Nominees for the 11th spot (the second easiest team to beat on our schedule next season) are pretty much the same as the nominees for the 12th spot sans Indian State: Indiana, Temple, Wisconsin, and Eastern Michigan. Wisconsin? Forget that. This is like the opening question to Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. The Badgers are thrown in there as a junk answer that only a llama would pick.
And the winner is:
EASTERN MICHIGAN UNIVERSITY.
The Eagles were 2-10 last year with victories over Buffalo (21-17) and Ball State (41-38 in OT.) Which begs the question, are Ball State and Buffalo that bad??? The Buckeyes pummeled EMU 73-20. Northern Illinois polished them off 71-3.
EMU returns 15 starters from a not so good team.
Defense is the problem. The Eagles gave up 40 points or more in 7 games, with an average of 43.9 points per game. Interestingly enough, their head coach, Ron English, used to be a defensive coordinator under Lloyd Carr at THEM. English is 2-22 since taking over as head coach.
The front four are small and pass rushing has been a significant problem. Giving up 70 + points twice is pretty significant too. EMU had only 10 sacks all season last year, third worst in the nation.
Offensively, they should be better off. Alex Gillett (The best the team could get?), a junior, should be the starting QB, and is supposedly a dual threat. He did lead the team in rushing with 766 yards last year. But he threw an equal number of INTs as TDs (13.) Perhaps his experience will translate into more consistency. Last year, they averaged 19 points per game, but scored only 6 against Vanderbilt and 7 against Toledo. The whole thing is moot, though, if the defense can’t keep PSU from scoring.
Special teams shouldn’t be an issue either way as this game won’t be that close.
Schedule-wise, this is the fourth game of the season, coming off a trip to Temple and a week before we open Big Ten play at Indiana. I don’t think we need to be worried about injuries from the Temple game, or looking ahead to Indiana.
This will also be an early game, so I expect the team to come out sluggish, and be perhaps only up by a couple of scores at the half (10-14 points.) Look for them to put this game well out of reach late in the game, with the back-up QB getting some reps.