(Sports Network) - The Eastern Michigan Eagles will test their perfect record in Ann Arbor this weekend in a non-conference clash with the Michigan Wolverines, who are fresh off a historic win over Notre Dame last weekend.
Eastern Michigan is in its third year under former Michigan defensive coordinator Ron English, who has his team off to a 2-0 start with home wins over Howard and Alabama State. Now English will try to navigate through a daunting two-game stretch that includes visits to Michigan and Penn State the next two weeks, before opening the MAC schedule with Akron at home. Eastern Michigan, which has won its first two games of the season for the first time since 1989, has been outscored 296-59 in matchups with Michigan.
Michigan is flying high after putting together a furious fourth-quarter comeback to beat rival Notre Dame 35-31 last weekend in Ann Arbor, in the first game ever played under the lights at Michigan Stadium. It has been a wild first two weeks for the Wolverines and new head coach Brady Hoke, who led his team to a win over Western Michigan in a weather-shortened game in the opener. The Wolverines, who are 2-0 for the third consecutive season, are in the middle of a five-game homestand at the Big House, with home dates set with San Diego State and Minnesota following this weekend's instate clash with Eastern Michigan.
Michigan leads the series 9-0, with all nine games being played in Ann Arbor. Michigan's last win over Eastern Michigan came in 2009.
Eastern Michigan put up 41 points in its opening win against Howard, but had to squeak out a 14-7 win last week against Alabama State. The bottom line is that the Eagles have still managed to register 419 yards of total offense in two wins, with 331 of those yards coming on the ground. The offense is led by running backs Dominique Sherrer and Javonti Greene, who have both ran for over 100 yards in each of the first two games, marking the first time in school history that has happened. Greene is second in the MAC in rushing with 133 per contest. Quarterback Alex Gillett, who has made 17 career starts and is currently ranked sixth in total yards in program history, has completed 19- of-40 passes for 176 yards, two interceptions and three touchdowns through two games.
While the Eagles have been effective in establishing the run so far this season, the defense has been equally effective stopping it. Eastern Michigan held Alabama State to minus-13 yards rushing, which set the school record. The Eagles are allowing just 41.5 yards rushing through two games and 212 total offensive yards. Eastern Michigan is 4-0 when allowing under 100 yards or less under English, whose aggressive scheme produced eight quarterback sacks and 13 tackles for loss against Alabama State. English will have his hands full this weekend preparing for one of college football's most gifted players at quarterback.
Denard Robinson vaulted himself into the Heisman Trophy discussion for the second consecutive season with a dazzling performance against Notre Dame, where Michigan erased a 17-point fourth quarter deficit and won the game on a 16-yard touchdown pass from Robinson to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left. Robinson threw for a career high 338 yards and four touchdowns, and when the dust had settled, was responsible for 446 of Michigan's 452 total yards (including 108 yards rushing and a touchdown on 16 carries). Behind Robinson, the Michigan offense has centered on big-plays; all five of Michigan's scoring drives against the Fighting Irish totaled 306 yards on just 19 plays. Junior Hemingway leads the team in both receptions and yards receiving, with four catches totaling 202 yards.
The Michigan defense was front and center in the season-opening win over Western Michigan, turning a close game into a rout in large part due to linebacker Brandon Herron, His first career start came in the opener against the Broncos, where he posted a 94-yard interception return for a touchdown and a 29-yard fumble return for another score. Despite allowing Notre Dame to jump out to an early lead that lasted most of the game, the Michigan defense settled in and caused five turnovers, which was vital to the comeback effort. The Wolverines are allowing 396 yards of total offense per game through two games, and will try to clean up penalties (17 through two games) against the Eagles.
Robinson and the Wolverines have been slow to start the first two games, being held scoreless in the first quarter against both Western Michigan and Notre Dame. But Michigan has finished both contests in compelling fashion, and Robinson is the home-run threat no team wants to deal with at any point this season. Eastern Michigan competed well in the first half in 2009 against Michigan, and that may happen again this time around. Just don't expect it to last.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Michigan 45, Eastern Michigan 14