Eastern Michigan (1-1) at Rutgers (1-1)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, September 14, 1 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: High Point Solutions Stadium (52,454) -- Piscataway, New Jersey. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: EMU 1-0, Rutgers 1-0. Away Record: EMU 0-1, Rutgers 0-1. Neutral Record: EMU 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Conference Record: EMU 0-0, Rutgers 0-0. Series Record: First meeting.
GAME NOTES: After each team split their first two games, both the Eastern Michigan Eagles and the Rutgers Scarlet Knights will play in another non- league matchup when the two squads collide at High Point Solutions Stadium.
Saturday's contest marks the second straight road contest for the Eagles against a team from one of the six BCS conferences. Last week the Eagles lost to Penn State (45-7) but took down FCS foe Howard in the season opener. The Eagles need just one more win this season to match their total from a year ago.
Rutgers took out some of the frustration left over from a heartbreaking 52-51 overtime loss on the road to Fresno State in week one in its second game. The Scarlet Knights rolled to a 38-0 victory over Norfolk State, a FCS school. With the win, the Scarlet Knights became the only team in the last eight seasons to record a shutout each year.
On Saturday these two programs will be squaring off for the first time.
It was not a banner day for the Eastern Michigan offense against Penn State. The Eagles mustered only 183 yards of total offense and 11 first downs. The Eagles' ability to run the ball was limited, as 35 carries yielded just 1.7 yards per attempt.
Through two games Eastern Michigan has only converted on 8-of-27 chances on third down, another area that needs to drastically improve if the Eagles hope to move up in the standings.
Tyler Benz has made the start at quarterback in both games and has been efficient, although not overly productive. Benz has completed 69.2 percent of his pass attempts (36-of-52) but he has not thrown down field very often. His longest completion of the season is 33 yards and he is averaging just 162.5 yards passing per game.
There certainly isn't any question as to who Benz likes to get the ball to. Tyreese Russell has 10 receptions for 101 yards on the campaign. Both numbers dwarf those of the next best receiver, Demarius Reed, who has five receptions for 59 yards.
In the running game Bronson Hill is a workhorse, but not one that will break open long runs. Hill has rushed for 139 yards and two scores on 41 carries, but his longest run is 13 yards. Hill had just 38 yards on 13 carries against Penn State.
The Eagles were dominated on both sides of the ball against Penn State, which obviously led to the lopsided score. Eastern Michigan let up 574 yards of total offense to the Nittany Lions. The weak showing now has the Eagles ranked ninth in the Mid-American Conference in total defense (479.0 ypg).
With the defense letting ball carriers run wild, particularly against Penn State, there have been plenty of opportunities for Eagles defenders. Sean Kurtz has totaled 19 tackles already this season and has an interception as well. Kurtz is one of six defenders for the Eagles to have already reached double digits in total tackles.
.The Scarlet Knights were able to win games last season by grinding out contests with the run and strong defense. Against Fresno State, the Scarlet Knights were forced to abandon that strategy and throw more often than usual. Dropping down to face Norfolk State allowed Rutgers to get back to the ground- and-pound strategy, as the Scarlet Knights rushed for 273 yards on a whopping 56 attempts.
Paul James (18 carries, 119 yards, three TDs) and Savon Huggins (21 carries, 96 yards, TD) were the main contributors. Though Huggins had the inside track after the departure of workhorse Jawan Jamison to take the bulk of carries, it has been James that has stepped up early on with his 40 carries and 301 yards, both team-highs.
Gary Nova has shown that he has improved in his second season as the starter at quarterback. Nova has completed 61.3 percent of his pass attempts for nearly 500 yards and six touchdowns, while being intercepted twice.
It helps that Nova gets to throw the ball to Brandon Coleman. A 6-foot-6 target, Coleman is the ideal size for the position and he has proved to be a reliable receiver on the campaign with 11 receptions for 124 yards and two scores. Coleman's size makes him a dangerous threat in the red zone. Leonte Carroo (six receptions, 157 yards, three TDs) has surprised with his ability to break off big plays.
Rutgers looked more itself on defense against Norfolk State as well. The Scarlet Knights allowed just 133 total yards in the contest, holding the Spartans to just a one first down conversion on 13 third down chances. The effort was a nice bounce back for a unit that was lit up for 537 total yards against Fresno State.
Steve Longa is one of four players on the team to have recorded at least 10 tackles through the first two contests with 17 stops. Kevin Snyder has 13 tackles, while Jamal Merrell (11 tackles) has impressed in pass coverage at linebacker with an interception and three passes defended.
After getting back to their brand of football against Norfolk State, the Scarlet Knights should yet again be able to control the tempo in this contest. Eastern Michigan doesn't have the type of offense that will put the Rutgers defense off balance or the defense to slow down either the run game or Nova and Coleman through the air.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Rutgers 34, Eastern Michigan 10
09/11 10:40:48 ET