Preview: Eastern Michigan

Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
September 17, 2011, 12:00 PM

TV: Big Ten Network (Tom Hart, Derek Rackley, Lisa Byington)
Radio: WWJ-950 AM, WTKA-1050 AM, Sirius/XM 91 (Frank Beckmann, Jim Brandstatter, Doug Karsch)
Line: UM -28.5
Over/Under: 63
Series Record: UM leads 9-0
Last Meeting: 2009: UM 45 - EMU 17
UM Record/Rank: 2-0 (0-0), NR
ND Record/Rank: 2-0 (0-0), NR
Forecast: Sunny, 60º-65º, winds calm

A little background
Separated by about 11 miles, Michigan and Eastern Michigan share the same county lines. That's about all they share. In the rather brief history of the series considering their proximity to each other, this will only be the 10th time the two schools have faced off. Michigan holds a 9-0 series advantage over the Eagles, outscoring EMU 296-59, with six of the nine meetings ending in shutouts. The most recent game was played on September 19, 2009, with the Wolverines prevailing 45-17.

Wolverine fans all remember Eastern Michigan's coach Ron English from his time as defensive coordinator (05-06) and defensive backs coach (03-05) at Michigan. English was hired in 2008 at Louisville as the defensive coordinator before taking the Eastern job in 2009.

Other former Wolverines on the EMU staff: Mike Hart (04-07) is off. quality control, Steve Morrison (90-94) coaches linebackers, and Kurt Anderson (98) is the run game coordinator and offensive line coach. Former Michigan defensive quality control assistant Tom Burpee (07) is tight ends/special teams coach.

Statistical Breakdown (based on stats through week 2)
Remember that Michigan's stats against Western Michigan are not taken into account here. The NCAA stipulates that 75% of a game must be played in order for stats to count. The game is still a win, but the stats are voided. It makes no sense to me, but whatever. Michigan and the Big Ten will count the stats, but the NCAA will not.

Also remember to take into account that Eastern Michigan's first two opponents were Howard (41-9) and Alabama State (14-7). Both FCS schools. So this breakdown is EMU's stats against two FCS doormats, and Michigan's stats against Notre Dame.
MICHIGANValue (Nat. Rank)Value (Nat. Rank)E. MICHIGANADV.
Rushing Offense (ypg)114.00 (93)41.50 (5)Rushing Defense (ypg)EMU+++
Passing Offense (ypg)338.00 (16)170.50 (29)Passing Defense (ypg)PUSH
Pass Efficiency194.10 (7)108.09 (35)Pass Efficiency DefenseMICH
Total Offense (ypg)452.00 (33)212.00 (9)Total Defense (ypg)EMU
Scoring Offense (ppg)35.00 (45)8.00 (9)Scoring Defense (ppg)EMU
Rushing Defense (ypg)198.00 (98)331.00 (5)Rushing Offense (ypg)EMU+++
Passing Defense (ypg)315.00 (111)88.00 (117)Passing Offense (ypg)PUSH
Pass Efficiency Defense152.17 (102)99.21 (105)Pass EfficiencyPUSH
Total Defense (ypg)513.00 (116)419.00 (48)Total Offense (ypg)EMU++
Scoring Defense (ppg)31.00 (89)27.50 (69)Scoring Offense (ppg)EMU
Net Punting Yards36.60 (63)12.00 (25)Punt Return YardsEMU
Punt Return Yards21.00 (7)34.30 (92)Net Punting YardsMICH+++
Kickoff Return Yards19.60 (85)13.18 (3)Kickoff Return DefenseEMU+++
Kickoff Return Defense23.80 (84)24 (46)Kickoff Return YardsEMU+
Turnover Margin2.00 (10)0.00 (57)Turnover MarginMICH+
Penalty Yds/Game43.50 (39)95.00 (117)Penalty Yds/GameMICH++
Sacks1.00 (77)1.50 (51)Sacks AllowedEMU
Sacks Allowed1.00 (27)5.00 (4)SacksEMU
Redzone Offense (%)100.00 (1)50.00 (8)Redzone Defense (%)PUSH
Redzone Defense (%)62.50 (18)85.71 (63)Redzone Offense (%)MICH+
Redzone TD %100.00 (1)0.00 (1)Redzone TD % DefensePUSH
Redzone TD % Defense50.00 (31)71.43 (40)Redzone TD %PUSH
3rd Down Conv. %40.00 (66)38.48 (48)3rd Down Defense %PUSH
3rd Down Defense %56.00 (115)38.46 (74)3rd Down Conv. %EMU+
1st Downs Per Game16.50 (101)14.50 (25)1st Downs Allowed Per/GmEMU++
1st Downs Allowed Per/Gm22.50 (96)20.00 (61)1st Downs Per GameEMU

Difference less than 20 in national rank = Push
Difference more than 20 in national rank = Team
Difference more than 40 in national rank = Team+
Difference more than 60 in national rank = Team++
Difference more than 80 in national rank = Team+++

Common Opponents

When Michigan has the ball
No real mystery here for Michigan fans. Denard should be limited in this game...and by limited, I mean plays that feature a designed QB run. I expect a ton of power running game. Fitz Toussaint, Michael Shaw, Vincent Smith, etc. Michigan needs to establish a ground attack after our backs accounted for a total of 10 yards of offense last week against Notre Dame.

