Preview: Eastern Michigan

Submitted by Brian on September 18th, 2009 at 1:34 PM

Or: How Lake The Posts Learned To Stop Worrying And Love Whiskey

The Essentials


WHAT #25 Michigan vs Eastern Michigan
WHERE Michigan Stadium, Ann Arbor, MI
WHEN 12:00 EST, September 19th, 2008
THE LINE Michigan -24
TELEVISION Nationwide on BTN
WEATHER Chilly (52) early but game is
64 (noon) to 68 (3 pm) and sunny

Run Offense vs. Eastern

Last week I declared that the rushing offense had to score a "crushing victory" against Notre Dame for Michigan to win Saturday and at any and all points in the future. The results were favorable:

# Player No Gain Loss Net TD Avg Long
4 Brandon Minor 16 111 5 106 1 6.6 32
5 Tate Forcier 13 80 10 70 1 5.4 31
9 Martavious Odoms 1 0 4 -4 0 -4 0
16 Denard Robinson 4 21 0 21 0 5.3 14
23 Carlos Brown 4 6 9 -3 0 -.8 6
  Totals 38 218 28 190 2

Suck out two sacks for nine yards and Michigan's totals are 199 yards on 36 carries, or 5.5 YPC. With the sacks Michigan's total falls to 5 YPC, a number that would have been good for 18th nationally last year. Notre Dame's run D was #45 last year and returned virtually all of their key pieces. So that's fairly crushing even if the 31-yard Forcier touchdown was more improvisational genius than crushing victory.

The issues with the run game are the same ones Michigan had after week one: not enough Brandon Minor, too much Tate Forcier—and especially too much Tate Forcier trying to beat cornerbacks—and a lingering suspicion the offensive line might not get a ton better from where they were at the end of  last year.

None of that should matter much against this:

  Carries Gained Lost Total TD YPC
Army 49 323 23 300 4 6.12
Northwestern 48 201 16 185 2 3.85

Though that's a respectable performance against Northwestern, Eastern had the #103 rushing defense in the country last year and is super unlikely to replicate that performance tomorrow. The main dangers are quick, undersized defensive linemen shooting gaps and Michigan's replacement right guard playing poorly. In all other ways Michigan should just out-athlete them, especially when Denard Robinson is in the game.

Key Matchup: Probably John Ferrara versus Severe Dropoff. It would be nice to see Moosman's replacement play well. Also can we add Tate Forcier versus the Misconception He Can Get The Corner Against College Defensive Backs?

Pass Offense vs. Eastern

tate-forcier-stormtrooper Last week this "could go either way," and this is the way it went:

The other way mostly relies on excellent pickups from the backs—Carlos Brown had a couple crushing pickups last week and Brandon Minor is a fine blocker in his own right—and the idea that Forcier is, yes, Drew Tate, a guy extremely comfortable moving around and finding people downfield when the play breaks down. It's dangerous to blitz Pat White and it might be dangerous to blitz Forcier, albeit in a totally different way. If he evades the wave of defenders and breaks out to one side, we've already seen he can direct traffic to good effect.

Tate Forcier has now established himself as a prodigy, and even the big colossal error he turned in was actually a big colossal error on the part of Greg Mathews. At this point it's reasonable to assume he will perform beyond his years.

Eastern, for its part, got shredded last year. They were 116th in pass efficiency D and 100th in sacks; the only thing that kept opponents from running up huge yardage totals was pity. And then there's the whole Johnny Sears thing. Johnny Sears's two main excursions as a Michigan defensive back saw him get torched by Ball State and the perpetrators of Horror; merely interpreting this person as a useful member of your secondary is cause for serious concern. Forcier is going to have a lot of time and a lot of open receivers; so will Denard Robinson.

It's worth pointing out that Mike Kafka had a crappy game against Eastern, completing 14 of 24 for only 158 yards and an interception. I'm betting that says more about Kafka than Eastern.

Key Matchup: Denard Robinson versus Lack of Touch and Accuracy.

(BONUS: stormtrooper photoshopper notes laconically that he is "working on the actual costume for the illinois game." This moment demands I steal from Simmons: yep, these are my readers.)

