Blogger's note: I am going out-of-order by analyzing the Eastern Michigan game before the Bowling Green game. Why? My head is spinning from all of this political buzz.
If Akron is in the hunt for a MAC East title on Nov. 27, it will get a Thanksgiving gift with Eastern Michigan coming to town for the last regular season game of 2009.
2008 recap: Eastern Michigan went 3-9 last year, which was bad enough to get coach Jeff Genyk fired. The Eagles gave up 35.6 points per game, which was 109th in the nation. They gave up 196.3 rushing yards per game. In fact, Dennis Kennedy pranced for 277 yards last season (the Andy Hildreth game). On the positive side, EMU was the MAC's most efficient team in the redzone, scoring 39 touchdowns and eight field goals in 53 trips inside the opponent's 20-yard line. Quarterback Andy Schmitt emerged as one of the MAC's best, throwing 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Jacory Stone averaged the third-most receiving yards in the conference.
What they lost: Genyk is gone. So are the defensive leader, Daniel Holtzclaw, and the anchor of the offensive line, tackle T.J. Lang, both of whom were second-team all-MAC selections. Second-leading tackler Jacob Wyatt is another loss.
2009 outlook: The Eagles will rely on the Schmitt-to-Stone connection. There is no question this is one of the conference's best quarterback-receiver combinations. The top four rushers from 2008 also return, to take pressure off the passing game. The real problem is defense. Ron English is EMU's new coach. The former Louisville and Michigan defensive coordinator preaches grittiness. I don't doubt English can change the culture, but the results probably won't appear in 2009.
How the Eagles will test the Zips: This is the last game of the season. It's feasible that Akron's weak secondary has suffered an injury or two. If so, Schmitt will be able to pick apart the Zips defense, like he did last year. If Akron is out of contention, it will be interesting to see if J.D. Brookhart can still command his team's hardest effort, in spite of a possible lame-duck status.
How the Zips will test the Eagles. Eastern Michigan has one of the nation's worst defenses, and then it lost its best two defensive players. Akron will score by running, throwing or breathing harder than normal.
Way-too-early prediction: As long as the Zips defense makes a few stops, Akron will win the season finale at InfoCision Stadium. Eastern Michigan 24, Akron 34