Eastern Michigan (2-7) at Western Michigan (6-3)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 15, 2 p.m. (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Waldo Stadium (30,200) -- Kalamazoo, Michigan. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Eastern Michigan 2-2, Western Michigan 2-1. Away Record: Eastern Michigan 0-5, Western Michigan 4-2. Neutral Record: Eastern Michigan 0-0, Western Michigan 0-0. Conference Record: Eastern Michigan 1-4, Western Michigan 4-1. Series Record: Western Michigan leads, 29-18-2.
GAME NOTES: The Western Michigan Broncos sit atop the cluttered standings in the Mid-American Conference West Division, and will try to move closer into title game contention as they battle the Eastern Michigan Eagles in a conference bout at Waldo Stadium.
Western Michigan has won four consecutive games dating back to a one-point overtime loss to Toledo in early October. The Broncos have been riding a wave of momentum toward the regular season finish line, and could end up in the MAC title game with wins and some luck.
Eastern Michigan, on the other hand, has lost three games in a row, including an absolute stomping at the hands of Central Michigan last weekend, 38-7. The Eagles last beat Buffalo back on Oct. 11, and haven't put up more than 17 points in a game since.
The all-time series record favors Western Michigan, which owns the 29-18-2 all-time lead. But the Eagles took the most recent contest between the two sides, 35-32, last season in Ypsilanti.
It appeared things may have been on the upswing for Eastern Michigan after the team's defeat of Buffalo several weeks ago, but that has since been proven to be the outlier. The Eagles have dropped three straight contests to MAC opposition, including a dismal 38-7 effort against CMU, which held the Eagles scoreless through three quarters of play.
Rob Bolden got the start under center for Eastern Michigan, and completed just 7-of-19 passing for 76 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Athletic dual-threat passer Reginald Bell saw some time, but attempted just two rushes for a team-best 12 yards. The Eagles, who are averaging 14.3 ppg and 112.2 passing ypg, don't have a quarterback on staff that has completed more than 53 percent of his passes.
The run game is where EMU typically likes to do most of its damage. The quarterback Bell leads the team this season with 435 rushing yards and four touchdowns, while Ryan Brumfield has scampered for 313 yards and four scores of his own. The Eagles average 153 rushing ypg, but only got 21 against the Chippewas.
What hasn't helped the Eagles this season is the team's defense, which is surrendering just over 38 ppg to opponents. Only once this season has Eastern Michigan held an opponent to fewer than 20 points, and that effort still resulted in a loss. The defense has recorded just nine sacks and 12 turnovers gained, meaning defensive stops aren't too frequent.
Linebacker Great Ibe heads the defense with an impressive 104 tackles through nine games played, adding seven tackles for loss and a forced fumble to his stat line. Lineman Pat O'Connor has been responsible for a solid majority of the team's sack total this season, having recorded 6.5 quarterback drops behind the line of scrimmage with 11.5 total tackles for loss. Western Michigan running back Jarvion Franklin will have to be wary of those two individuals.
Speaking of Franklin, the true freshman running back was at it again last weekend, rushing for 182 yards and three touchdowns on his way to yet another MAC West Division offensive player of the week award. Franklin has gained 13,30 yards and scored 22 times on the ground this season, which ranks fourth and first in the entire FBS, respectively.
Franklin's astounding season continues, piggybacking an offense that averages 457.1 offensive ypg and 34.6 ppg, just one year removed from a one-win campaign. Franklin averages 147.8 rushing ypg, and is the primary contributor to an offense gaining just shy of 200 rushing ypg.
Quarterback Zach Terrell has been an underrated part of the offense this season, though. The second-year player has thrown for 15 touchdowns and 2,311 yards against just six interceptions. His 158 passer efficiency rating ranks 10th in the nation, while his 68.2 completion percentage is the seventh-best in the country. Receiver Corey Davis has been on the other end of eight Terrell touchdown passes.
Western Michigan's defense was the root cause of some of the team's losses earlier in the season, but in the past four weeks the Broncos have developed a solid foundation, and have held opponents to 21 points or less in the last three contests. The 25.3 ppg statistic has dipped significantly over the past few weeks, which is key for a team looking to make a move toward the MAC title game.
Grant DePalma has a team-high 80 tackles this season, and has registered seven tackles for loss with 1.5 sacks. Combine his ability to get behind the line of scrimmage with Trevor Ishmael (7.5 tackles for loss) and Richard Ash (6.5 tackles for loss), and Eastern Michigan might have to look to the air in order to win. Donald Celsicar and Ronald Zamort have the defensive backfield locked down if the Eagles do rely more on the pass.
Traveling across the state to take on an extremely hot Western Michigan squad probably won't turn out to be a good trip for Eastern Michigan. The team has a bit of an identity crisis under center, and can't seem to generate any offense whatsoever. Western Michigan may already have more points than the Eagles can put up by the time the first half ends.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Western Michigan 38, Eastern Michigan 13
11/12 10:37:33 ET