Run Defense vs. Eastern

Michigan had severe issues against Notre Dame and their peanut-eating offensive line. (What did that even mean, anyway? "They can eat peanuts off our guys' heads." Are they elephants? Is it a reference to the "anybody want a peanut" line from the Princess Bride? I'm going with the latter because I want to.) Eastern… well… I'm betting there are a few gut-churning runs where a linebacker gets hooked or just runs in the wrong direction and the line creases and Eastern shoots a guy into the secondary. Their current totals are backwards from you might expect:

Opponent Carries Gained Lost Total TD YPC
Army 29 95 55 40 1 1.38
Northwestern 32 183 11 172 2 5.38

Erm. This preview could also be titled "why Lake The Posts should buy whiskey in quantity this fall." In fact… let me go change that. Okay.

Do you go with the horrendous Army numbers or the downright respectable day against a run defense that was decent last year? Probably somewhere in-between. The Northwestern numbers were no fluke and the Army numbers weren't quite that terrible: Andy Schmitt was sacked seven times for –53 yards; primary back Dwayne Priest averaged 4.4 YPC. Priest gashed Northwestern all day, averaging 7.5 with a long of just 35. He should have an okay day with a YPC we're a little uncomfortable with.

Key Matchup: Obi Ezeh versus The Solo Tackle. Two non-assists last week. He's got to improve or we're in trouble.

Pass Defense vs. Eastern

This is a spot where it could get dodgy. Eastern returns a senior quarterback in Andy Schmitt who… well, actually no. Schmitt in the first two games:

  Att Cmp Int Yards TD YPA
Army 31 18 2 183 1 5.9
Northwestern 28 20 2 148 1 5.29

That is a ton of dinky completions akin to what we saw from Tim Hiller, except no one think Schmitt is an NFL prospect, and did I mention seven sacks against Army? Eastern's got one okay wideout and then little, has no offensive line to speak of, and has a quarterback averaging under 6 yards per attempt. EMU will complete its share of dinky hitches and slants and screens of all variety, most of which will be followed by immediate tackles if they are accurate and hauled in. Schmitt will be running for his life most of the day.

Key Matchup: Safeties versus huge error.

Special Teams

Darryl Stonum won a job as a kick returner against Notre Dame, but Martavious Odoms was pretty uninspiring and Cissoko's shoulder injury leaves the second spot in question. Carlos Brown maybe? Michigan will continue sending Greg Mathews out to fair-catch everything, and you are okay with that.

The kickers had an uneven game last Saturday, with Zoltan shanking one and not getting the booming death punts we all know and love; Jason Olesnavage hit a moderately long one but pushed a chip shot wide. Michigan will be looking for both to bounce back.



24-point spreads against MAC teams do not get kittens, but here's something else:


Yes, that's House and Wilson. 

Cheap Thrills

Worry if...

  • Cissoko starts getting lost against MAC receivers.
  • Fumble fumble fumble fumble fumble death.
  • EMU safeties go for killshots like ND's.

Cackle with knowing glee if...

  • Ron English doesn't display a wildly increased ability to stop a spread offense.
  • Tate Forcier.
  • There is not massive regression on all fronts.

Fear/Paranoia Level: 1 out of 10. (Baseline 5, –1 for We Are A Team To Reckon With Now, –1 for With Prodigy QB, –1 for And They Are Probably A Terrible MAC Team, –1 for and Rich Rodriguez Doesn't Mess Around With These Folk, –1, for And Michigan Has Some Motivation, I Think, +1 for But Yeah That Defense Looked A Little Wonky).

Desperate need to win level: 10 out of 10. (Baseline 5, +1 for We Must Quash The Insurrection, +1 for Oh And If We Lose You Know All That Good Press Will Evaporate, +1 for Refuse To Lose To Johnny Sears, +1 for Oh Lord I Shudder To Even Think, +1 for This Is Just Not Happening.)

Loss will cause me to... appreciate the irony of life. Also buy a gun.

Win will cause me to...  shrug.

The strictures and conventions of sportswriting compel me to predict:

Michigan wins.

Finally, opportunities for me to look stupid Sunday:

  • Justin Turner and Will Campbell get extensive looks.
  • Robinson throws almost as much as Forcier.
  • Minor has a day similar to his outing against ND (15-ish carries, 100-ish yards).
  • Brandon Graham finally gets a sack.
  • Michigan, 48-10.



September 18th, 2009 at 1:52 PM ^

Vincent Smith with B Minor tandems. Some power, speed and elusiveness. B Minor carries of 25-30/game would be great. I don't think T Force carries will diminish, it is part and parcel of RR system. But you are correct, he does not get around the corner or out run DEs.

Sgt. Wolverine

September 18th, 2009 at 3:07 PM ^

Because I've been looking back at Ypsilanti High School's football game last week, when I saw "Royals" I first thought of YHS -- even though they never have been the Royals because the school board rejected that as the students' mascot choice and instead chose the Phoenix.

