August is here and in Ypsilanti that means two things: the United Association of Plumbers and Pipefitters pay the town a visit, and the award-winning football coverage at Eagle Totem ratchets up for another white-knuckled season of Eastern Michigan football. The expectations for the 2013 edition of the Eastern Michigan gridiron warriors vary from pessimistic to subdued. If someone were to predict 2-10 for this team, could anyone seriously argue that isn’t a possibility? Which is more likely, 2-10 or 8-4?
Call me cautiously pessimistic, but I’m putting this team’s range between three and five wins. I will put myself on record predicting a 4-8 season for the Eagles. Carter promised to break down the schedule in a future post, so stay tuned for further analysis of the entire season. I will touch on the first four games, with an emphasis on what I think is the obvious choice as the most important game of the season.
Eastern needs to beat Howard in the opener, that much is clear. A loss would induce a collective bender in Ypsilanti not seen since the Summer Beer Festival. No one who follows EMU football wants to contemplate a home opening loss at the hands of a FCS school. Weeks two and three at Penn State and Rutgers, you just buckle up your chinstrap and execute the game plan as best as you can. An upset in either game would be a seismic event in Eastern Michigan football lore. No hyperbole intended.
Odds are that we have Eastern at 1-2 heading into the most important game of the season — Homecoming versus Ball State on a September afternoon that will surely shake the rafters at Rynearson Stadium.
The last two years have provided devastating losses at the hands of the Cardinals. The comeback field goal loss that ended Eastern’s bowl chances in 2011, and the demoralizing 2012 opener that set the tone for the entire season. Homecoming at Rynearson is always a great time, with beer from the Corner Brewery flowing in the Alumni Tent. On Homecoming 2013 the fan base will thirst for more than a Sacred Cow IPA — they will thirst for revenge.
Whether or not they get their revenge will go a long way toward determining the ceiling for this team. A win and 6-6 is a possibility, especially if they can follow with a road win at Buffalo. A loss puts the team at 1-3, sets them up for an early exit from the MAC West race, and the dreaded two or three win season comes closer to being the recurring nightmare it has become.
With new Athletic Director Heather Lyke on hand, it is difficult to gauge what Ron English needs to do to receive a contract extension after the season. Traditionally, AD’s like to sink or swim with a coach of their choosing. Lyke has a pretty good situation, she can certainly elect to go a different direction after the season even if Eastern does pull out a 6-6 record, as no one will question failing to renew the contract of a coach with a 16-44 record.
August is usually the best time to be an Eastern football fan, as we can all delude ourselves into thinking something big, like a bowl game or contending for a MAC title, is a possibility. Last season, many of us brought optimism and high expectations, only to see them shattered by week two. So you will have to forgive me if I choose not to take that path this pre-season. I’ll stand by my cautious pessimism, my 4-8 prediction, and wait for the homecoming revenge game against Ball State to see if the team can turn the corner.