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Wisconsin football: how you doing...Eastern Michigan

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A look at the Badgers next opponent, Eastern Michigan.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 NIU at Eastern Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Our “how you doing” feature is back for year three! Each week we at B5Q will review how each of Wisconsin’s opponents has fared heading into their contest with the Badgers.

After falling to Penn State last weekend, the Wisconsin Badgers (0-1 overall, 0-1 B1G) will look to bounce back against the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-0, 0-0 MAC).

EMU thus far:

  • Win over FCS school St. Francis (Pa.) 35 - 15

Status of the offense:

While the Badgers struggled in the red zone last week against Penn State, Eastern Michigan had no such troubles against FCS opponent St. Francis of Pennsylvania. The Eagles were a perfect 5-of-5 in the red zone and currently have the longest active streak of red-zone conversions in the country at 33, dating back to 2020.

A big reason for Eastern Michigan's success in the zone was the play of their two quarterbacks last Saturday. Preston Hutchinson, the returning starter from 2020, was 7-of-12 for 63 yards and an interception while adding 23 yards on the ground. The newcomer to Ypsilanti, former Wisconsin commit Ben Bryant, was the story though. The Cincinnati transfer was nearly perfect, going 8-of-10 for 126 yards. I would expect both quarterbacks to play this upcoming weekend once again. Neither made many mistakes and allowed the Eagles rushing attack to finish off drives.

Eastern Michigan v Miami Ohio
Head coach Chris Creighton has led EMU to three B1G in the past four seasons.
Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

As a team, Eastern Michigan only averaged 3.8 yards-per-carry on the ground, but the duo of Darius Boone (RB1) and Jawon Hamilton (RB2) ran extremely well. In total, they accounted for 171 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Sophomore short-yardage back Samson Evans added another three touchdowns on the ground for the Eagles.

Former walk-on wide receiver Hassan Beydoun remained the favorite target last weekend after a big year in 2020, but a pair of Dylan’s, Dylan Drummond, and Dylan Summers also played well in the win. All three of the receivers mentioned recorded a reception of at least 28 yards, so they are capable of generating chunk plays in the passing game.

Status of the defense:

The sample size is extremely small, and their opponent was a lower-level FCS team, but Eastern Michigan was better on defense last weekend.

In 2020 the Eagles gave up 36 points per game, and they only surrendered 15 against St. Francis, so that is progress.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 07 Eastern Michigan at Kentucky Photo by Mat Gdowski/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Terry Myrick is their best defender, and he got his season started off on the right foot by leading the team in tackles and recording a sack in the opener. Top pass-rusher Taran Rush also played well with a sack and three quarterback hurries.

With an infusion of transfers and only a game of data to point to (especially against an FCS opponent), it is hard to know if this defense has actually improved from a yard ago.

Overall:

Eastern Michigan had a tough year last season, but this is still a program that has made making bowls a normal occurrence under head coach Chris Creighton. In fact, the Eagles have knocked off a Big Ten team in three of the past four seasons. Now, those wins have come against Rutgers (2017), Purdue (2018), and Illinois (2019), but still.

The Eagles are not going to be overly flashy and will likely be undersized against the Badgers on Saturday, but have shown the ability to put up points under Creighton on the ground. This matchup definitely leans in Wisconsin’s favor, but I am interested to see if the Badgers can clean up some of their mistakes from a week ago offensively, and in the defensive secondary, before heading into an early bye week.