Ending the second longest bowl drought in NCAA history in 2016 (29 years), Eastern Michigan went into 2017 with perhaps the loftiest expectations in program history. Another winning season wasn’t in the cards, however, and the Eagles would go on to finish the year 5-7, going just 3-5 in the MAC, and closing out the season 5th in the West division. Things could have turned out quite differently though, for they were in nearly every game, with nine games decided by seven points are less, but ended up going just 3-6 in these. With 15 returning starters last year, they were one of the more experienced teams in the nation, but unfortunately this experience didn’t help them in the close games, as it tends to do on veteran squads.
In 2018, the Eagles will lose a lot of that talent; most importantly, Senior Quarterback Brogan Roback, who lead that 2017 team to the Bahamas Bowl, and finished his career as the school’s second leading passer (8,653 Yds, 2013-2017). They’ll also lose their leading tackler on defense, and 3rd team All-MAC LB Jason Beck, but will still return 13 players overall (6 Off, 7 Def). With BetOnline setting their season win total at 5.5 (-120, -110), the betting market isn’t expecting the Eastern Michigan to get back to their 2016 form and earn a bowl game for the second time in three years. Losing Roback certainly hurts, and the big question mark for the Eagles is whether or not Senior Graduate Transfer Tyler Wiegers (Iowa) can fill the big shoes of an all-time great Quarterback for the team.
|9/22||@ San Diego State||+19.5|
|10/6||@ Western Michigan||+8.5|
|10/20||@ Ball State||-3|
|11/23 (F)||@ Kent State||-7.5|
Much remains to be seen about this offense under Offensive Coordinator Aaron Keen in his second season, with a new Quarterback under center and four more new starters alongside Wiegers. Wiegers has the predigree, coming from Iowa as a graduate transfer; but as much you’d think he’d have as a grad, he really doesn’t have the experience (6 pass attempts). Save for redshirt Fr LT Sidy Sow, the offense will be made up of upper classmen starters entirely (five seniors) and will return its two leading rushers from a year ago, in Senior Ian Eriksen and Senior Shaq Vann. Having an experienced offensive line with 3 Seniors starting and the running backs returning should help the transition from the Roback era, while the top three Wide Receivers have all moved on, however, which could hurt a bit. Overall and despite the losses, I don’t think you expect much regression out of the Eastern Michigan offense: because even though you have a new Quarterback, you have one who may have more natural talent and athleticism than did Roback, and in reality, this offense wasn’t really anything great last year anyway (26.1 PPG, 387 YPG, 8th in MAC vs. MAC).
in his 3rd year, Defensive Coordinator Neal Neathery and this Eastern Michigan defense put on the best performance from a points-allowed standpoint (23.3) since 2011. This year, with seven returning starters, five of which were All-MAC performers, this defense has the potential to be quite possibly the best in the MAC. With seven seniors and four juniors slated to start, they are experienced, proven, and could be just as good as last year’s version which allowed just 3.8 PPG in the 4th quarter, and did not allow one point in the 4th quarter of home games.
Scheduled to begin the season at home against Monmouth, an FCS team, Eastern Michigan very likely will start off the season 1-0, but could be an underdog in their next six games. Heading on the road for the next three, two of which are tough out of conference games (Purdue, Buffalo), they’ll be lucky not to be 1-3 by this point. The Eagles then follow this tough stretch up with possibly the best team in the MAC, N. Illinois, and then with their biggest rivalry game of the year at Western Michigan. In what will be a prime spot for an emotional letdown, they’ll then get what is maybe the second-best team in the MAC, Toledo, to start out the second half of the season. You could very well be looking at a 2-5 team even we assume they win 1 out of those 3 games after San Diego State. The schedule softens up dramatically to finish the season, and they’ll likely be favored in the final 5 games to close out the year. They will likely be needing to win 3 or 4 out of these final 5 games to go over the total and as a favorite, odds are that they will do just that. Therefore, foreseeing a path to getting over the 5.5 wins isn’t overly difficult for Eastern Michigan in 2018.
Season Win Total Pick: Strong Lean Over 5.5 -110
There is too much unknown from Tyler Wiegers to make this anything more than a lean, but he does have some things going for him, in that he is a 5th year Senior, and that he is a 6-4, 225lb guy that had the talent to get recruited by Iowa. I like that the offensive line is loaded with Seniors and that the running backs are returning, so that helps a bit in supporting an in experienced Quarterback.
The defense should be legit, further supporting an over play; and the schedule, though starting out rough following the Monmouth opener, eases down the stretch when you might need that final win to get to six wins. Going 3-6 last year in nine games decided by one score or less is another reason to believe the perception may be a bit low on this team. I’d call it a strong lean, but still a hesitant one, with wonder about Wiegers.