is a juco transfer, and thanks to the EMU official pronunciation guide, we can find that his name is pronounced "POW-POW", the only name to get the all-caps treatment. Nate has six siblings, all of whom manage to have better names than him, but I won't drag them into this, because they don't deserve to google themselves only to find that somebody's writing about them on the internet, so, find his roster page to see for yourself.
However, if a member of the Paopao family does read this, let it be known that you have phenomenal taste in naming, and like I said in the last post, this isn't about humorous names as much as it is about classy names that make me want to sip expensive scotch and smoke cigars and discuss how great your family's names are in a well upholstered room with a fireplace. Hope you appreciate. I also hope you download the "Pow!" application for the iPhone, where you punch the air and a cartoon punching sound effect is made, because if you do it twice really fast, it's like your name.
So how do we play them?: We could play them the same way we played Towson and win. It's as simple as that. For the game to be as big a margin of victory, we'd have to actually call multiple plays inventively and blitz, or maybe even do basic things like stunt linemen or spend the entire second half running in between the tackles, but let it be known that we probably won't need to to win. I hope we do, though, because those things are fun.
If I had to give a team-specific instruction, it would be that we need to watch for the deep ball to Jacory Stone, but, quite frankly, we don't need to, and we'll still win. I'll give a gameplan in my friday post like I did last week.
So that's EMU football. Embrace the process.