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August 5, 2012

Yesterday we looked at some pre-season rankings for the teams EMU will face (as well as the four MAC teams they won’t see: Miami, Buffalo, Akron, and Massachusetts). Today we follow up on that by considering the implications of the schedule on the expectations for EMU.

Last year, EMU was undeniably the beneficiary of an easy schedule. In addition to hosting two FCS teams, their interdivision schedule matched them up with what looked likely to be the weakest three teams from the MAC East. The schedule turned out to be a little tougher than expected, with Alabama State contending for the SWAC East title, Howard rising out of the MEAC cellar, and Kent State putting together a four-game winning streak late in the season, but on the whole, it was still a relatively weak schedule that avoided the top two teams from the MAC East, Ohio and Temple.

To make the comparison more obvious, here are the games for each year, split into home and away and ordered from weakest to toughest opponents.

Game # 2012 opponent 2012 ranking 2011 opponent 2011 ranking
H1 Illinois State NR Howard NR
H2 Central Michigan 105 Alabama State NR
H3 Army 100 Akron 118
H4 Kent State 93 Buffalo 112
H5 Toledo 69 Ball State 105
H6 Northern Illinois 67 Western Michigan 79
A1 Ball State 98 Central Michigan 104
A2 Bowling Green 84 Kent State 100
A3 Western Michigan 73 Toledo 66
A4 Purdue 64 Northern Illinois 55
A5 Ohio 48* Michigan 34
A6 Michigan State 19* Penn State 19

2011 wins are in green.

I think this makes the comparison pretty clear. Keep in mind that, although Illinois State is not rated because they are an FCS team, they ended 2011 ranked #18 in the FCS and Sagarin had them somewhere between Ball State and Kent State — both of which  beat EMU last fall.

From easiest to hardest, I see the list as Central Michigan, Army, Illinois State, Kent State, Ball State, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Ohio, Michigan State. There is very little room for error in this schedule if the Eagles hope to go to a bowl game, much less if they want to contend for the MAC West championship. For bowl-eligibility, the Eagles’ most likely path would be to defeat Ball State, Illinois State, Kent State, Army, and Central Michigan, and then probably beat one of Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Toledo, or Northern Illinois. To play for the MAC championship, Ball State, Kent State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan are must-wins, plus they need to pick up at least one win, and possibly two, against Toledo, Northern Illinois, or Ohio.

That’s a tough schedule to face, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I can imagine this EMU team being better than last year but still finishing the season with a worse record (say, 5-7). I can imagine it, but I’m going to be royally pissed-off if it happens. This year’s team should be capable of beating anyone on the schedule, with the possible exception of Michigan State, and even there, they should be able to make a good showing. Personally, I’ll be disappointed with anything less than seven wins. This year there are no excuses for failure.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. Kenneth Barna permalink
    August 5, 2012 10:01 am

    Dear cmadler,
    There’s no doubt the expectations bar has been raised, but from what I saw in spring practice, and the talent that is returning, Eastern should have a good season. I just think the pre-season prognosticators are wrong, and I’m hoping that Coach Karcher opens the passing attack.

  2. John Baublit permalink
    August 6, 2012 9:34 am

    Thanks for the detailed story. Your analysis and news is about the best an EMU Football fan can obtain anywhere. Keep up the good work.

  3. Ken permalink
    August 15, 2012 2:14 pm

    Last year they set the bar by going 6-6. They lost a couple close games and gave a couple other games away. The offense should be frosty this year, so I expect good things from them. One of the keys to last year’s season was the defense, with the number of seniors that left last year, I’m not sure. I’ll say they looked decent in the spring game though.

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