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Counterintelligence: EMU Edition

From time to time when it comes to game prep, we reach across the aisle of the MAC legislature to get some feedback on our opponent. This week’s opposition? The Eastern Michigan Eagles, repped by the great blog Eagle Totem. I really admire what Carter and crew have been able to do in terms of coverage and attention for a program whose interest and attention makes Ball State look less like a MAC program and more like Notre Dame. It’s an uphill climb to begin with when you’re covering the Mid American Conference, but Eagle Totem does a great job. Carter answered our questions and we did the same for him. You can check our answers out here, and read on for EMU’s perspective on our quandaries.

OverThePylon: EMU and BSU seem to be by most expert predictions in similar spots in the MAC West. What needs to happen for EMU to be considered an above average MAC team?
EagleTotem: EMU needs to go 2-2 in non-conference play — very realistic this year — and find a way to get over .500 in league play. Looking at this year’s schedule, getting to 5-3 in the MAC would probably mean wins over Central Michigan, Kent State, Ball State, Bowling Green, and Western Michigan, with losses to Toledo, Northern Illinois, and Ohio. To me, it seems possible that this team could be playing in Ford Field on November 30, but it’s also possible that they could drop to 5-7 or even worse. Last year an OK EMU team was the beneficiary of an easy schedule in going 6-6; this year, a team that might be EMU’s best in two decades could post a worse record on a more difficult schedule. That’s just how it goes.

OTP: The offense for EMU ran wild on BSU last year. How does the eagle defense look this year? Is this a game where BSU needs to outscore EMU in a shoot out or is the EMU defense a hard to break unit?
ET: It’s hard to say because there are a lot of new names, particularly the defensive line and the safeties. The corners should be at least MAC-respectable this fall, and the linebackers are strong. Weak-side linebacker Justin Cudworth definitely has the potential to be first-team All-MAC.

OTP: What players do BSU fans need to be aware of? Who are the players that will ultimately define EMU’s success?
ET: EMU’s best defensive player last year was definitely Cudworth. On the defensive line, Andy Mulumba is one to watch out for. Offensively, the coaches hinted in the off-season that they’ll be looking for Alex Gillett to throw the ball a lot more, and if that’s the case, keep a close eye on Garrett Hoskins, Donald Scott, and Dustin Creel. If they come out running, any one of at least three guys (Gillett, Dominique Sherrer, Javonti Greene), and maybe others, could have a big game.

OTP: If you were putting together a game plan, how wold you beat EMU?
ET: Until I see it in action, I have no confidence in EMU’s passing game. I’d stuff the box defensively to try to shut down EMU’s running game and trust the secondary not to give up any big plays — force Gillett into making repeated 6-8 yard passes to move down the field. Offensively I’d stretch the field vertically and put pressure on EMU’s inexperienced safeties. Turn the game into a shootout and make the EMU offense keep up with you. Adopt an aggressive mindset of never giving the ball up, and be willing to go for it on fourth downs to keep drives going rather than punt or kick a field goal.

OTP: Predictions for the game?
ET: Here’s what I wrote in my game preview: “Although it’s possible that both defenses could come out strong, my best guess is that this is more likely to be a shoot-out than a defensive struggle. These teams have been very close the last two years and scored between 31 and 41 points against each other, and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year. It’s also worth noting that both teams have aspirations for a MAC West championship this year, making this a critical game for both teams. If I had to make a prediction, I’d say that EMU will come out with a significantly improved passing attack and both defenses will be thoroughly tested, en route to a 38-35 EMU win.”

Eagle Totem calls it a field goal win for them, I call it a field goal win for BSU. Looks like if the bloggers are to be believed, then this one is going to be close. Should be worth watching. 7pm. ESPN3. You know, in case you were looking for something to do tonight.

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