Eastern Michigan is looking to do the unheard of this season: reach a bowl game in consecutive years. Last year was the first time Eastern Michigan went to a bowl since 1995. Charlie Batch was the quarterback during that time. Needless to say, doing it twice would be another milestone for the Eagles who are trying to erase a couple of decades of a losing culture at Eastern Michigan. Players just expected to get blown off the field, there wasn’t much fight or push back.
However, last season the team took on a bit of a new identity. The stench of Ron English’s tenure as the captain of the ship is rotting away. Anybody remember Alex Gillett at quarterback? Well, nobody reading this does, but I can tell you he had some issues back there. Some Packers’ fans may remember him as getting a shot at wide receiver a few years ago in the preseason.
The Eagles ultimately lost to another newcomer to the bowl scene, Old Dominion, in the Bahamas Bowl. But hey, they got an all-expenses paid trip to the Bahamas and broke an embarrassing streak of going bowl-less. Eastern took care of Charlotte by a score of 24-7 last week. This is a defense that anyone, include high school teams, could have slept walk through. So, it’s impressive to see Eastern Michigan allowing just 7, even if it’s against a team like Charlotte.
Eastern Michigan also finally fields a competent signal-caller under center. In fact, senior Brogan Roback is emerging as one of the best quarterbacks in the MAC. He eclipsed 6,000 career passing yards a week ago, jumping to third in all-time passing yardage at Eastern Michigan. Roback passed for 18 touchdowns and 7 interceptions a year ago to pace the Eagles to a bowl game. Running back Shaq Vann is also back for Eastern Michigan in 2017. He rushed for 90 yards against Charlotte.
Rutgers is coming off a matchup against a little more of a formidable opponent. The Scarlet Knights welcomed Washington last Friday night, losing 30-14, but at times looked like a team who could hang with the Huskies. Their defense looked more like a Greg Schiano unit, instead of busted coverages everywhere and a general lack of effort.
Michigan put over 70 points on this team last season, but there were moments Washington was getting frustrated. We’ll see if the defense plays as well against Roback and Eastern Michigan. If they play a similar brand of football, I find it hard to believe Eastern will do much. Head below for our free Eastern Michigan vs. Rutgers pick on Saturday in Week 2.
Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. Rutgers Scarlet Knights Betting Odds:
Eastern Michigan +5.5(-110)
vs. Rutgers -5.5(-110)
Betting odds provided by Bovada.lv
Eastern Michigan vs. Rutgers Pick:
This is one of those must-win games for Rutgers. If they want to start getting respect, they have to win the games they should win. That starts today against Eastern Michigan. They threw a lot at Washington, but talent really won out. The concern going into this game for Rutgers is that they left too much on the field, and might be a bit lackadaisical going into this matchup against Eastern. That, mixed with taking the Eagles lightly will turn into a loss.
Jake Browning did not have a smooth game against the Scarlet Knight defense. Rutgers came in prepared and executed their defensive game plan the best they could against Washington. In fact, the biggest play for the Huskies came on a 61-yard punt return. Other than that, they had to fight for every point. The return made it Washington 10-7 and really took the air out of Rutgers, but they still held up well against one of the top offenses in college football from last year. The most impressive thing I found out of it, was their ability to stop the run.
Myles Gaskin is one of the brightest runners in college football, and they did a stand-up job slowing him down. The Scarlet Knight actually outrushed Washington by 47 yards, believe it or not. Kyle Bolin played well enough at quarterback, especially on the first drive, leading Rutgers for a touchdown right out of the gate. Against one of the best defenses in college football, he managed 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. It will be easier against Eastern Michigan, but they can’t be taken lightly. Nevertheless, Rutgers should be able to get by Eastern in this one by about 10 points. Roback won’t find it as easy on the road than he did against Charlotte at home.
PICK: RUTGERS -5.5 (-110)