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Speak Your Truth: Eastern Michigan Q&A with Hustle Belt

We are pleased to welcome Zackery VanNieuwenhze as our MACtion guest to answer our questions.

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

The No. 18 Wisconsin Badgers (0-1 overall, 0-1 Big Ten) have not played the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-0 overall, 0-0 MAC) since 1996 so, needless to say, we had a number of questions about the team.

Thankfully, Zack VanNieuwenhze of our SB Nation MAC cousins, Hustle Belt, was kind enough to answer our questions this week. Here are his answers!

What, if anything, did you take away from EMU’s win over FCS St. Francis (Pa.) last weekend?

It’s always hard to take much away from a game against a FCS school like St. Francis. I think you would have liked to seen Eastern Michigan win by more but this is a respectful program who doesn’t run up the score often.

Obviously, the two-quarterback system was interesting but we will touch on that more later. Other than that, it was about what you expected. I thought that it was interesting to see Samson Evans used in the wildcat, and I thought that the pass rush was improved. The Eagles did have some players go down in the opener but most looked to be of the cramp variety and I didn’t notice any glaring omissions on the depth chart this week.

The other thing which stood out, is just how much talent the Eagles return. Like most schools, that extra year of COVID-eligibility has led to a veteran roster so this is an experienced bunch coming into Camp Randall.

Going into the season I was expecting Preston Hutchinson to be the starting quarterback, but in game one former Wisconsin commit Ben Bryant split time with Hutchinson. Was that due to the competition or is EMU going to try and play two QBs this year?

I think that most people expected Hutchinson to be the unquestioned starter. He had a great year last year and probably should have been an all-MAC honoree. With that said, Ben Bryant transferred in after backing up Desmond Ridder at Cincinnati. He’s a former Wisconsin commit so he’s obviously pretty talented.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 NIU at Eastern Michigan
Preston Hutchinson rolls out and throws in a game last year.
Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

I was pretty adamant during the offseason that head coach Chris Creighton would go with a two-quarterback system, as it is something he has done in the past. Reggie Bell with Brogan Roback and also with Tyler Wiegers and Mike Glass are some examples.

Coach Creighton isn’t sure who will start this week in Madison but I would expect both to play. Both are veteran players who are mobile enough while Bryant is probably the more accurate passer.

Outside of nose tackle Woo Scott, the Eagles are a bit undersized in the front seven. What will they try to do to combat Wisconsin’s large offensive line and rushing attack?

That’s going to be the challenge. The last few years EMU has struggled against the run so the writing is on the wall that this week’s game will be a real test up front. I think all you can do is prepare to rotate guys in and out, which the Eagles have enough experience and depth to do.

You are right that Woo Scott has some Big Ten size but Turan Rush is probably the best Eastern lineman who I think can make an impact against any level of competition. Also, expect the Eagles to look towards linebackers Terry Myrick and Tyriq Speights to step up and help stop the run. They are talented MAC level backers.

Are there any under the radar players that Wisconsin fans should be on the lookout for Saturday night?

The Eagles went with three backs in the opener. Darius Boone is the lead back and rushed for over 100 yards against Saint Francis, while Samson Evans, a transfer from Iowa, had three touchdowns to go with only 13 yards. James Madison transfer Juwan Hamilton is a speedster who had an impressive week one.

Hassan Beydoun is a speedy slot type of receiver who was all-MAC last year. Dylan Drummond is healthier and looks more like the receiver who caught 55 passes in 2019. Tanner Knue, Eastern’s second leading receiver last year, didn’t play week one and isn’t on the depth chart for week two.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 12 NIU at Eastern Michigan
Hassan Beydoun (No. 4) diving for extra yards.
Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tight ends Thomas Odukoya and Bryson Cannon give EMU two solid tight ends. Offensive lineman Sidy Sow is a legit NFL draft prospect and is part on an experienced offensive line.

Safety Noski LaFluer was all-MAC a year ago but was banged up this spring and didn’t play in the opener. He is listed as a starter on this week’s depth chart. Freddie McGee played well in last week’s opener.

Chad Ryland is a talented kicker who has made kicks to beat Purdue and Illinois. He won’t be intimidated by the moment in Camp Randall. Being a Big Ten school, I know that your fan base like their punters and Eastern has a good one in Jake Julien, who has already been drafted into the CFL.

Also, tight end Evan Furtney is the brother of Wisconsin reserve lineman Michael Furtney

Let’s get a prediction from you!

Eastern Michigan has won three straight games against Big Ten opponents, all on the road and they played Pitt close in the 2019 Quick Lane Bowl but the top 20 ranked Badgers seem to be a different beast. In fact, a victory for EMU would represent the biggest victory in EMU history while Coach Creighton calls this Wisconsin team, “the best team he has ever coached against.”

I expect Wisconsin to win. At home, under the lights in Camp Randall with Jump Around? That’s a tall task for any road team let alone any underdog from the MAC. With that being said, Eastern Michigan is a great underdog in the sense that they are largely an overachieving program. I don’t think that EMU loses this game much like we saw Central Michigan do 61-0 in 2019.

The points spread is Wisconsin by 26, I think EMU keeps it within that realm. Wisconsin should win by double digits but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a few tense moments where the game is in doubt for Badgers fans early.