Is this a sign that I spend too much time in the Ann Arbor-area high school sports world?


September 18th, 2009 at 8:11 PM ^

Cool! Maybe I will wear my armor too. I can also provide a place to change if you need it since I work a block from the stadium. See you guys there.

p.s. this is my first comment after 2 years of lurking. Nice to be here.


September 18th, 2009 at 2:18 PM ^

Damn straight... Ron English is (along with Brady Hoke) one of the Lloyd Lackeys that the Old Blues would like to see at the helm. Nice guy, maybe, but he must be crushed at all costs. CRUSHED.


September 18th, 2009 at 2:22 PM ^

First quarter played as usual. Forcier gets nod, with some Denard packages. The remainder of game is played with a little Forcier, a lot of Denard, a little DEATH.

-DEATH throws a pick.
-Denard has a run over 50 yards.
-Denard completes 50% of his passes with over 15 attempts.
-Ezeh lets up a long run over 30 yards.

Michigan wins 41-3.


September 18th, 2009 at 2:49 PM ^

""They can eat peanuts off our guys' heads." Are they elephants? Is it a reference to the "anybody want a peanut" line from the Princess Bride?"

Not that it means anything, but SI went with the former. IIRC, they featured that quote in this week's "They Said It," and had a picture of an elephant with a Notre Dame helmet on next to the quote.

I think I still prefer the latter.


September 18th, 2009 at 2:40 PM ^

We could have a stormtrooper wearing #8 getting exploded by 13 ewoks while shooting at jabba with charlie weiss's face - and missing with caption "DEATH!"

p.s. - Loss will make me ...."buy a gun" lmao, brian you never cease to amaze us even in a EMU preview

Blue boy johnson

September 18th, 2009 at 2:42 PM ^

Good point about Ron English stopping the spread. I have trouble seeing anything but an easy win. Weather will not be an issue.
Really looking forward to a noon start. Have never experienced the west coast 9 am kick-off, that would be neat.

03 Blue 07

September 18th, 2009 at 4:13 PM ^

...who thinks the predictions of 48-10, 45-3, 50+ points are off base? Just bear with me:
1). We just came off a huge win for the team and the program. From an emotional standpoint, there is likely to be a letdown.
2). EMU is a team that is, on paper, not very good. We all know this. The players know this.
3). EMU has Ron English, who was spurned by RR, along with I believe 4 or 5 other former UM assistants.
4). In 2006, when we were equipped with a vastly superior team, EMU actually put up a decent bit of a fight in the second half.
5). These EMU kids live in the shadow of U of M and likely have a lot to prove and a chip on their shoulder collectively.

I'm just sayin...I don't mean to be Debbie Downer, and god, I hope I'm wrong, but I'm thinking a "HUGE to tiny" victory margin might not be what is in the cards. We have also been doing a great job with turnovers. A couple careless turnovers, a lucky break for EMU, and, well...we could be in for a fight. Also, Northwestern isn't some sort of world beater, I am sure, but this team DID play them very tough.

I guess I'm just jaded by some of the following, in no particular order: The HORROR, Oregon (multiple times), Toledo, UCLA in 2001, ND last year, et al. We're a young team, and we haven't had to deal with success yet, so I guess I'm just a little wary, and I think people may be overlooking this game too much. If we play like we did against ND would we win 45-10 or something like that? Yes, I'd assume so. But to assume that we can play at that level every time out, and in the face of the motivating factors EMU has and the natural tendency to have a letdown after last week is, IME, a little presumptuous.

I still think we win, but it's closer than everyone is predicting. I think probably closer to 14-21 point win for M, if I had to make a prediction.


September 18th, 2009 at 4:28 PM ^

The Stormtrooper picture deserves to be avatared!

Anyway I was thinking about this earlier. Obviously this is not something that they would want to do this season as we only have two "True" freshman possibilities at QB, no one wants to see Death roll out there ever again, but what if they were to have Denard return punts? Does anyone know anything about his catching ability? With his speed and electricity he could be a serious weapon if nothing else then the opposing teams kicking away from him and shortening their punts. Josh Cribbs was a college QB and now he's one of the best NFL return men. He also has dreads! With more QBs coming in next season and Tate locking up the number 1 spot this could be a way to get Denard's hands on the ball more often.

I haven't seen this posted anywhere on here so thought I'd bring it up. Maybe someone can drop a ? at a presser?

Go Blue