This is a game which Michigan fans should see a ton of personnel changes as the day wears on. I'd like to see all of the starters out by the mid-way point of the third quarter...if not sooner. We really haven't had a chance to see guys like Devin Gardner, Kelvin Grady, Martavious Odoms, Stephen Hopkins, etc. Freshman Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes would be nice to get a look at tomorrow.

The good news is, we're relatively healthy across the board on offense. RB Fitz Toussaint should be back for this game. Ricky Barnum is good to go. This will only improve the struggling running game from last week. Part of what made our RBs non-factors against the Irish was the really solid play of their defensive line. They plugged up the holes nicely.

EMU is led on defense by strong senior leadership. Versatile senior lineman Brad Ohrman leads the team in sacks and tackles for loss. Outside LB JUCO transfer Justin Cudworth leads the team in tackles with 9.5 per game so far. CB Marcus Pollard, who is a transfer from UCLA and one of the country's top corner prospects out of high school, is probably the star of EMU's D. The strength of this defense is it's experience, while weaknesses abound on both the pass and run stopping.

But one of the intangibles is Ron English. He brings a great attitude and overall toughness to this team that is so desperately needed. Don't forget, EMU was winless just a couple years ago...and had a losing culture the years leading up to that. By hiring English, EMU is challenging it's football program to get tougher with a defensive-minded coach...very similar to Michigan bringing in Brady Hoke. Eastern Michigan is slowly, but methodically a program on the rise, I think. Hopefully English can get things on track in Ypsilanti, but it all starts on defense.

When Eastern Michigan has the ball
No real mystery here either. We must stop Eastern Michigan's running game. Through two games so far, RB Javonti Greene is eight overall in the nation in rushing yards averaging 133 yards per game. Granted that was against the 102th and 101st rushing defense in FCS, but still. He shares carries with Dominique Sherrer.

It all starts up front where Michigan must establish a decent run stopping ability. We saw a lot of player rotation in the first half last week as Greg Mattison shuffled d-linemen in and out and all around to try and slow down Notre Dame's Cierre Wood. It wasn't working for the first half, and only had moderate success in the seond when Notre Dame started to become shocked when Michigan suddenly scoring points again.

One side note worth mentioning. Will Campbell looked actually good last week. Let's hope this continues. He needed a good day, and that good day could not have come at a better time. He and Brandin Hawthorne had big days. Please don't be a flash in the pan.

The good news is EMU is extremely one-dimensional. There is no passing game to speak of. As Maize & Brew quoted the EMU blog "Eagle Totem" of their passing game...
Last week I described the passing offense as "an afterthought you wish you hadn’t thought of".
That should about sum it up.

But what QB Alex Gillett lacks in throwing ability, he will try and make up for with scrambling. He ended last season 127/229 passing for 1633 yards, and 13 TDs and 13 INTs. He also rushed scrambled 179 times for 766 yards and 5 TDs. So far this year, he's on pace for about the same.
From an injury standpoint, Michigan was missing some key players last week. We should see most of them back. Brandon Herron, the star of week one, should be back. LB Mike Jones should be back. But the big question is Cam Gordon. He is healthy, but there are some conditioning issues that have crept up due to his time out.

When a foot meets a football
Much like when we played Western Michigan two weeks ago, special teams are very important in lopsided matchups like this. Inferior opponents can keep games close by good special teams play, and capitalizing on mistakes by the other team.

Sophomore Kody Fulkerson handles kickoff and placekicking duties for EMU. Jay Karutz is the punter. Returning kickoffs is RB Dominique Sherrer who ranks 19th overall with a 29.33 yards per return. Punt returner Marlon Pollard averages 10.67 yards per return so far.

For Michigan, it's much of the same of what we've seen. Wile will handle kickoffs and punts. Gibbons at placekicker. Returning punts will be Gallon or Dileo and kickoffs will be a combination of Grady, Gallon and Smith.

Gut feeling
A little bit of a trap game for Michigan this week. EMU will come into the Big House with visions of Appalachian State thanks to head coach Ron English and his bevy of assistants with Michigan ties...they're going to have this Eagles team believing they can win.

I think Hoke gets this team prepared. They could come out a little flat, but by the time the 2nd quarter...or 3rd drive, whichever comes first, things should start to click into place. Like we said before, stop the running game...stop Eastern Michigan. Force Gillett to throw. Force the mistakes. We could see maybe another pick-6 in this game...who knows?

Michigan should win easily tomorrow. Be nervous if special teams play is keeping this game close. Also be nervous if Eastern has more than 100 yards passing before halftime. But sit back and relax if we can establish a dominant running game...which we should. Relax if you see Denard under center more than 25% of the time. This probably means Al Borges hasn't opened up the playbook to show anything he's not comfortable showing. Expect to see some new names on both sides of the ball in the second half. Obviously, this is the best case scenario.

Okay, that's enough words. Go Blue!

Related coverage:
Brady Hoke Presser Video (9/12)
Mattison/Borges Presser Video (9/13)
Ron English/Mike Hart EMU Presser (9/12)
Brady Hoke Presser Video (9/14)
B1G Breakdown: Week 3

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