Season previews: Why EMU football won’t be the worst in 2010
It’s been generally acknowledged that EMU was the second-worst Football Bowl Subdivision (formerly Division I-A) team in 2009, ahead of Western Kentucky, who not only matched Eastern’s 0-12 record but managed to consistently get blown out badly. Given that the Eagles have been consistently bad for many years (the last winning season was 1995), it’s no surprise that many people expect them to finish at the bottom of the heap again in 2010. But when I come across a truly ridiculous argument that doesn’t even manage to be internally consistent, I feel obliged to call it out, and such is the case with a blog posting this morning from the Orlando Sentinal (“College Football 2010 Rankings: No. 120 Eastern Michigan“).
First we get this gem: “Why are they last? This would actually be an improvement for Eastern Michigan, which went winless in 2009 under first-year coach Ron English.” Well, although a 1-11 season would be an improvement over last year’s 0-12 mark, if you’re looking at it from a ranking perspective, which seems to be what the Sentinal is doing, 120th is not an improvement over 119th. Or to put it another way, going from second-worst to worst is the wrong direction.
Next up, “The schedule is tough — with non-conference games against Army and Ohio State and conference games against two of the best teams in the MAC — Ohio and Northern Illinois.” If I were marking the sure-loss games on EMU’s schedule, I’d start with Ohio State and Central Michigan. Ohio State is…well, they’re Ohio State. It would be almost unimaginable for EMU to win at the Horseshoe. In fact, if not for Appalachian State, I wouldn’t have included “almost” in that statement, and I still debated it. As for Central Michigan, sure they lost their coach and their quarterback, but let’s be reasonable. Central Michigan went 12-2 last year, going 8-0 in regular season conference play, won the MAC Championship game against MAC East champion Ohio, and eked out a two-overtime win against Troy in the GMAC Bowl. Included in that 8-0 stretch was a 56-8 pounding of Eastern Michigan. Central Michigan has won the MAC championship three of the last four years, and already changed coaches once in that period. Another coaching change won’t kill them. As for Army being tough, they managed a whopping 5-7 record last year, and in their meeting last year Eastern had Army’s lead down to 6 points in the fourth quarter.
Finally there’s this howler: “The defense should continue to be a bright spot for the Eagles while the offense should make improvements under Gillett.” OK, I know that EMU statistically had one of the best pass defenses in FBS, second only to Air Force, but their 3,321 rushing yards allowed was worst in the country. No one bothered trying to pass against them, because no one needed to. Let’s be honest, both the defense and the offense were terrible last year.
With a quarterback who’s had time to learn the system and a second-year head coach who now has some of his own recruits, I think it’s probably reasonable to expect three or four wins from Eastern Michigan football this year. Finishing 3-9 or 4-8 probably gets EMU into the middle of the pack in the MAC; it wouldn’t be a great finish, but it’s a far cry from the prediction of 120th.