Key Matchups: Army vs. Eastern Michigan

(AS/Sheldon Y.)

The seventh game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 146, 1-5) and the Middle American Conference West Eastern Michigan Eagles (Sagarin 172, 0-6.) Army leads the all-time series 4-0 with the last victory coming in 2010 at Ypsilanti, 31-27.

Background

The seventh game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 146, 1-5) and the Middle American Conference West Eastern Michigan Eagles (Sagarin 172, 0-6.)  Army leads the all-time series 4-0 with the last victory coming in 2010 at Ypsilanti, 31-27.  This will be a fantastic game as one team has to win.  While a victory will not improve their ranking, a victory will certainly help morale going into the last half of the football season.

Last Week

At West Point, NY – You could not blame it on fumbles, bad breaks or poor effort – Kent State was simply better as Dri Archer led the Golden Flashes to a 31-17 victory.

KSU's speed back gained 222 yards rushing on only 12 carries, highlighted by an 87-yard touchdown run, a 47-yard scamper and a touchdown pass.  Army was able to contain 260 pound Trayion Durham to 65 yards on 21 carries.  Army did a tremendous job against the pass, only allowing QB Spencer Keith 6 completions on 11 attempts for 60 yards and a touchdown.

Army's defense is steadily improving and this was easily their best performance of 2012, but those big plays have a tendency to change games and Army tends to give up a few of those every game.

Army's offense was not effective.  Kent State head coach Darrell Hazell coached two years at Army under Bob Sutton, and the KSU defense was well prepared for the option.  This was best exemplified on Army's first drive of the second half when Ellerson decided to go for it on fourth-and-inches at the Army 38. After a time out the Cadets ran their usual card sequence. One set of signals was sent, the offensive coaches in the press box surveyed the defense, and then a second set of cards was shown.  Kent State shifted their defense and massed to the middle after the signal and Steelman ran right into their strength and was stopped for no gain.  Army fans knew they were going to sneak it, unfortunately Kent State knew it also.

The Army statistics are very deceiving.  Army rushed for 325 yards on 70 carries and held the ball for 36 minutes, but few of these drives resulted in scores.  Malcolm Brown had 92 yards on 11 carries, a touchdown and a fumble for Army's only fumble on the day.  Raymond Maples had 80 yards on 19 carries.  Steelman did his very best to will the team to victory, but he had no time to pass the ball and had very few holes to exploit.

We saw freshman quarterback A.J. Schurr, who actually looked good against the Golden Flash second team defense.  He seems to have a good arm and good speed.  He certainly does not have the bulk of Steelman and would have to rely on the pass much more as few could take the beating week in and week out that Steelman does.  QB play should not be a problem for the next three years.

In all, this was not a game that Army gave away, they were simply beaten on the field and on the sidelines.  There is a reason why there is such a disparity in records between similarly talented teams.

When Army started to dummy down their schedule three years ago, we winced and hoped for the best.  The administration removed Georgia Tech, Ohio State, Notre Dame and other high profile teams from the schedule and replaced them with MAC teams, and FCS teams such as Fordham and Stony Brook, in order to manufacture winning records.  While this worked in 2010, you now have a MAC caliber team with MAC (or worse) caliber talent that is 0 for their last 6 against the conference.  This is an embarrassment for this storied program.

In YPSILANTI, MI – The Toledo Rockets gained 655 yards in total offense and won in a shoot-out, 52-47.

In a whacky third quarter, defense in general took a break as there were eight touchdowns, four by each team.  

The Eagles came into the game ranked last in FBS offense, but gained 624 yards.  Bronson Hill gained 283 yards on 28 carries and had touchdown runs of 7, 47, 58 and 70 yards.   Hill had played sparingly in the first four games of the season and only had 4 carries for 70 yards the preceding game against Kent State.  This team is much better now that they have found Hill.

Quarterback Tyler Benz had a great game.  He was 18 for 27 for 301 yards, two touchdowns and 1 interception.  Benz had not been nearly this effective in his previous 4 games.

What to look for?

Easter Michigan is not a good football team.  On offense, they average 321 yards per game.  However, this average was significantly buoyed by last week's performance.  Hill makes this offense much better and with Army's defense, we think a couple long touchdown runs are very likely.

Eastern Michigan allows 39.7 points a game and they did not find any cure for that last week.  Army allows 36.2 points per game and there is no reason to believe that they will stop the Eagles.

Army is a better football team, but in no way should they take this game lightly.  This team nearly won last week and they believe that Army is their best chance of victory this season – and they may be right. Also keep in mind that Army has been absolutely horrible on the road these last two seasons. Winning away from home requires a mature attitude and mindset that the Cadets have sorely lacked lately. More often than not, we have seen them play their worst, sloppiest, most undisciplined, and most non - competitive football on the road. In a contest that has to be considered winnable and within their grasp given the opponent this week, they cannot afford to lay another egg and play another bumbling, incompetent road game, as has been their tendency.

Larry Dixon is banged up and we will probably see a lot of Trenton Turrentine and perhaps Jarrid Hassin, who has all but disappeared.  Army will need to outscore the Eagles, which is entirely possible if they do not fumble.  Of course an occasional pass will help keep the linebackers off the line of scrimmage, and Steelman should have time to pass.

If the weather holds, expect a shoot-out and a very fun game.

Who is favored?

Army is favored by 2 points

Final Score – Army 49 – Eastern Michigan 41

(Predictions this year 1-5)

Game will be shown on ESPN 3.

 

Picks from the Ridge

 (Predictions this year 4-2)

Iowa St. +14.5 @ Oklahoma State

Kansas St. +3 @ West Virginia

Texas A&M +4 VS LSU

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