Wyoming at Eastern Michigan
- Start Time: 7:30 PM EST. Friday, September 23.
- Location: Rynerson Stadium, Ypsilanti, Michigan
- TV: CBSSN
- Streaming: CBS Sports
- Radio: EMU: Here. Wyoming: Here
- Records: EMU: 2-1. Charlotte: 2-1.
- Live Stats: Here.
- Line: EMU +2.5. O/U: 63.5.
For those that weren’t aware, Wyoming is the Brian Hill show. The junior has been able to produce 381 yards and five touchdowns on the ground, good for top ten nationally. Hill is only 155 yards from setting the all-time Wyoming rushing record. He has good size (6-1, 219) and quickness that allows him to break big runs. If you stop Hill, you stop the Cowboys.
The biggest difference for the offense in 2016 is the emergence of Josh Allen as a star in the making. Allen is a bit erratic with five interceptions in three games, but has been able to find his senior wide receivers down the field.
Those senior receivers, Tanner Gentry and Jake Maulhardt are being targeted on a whopping 64.8% of all passing attempts. They have combined to catch 28 passes with each receiver breaking 15 yards per catch. Once they can build some consistency with Allen, this could be a deadly combination.
The Cowboys have struggled quite a bit on defense to start the season. They have given up at least 22 points in each of their first three games. Much of that is due to Wyoming holding one of the youngest defenses in the nation. Seven of the 11 starters are sophomores or younger.
Only nose tackle Chase Appleby and linebackers DJ May and Lucas Wacha are senior starters on the defensive side of the ball. One player that has been stunning to watch this fall is free safety Andrew Wingard. The sophomore has made 10.3 tackles per game in the early portion of the season. He even has a tackle for loss, forced fumble, and an interception.
The Eagles may be sitting at 2-1 on the season, but they have yet to get the run game churning at a high rate. Much of that is due to the shoulder injury of starter Shaq Vann. The Indiana native was carrying the ball for 7.9 yards per tote at the time of his injury. Ian Eriksen will get the majority of the carries, but he doesn’t possess the explosion of Vann.
The biggest surprise has been from junior quarterback Todd Porter. The former WKU quarterback went the JUCO route and ended up in the MAC with EMU. He was thrust into the starting job after projected starter Brogan Roback was suspended. Though Roback is ready to participate, Porter is still the starter. Expect to see both quarterbacks in this game.
Outside of the offensive line, only Roback had more than 10 starts on the offensive side of the ball to start the season. The offensive line has three players with that honor. Right tackle Andrew Wylie (36 starts), center Jake Hurcombe (28 starts), and left tackle Cole Gardner (22 starts) have made a combined 86 starts in their respective careers.
When Porter passes the ball, he has focused on juniors Sergio Bailey II and Antoine Porter. The duo has been targeted on 32 occasions, good for 33.4% of all pass attempts. Fellow junior Johnnie Niupalau is the deep threat with a 19.9 yards per catch average while catching over 70% of passes in his direction.
It’s tough to really figure out the EMU defense as they were much better than MVSU and Charlotte, but much less talented than Missouri. At the same time, that is not a vintage Missouri offense. I wouldn’t have expected that offense to put up 60 points on anyone.
Defensive linemen Jeremiah Harris and Pat O’Connor have been very solid with 8.5 of the team’s 16 tackles for loss. Expect both defenders to cause some havoc in the Wyoming backfield.
Who knows? Maybe we will get another one of these on Friday.
Matchup to watch:
Brian Hill versus the EMU front seven. The junior running back is one of the better players in the nation at biding his time and taking advantage of a defense to break an explosive run. The Eagles will get him in the backfield, but they have to also limit explosive runs.
Not the sexiest of all matchups this weekend, this may be the most important game of the season for Wyoming. If they win, they are sitting in a nice position to earn a bowl berth this fall. Lose and they are likely missing out on the postseason yet again. Eastern Michigan has two wins, but they are over MVSU and Charlotte. That tells us nothing about the Eagles.
Wyoming 42, Eastern Michigan 31.