Get to know an opponent: Eastern Michigan

The Bulls travel to Ypsilanti to take on the Eagles

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Coming off a 43-20 victory over Central Michigan, the Bulls will travel to Rynearson Stadium in Ypsilanti, MI to take on Eastern Michigan University Saturday.

The Eagles are 4-4 following a 37-34 overtime loss to Toledo.

Sixth-year head coach Chris Creighton has been credited with turning things around at Eastern Michigan. In 2014, he inherited a 2-10 team and a recruiting class ranked No. 113 in the country. Over his first two seasons at EMU, the Eagles went just 3-21. But with four games remaining, the Eagles need only two wins to qualify for their third bowl game under Creighton.

Eastern Michigan went 3-1 in non-conference play, with wins over Coastal Carolina, Illinois and Central Connecticut State, and a loss to Kentucky. The Eagles were projected to be fourth in the MAC West, according to the 2019 Mid-American Conference Football Media Preseason Poll.

Buffalo is 4-4 entering the Eastern Michigan game. The Bulls defeated Robert Morris, Temple, Akron and Central Michigan, and lost to Penn State, Liberty, Miami (OH) and Ohio so far this season.

Here’s what to expect when the Bulls take on the Eagles Saturday afternoon:

COACH: Chris Creighton, 26-43, sixth season at Eastern Michigan

LOOKING BACK

The 2018 Eagles went 7-5 and came one win away from the MAC Championship game.

Senior quarterback Tyler Wiegers completed 64.5% of his passes for 1887 yards, 11 touchdowns and three interceptions. He split playing time with Mike Glass III, especially in September and early October. Glass finished the season with 1024 yards, nine touchdowns and one interception on 61.5% passing.

Wiegers and Glass developed a rapport with senior wideout Blake Banham, who caught 60 passes for 758 yards and five touchdowns. The Eagles averaged 226.7 pass yards per game, ranking No. 71 in Division 1-A.

Eastern Michigan finished second in the MAC West with 10 All-MAC selections, including offensive linemen Jimmy Leatiota and Steve Nielsen, who were both named to the third team. The Eagles were mediocre on offense, ranking No. 93 in college football.

On the other side of the ball, defensive end Maxx Crosby was named first-team All-MAC after recording 70 total tackles, 7.5 sacks and four forced fumbles. He was selected by the Oakland Raiders in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, and already has two sacks and 14 solo tackles.

Linebacker Kyle Rachwal was named second-team All-MAC after recording 127 total tackles, two interceptions and a forced fumble. He finished his EMU career with 347 tackles, the ninth-highest total in program history. Cornerback Kevin McGill, who had three interceptions and a forced fumble last season, joined him on the second team.

On Sept. 15, 2018, the Bulls defeated the Eagles, 35-28, at UB Stadium. Buffalo Quarterback Tyree Jackson finished with 325 yards and three touchdowns on 80.8% passing. He connected on all three scores with wide receiver K.J. Osborn, who transferred to Miami (FL) this offseason.

The Eagles played against Georgia Southern in the 2018 Camellia Bowl. As time expired in regulation, GS kicker Tyler Bass hit a 40-yard field goal to give Southern a 23-21 victory. After the contest, Tom Fornelli of CBS Sports called it the eighth-best bowl game of the 2018-19 season.

LOOKING FORWARD

The Eagles made a habit of upsetting Power Five teams, shocking Rutgers and Purdue the last two seasons. On Sept. 14, they entered Memorial Stadium in Champaign and stunned Illinois.

Since then, they’ve been like the Bulls: Good one game, bad the next. The Eagles have defeated Central Connecticut State and Western Michigan just to lose to Ball State and Toledo, and get blown out by Central Michigan.

Quarterback Mike Glass III has completed 64.3% of his passes for 1896 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. He connected with a number of receivers on touchdown passes, including Arthur Jackson III, who has a team-leading 456 yards and four scores.

Eastern Michigan had seven players named to the Athlon Sports MAC Football 2019 All-Conference Team, including cornerback Kevin McGill, who has 18 total tackles and an interception.

The Eagles are 1-3 against MAC opponents, and currently trail MAC West leader Ball State by two games, with just four games left to play.

BOTTOM LINE

With four games remaining for both teams, it’s hard to overstate the importance of Saturday’s contest. Both teams have impressive resumes (Eastern Michigan defeated Illinois and Buffalo defeated Temple), so the magic number to qualify for a bowl game is likely six wins. The Bulls have been particularly inconsistent on the road, so they will have to come out of the gate strong to have any chance against the Eagles.

Justin Weiss is an assistant sports editor and can be reached at justin.weiss@ubspectrum.com.

JUSTIN WEISS


Justin Weiss is an asst. sports editor at The Spectrum