Familiar face, new place.
That's what Michigan will be saying come Week Three when lowly Eastern Michigan comes into town with new head coach Ron English, former Michigan defensive coordinator.
English, of course, has a long history of being incapable of creating competitive defenses when playing the spread—a trend that should continue come September 19th.
Of the games Michigan will play this year, this game is one of the few games Michigan will hold a clear advantage.
Yeah it's quite obvious what you are thinking: Toledo! Toledo! Toledo!
Not so fast my friends! Don't expect a repeat of the Toledo debacle that was the 13-10 loss suffered in '08. That won't happen again, count on it.
Looking at the Eastern Michigan roster, they have a general lack of talent, which can be expected of a MAC school that went 3-9. One of those wins came over FCS (formerly 1-AA) laughing-stock Indiana State. Their other two victories (Bowling Green and Central Michigan) came by a combined seven points.
The positive for Eastern is that they return the majority of their starters on both sides of the ball and bring in a new quality head coach in Ron English.
Bad news: Michigan is just better.
As far as returners go for Eastern, the return senior signal-caller Andy Schmitt, who tossed the ball 417 times last year, completing 261 of his attempts (62.6 percent) for 2,648 yards and 15 touchdowns to eight interceptions.
Schmitt also accounted for 171 yards rushing on 57 carries (3.0 ypc) and five touchdowns. His yards and carries were good for third on the team while his touchdowns tied for second most.
Schmitt had a video game-like finish to his '08 campaign as he passed for 1,000 yards and eight touchdowns (with only one INT) on 108 of 156 passing...in his last two games!
In the backfield, the Eagles also return their key running backs with bruiser Terrence Blevins leading the way.
The 6'1", 238-pound Blevins paved the way last year leading the Eagles in carries (133), rushing yards (575), and rushing touchdowns (12) while having the team's longest rush of 61 yards, which resulted in a touchdown (versus Indiana State).
Behind him is junior Dwayne Priest, who added another 474 yards and five touchdowns of his own on his 99 carries during his sophomore outing.
Outside of these two rushers and Schmitt, no Eastern player tallied a rushing touchdown. As a whole, this is a weak unit and shouldn't be much of a task to shut down, even for the inexperienced Wolverine defense.
On the outside, Eastern returns leading receiver Jacory Stone who racked up 943 yards on 88 catches for three touchdowns.
Opposite of him, Michigan will likely see Tyrone Burke who didn't see the field much in '08. In the five games in which he accounted any stats, he managed only four receptions for 31 yards. He will have to come in and replace Tyler Jones who led the team in receiving touchdowns (six) in '08 while his 760 yards on 75 receptions ranked second on the team.
The Eagles do have a legit weapon at tight end with junior Josh LeDuc. In 2008, LeDuc made his presence known by hauling in 32 passes for 446 yards. Both those totals were ranked third on the team and his four touchdown receptions ranked second on the team.
If the Eagles are to have any success against the Michigan defense, LeDuc will have to play big and demand attention in order for the Eagle offense to get going.
Along the offensive line, Eastern will return all but one lineman from 2008. The only new face will come in at right tackle where Brandon Graham of Michigan will likely get to face new blood in projected starter Dan DeMaster; a matchup Graham will be licking his chops over, or so one would assume.
Defensively, things are about the same with six starters returning for the Eagles, which isn't saying much for a defense that finished 95th in the nation last year in total defense. They where also 109th in scoring defense and 103rd against the run.
The Eagle defensive line will have two new faces as defensive tackle Tyler Palsrok and defensive end Javon Resse will likely be called on to fill the voids. The two returning starters (DE Brandon Downs and DT Brad Ohrman) hope to anchor the line and put pressure on the young Tate Forcier—or whoever starts—and the talented Michigan backfield of Minor, Shaw, Brown, and Smith.
That looks unlikely, however.
In the linebacker unit, Eastern brings back WLB Andrew Hatchell (5'11", 221 lbs) and SLB Jermaine Jenkins (6'2", 207 lbs), whom are both rather "undersized" for the linebacker position and should make for easy work for guys like Brandon Minor or Mike Shaw.
Look for either sophomore Marcus English or junior Nate Paopao (should start with a name like that) to fill the void at the "Mike" position. Whoever wins will have to replace the teams leading tackler in 2008, Daniel Holtzclaw.
Back in the secondary, only cornerback Arrington Hicks and strong safety Ryan Downard return. The cornerback position will be lacking as the teams second leading tackler Jacob Wyatt has graduated.
Will the replacements on this defense be ready in time for their encounter with The young, talented Michigan offense? Time will tell, but the answer is doubtful.
On special teams, the Eagles will return both kicking specialists but will have to find replacements at all the return positions.
Matchups to Watch
LeDuc vs Michigan Defense:
LeDuc is Eastern's key player on offense for this game. Will he get the Michigan defense's respect? Or will he be silent and become a non-factor? For Eastern Michigan and Ron English, they better hope he is busy and grabs the attention of the Michigan defenders. Otherwise, it will be a long day for the Eagle offense.
Saying it now, LeDuc is the key to the EMU offense versus the Wolverines. With a weak running back unit, the Eagles will need somebody to take focus off the quarterback and wide receiver—LeDuc is that somebody.
Michigan running backs vs EMU front-seven:
Lack of talent, young, inexperienced, undersized. All this can be said about the Eagle front-seven. All that will hurt the Eagles as well when they face off against one of the best running back units in the nation.
Power back Brandon Minor should have a heyday as should Carlos Brown (assuming both are healthy). Sophomore Mike Shaw will also be one to watch as his blend of speed and power should make for a serious mismatch with the EMU front.
Anything less than 200+ yards rushing for Michigan would be a huge letdown.
Brandon Graham vs Dan DeMasters (potentially):
This is a disaster waiting to happen.
An inexperienced tackle is placed in a mismatch of the century against All-American candidate and one of the nation's top pass rushers Brandon Graham.
This kind of matchup should allow Michigan to provide consistent pressure on the EMU quarterback as Graham should constantly be providing a heavy rush. Graham should also draw double-teams, allowing defensive tackle Mike Martin to do his thing in the run-stopping department.
The EMU offense may be rendered futile if Graham has his way and the EMU offense should become stagnant on third-and-longs and the running game will suffer further if the Eagle offensive line has to direct attention off of Mike Martin.
If your the EMU quarterback, you might want to call in sick that day, if that were only possible...
What to Expect
Hmmmm, what to expect? Expect a blowout for one.
This game shouldn't even be close, even with the youth on Michigan's offense and defense. This is no Toledo, this is no Appalachian State, this will be an ugly game.
Michigan has the advantage in matchups and in talent and that's something that bodes well for the Wolverines.
Besides, they are playing Ron English for goodness sake. He couldn't defend the spread while he was at Michigan and don't expect that to start while he is at EMU. He is also brand new to the head coaching gig so you shouldn't expect any miracles so soon.