This week’s Michigan game against the Eastern Michigan Eagles holds significance in the Wolverine season for the first time maybe ever! Even though historically the match-up has been a lopsided affair, the attention on some of the participants going into the game in Ann Arbor on Saturday should lead to another special event in the Big House in 2011.
First for Michigan, the game represents an opportunity to extend the early season winning streak under Brady Hoke in his first year as coach and will allow him to continue building team moral and confidence while working on eliminating the mistakes that have plagued the Wolverines this year.
For Eastern Michigan the game is an opportunity for some familiar faces – well known faces even to Michigan fans – to return to a place they once called home. As on Saturday Coach Ron English and newly hired offensive quality control assistant coach Mike Hart step once again on the Big House field this time wearing the green and white. Both are former Michigan alumni, players and in Ron English’s case, coaches in Ann Arbor.
Ron English – in his second year as head coach of the Eagles — isn’t having the same success that he enjoyed as defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at Michigan under Coach Lloyd Carr from 2003-2007.
English started the 2011 campaign with a 2-22 overall record of success to show for his efforts running the Eagles’ program, yet he and his team are now riding a wave of confidence after last weeks win and a 2-0 start this year.
But Eastern will need more than a 2-0 record, their competent coaching staff and a team that is returning 15 starters (7 offensively, 6 defensively, a punter, and kicker) to beat Michigan this year as I expect it will be an uphill battle all day for them to pull of the upset.
But Ron has some hope. With Michigan’s recent inconsistency against inferior underdogs I’m personally nervous…a bit.
No game is a gimme in college football anymore, Appalachian State and Toledo proved that and U-Mass reassured that fact a few seasons ago.
The Eagles though in order to win must exploit Greg Mattison’s defensive weaknesses and capitalize on their opportunities.
Last year EMU ranked 91st in total offense yet, surprisingly they were a strong 37th in the nation in rushing offense. This will be the Eagles’ chance to play big against a big team. If Eastern can keep the Wolverines on their toes and run successfully that will allow Denard more time to review his playbook on the Michigan sideline and it might keep the game closer…longer.
Michigan must come to play Saturday.
Underestimating lesser rated opponents and their capabilities has been a pit-fall of Michigan teams for many seasons now. I hope this team doesn’t come into Saturdays contest thinking this is the spring game. Bad things have happened with that mentality before and could very easily happen again.
I don’t expect it…much if at all but in two games now, the Michigan defense really has not performed. And they can not continue to start slow and expect to catch-up and win in the end.
But in reality Jake Ryan, Kenny Demens and Jordan Kovacs should have no problem stopping the Eagles’ offensive attack.
While Shoelace, the RB core (whoever they put in, probably Hopkins or Toussaint) and the receiving core of Hemmingway, Roundtree, Gallon, and Grady should have an amazing day, in true 2011 Michigan fashion, it won’t be easy…or as expected.
Prediction: In the end Michigan wins impressively 45-13