Yesterday we looked at some pre-season rankings for the teams EMU will face (as well as the four MAC teams they won’t see: Miami, Buffalo, Akron, and Massachusetts). Today we follow up on that by considering the implications of the schedule on the expectations for EMU.
Last year, EMU was undeniably the beneficiary of an easy schedule. In addition to hosting two FCS teams, their interdivision schedule matched them up with what looked likely to be the weakest three teams from the MAC East. The schedule turned out to be a little tougher than expected, with Alabama State contending for the SWAC East title, Howard rising out of the MEAC cellar, and Kent State putting together a four-game winning streak late in the season, but on the whole, it was still a relatively weak schedule that avoided the top two teams from the MAC East, Ohio and Temple.
To make the comparison more obvious, here are the games for each year, split into home and away and ordered from weakest to toughest opponents.
|Game #||2012 opponent||2012 ranking||2011 opponent||2011 ranking|
|H2||Central Michigan||105||Alabama State||NR|
|H6||Northern Illinois||67||Western Michigan||79|
|A1||Ball State||98||Central Michigan||104|
|A2||Bowling Green||84||Kent State||100|
|A6||Michigan State||19*||Penn State||19|
2011 wins are in green.
I think this makes the comparison pretty clear. Keep in mind that, although Illinois State is not rated because they are an FCS team, they ended 2011 ranked #18 in the FCS and Sagarin had them somewhere between Ball State and Kent State — both of which beat EMU last fall.
From easiest to hardest, I see the list as Central Michigan, Army, Illinois State, Kent State, Ball State, Bowling Green, Toledo, Western Michigan, Northern Illinois, Purdue, Ohio, Michigan State. There is very little room for error in this schedule if the Eagles hope to go to a bowl game, much less if they want to contend for the MAC West championship. For bowl-eligibility, the Eagles’ most likely path would be to defeat Ball State, Illinois State, Kent State, Army, and Central Michigan, and then probably beat one of Bowling Green, Western Michigan, Toledo, or Northern Illinois. To play for the MAC championship, Ball State, Kent State, Bowling Green, Central Michigan, and Western Michigan are must-wins, plus they need to pick up at least one win, and possibly two, against Toledo, Northern Illinois, or Ohio.
That’s a tough schedule to face, and, as I’ve mentioned before, I can imagine this EMU team being better than last year but still finishing the season with a worse record (say, 5-7). I can imagine it, but I’m going to be royally pissed-off if it happens. This year’s team should be capable of beating anyone on the schedule, with the possible exception of Michigan State, and even there, they should be able to make a good showing. Personally, I’ll be disappointed with anything less than seven wins. This year there are no excuses for failure.