Old Dominion-Eastern Michigan
Start Time: 3:30 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: Rynearson Stadium, Ypsilanti, Michigan
Radio: Old Dominion: ESPN Radio 94.1. Eastern Michigan: Here.
Records: Old Dominion 1, Eastern Michigan 0. Last meeting: 17-3 Old Dominion in 2014.
Live Stats: Here.
Betting Line: Old Dominion -6, Over/Under of 65
Old Dominion Outlook: With the loss of a record setting quarterback, the Monarchs will have to rely upon a running game led by Ray Lawry (134/947/16TD). Lawry was able to come into his own with most defenses having to focus on the passing game but will be the focal point of the Monarchs offense this fall. Wide receivers Zach Pascal (59/743/7TD) and David Washington (47/599/4TD) should be able to make the inexperienced quarterbacks look better while learning the system in game action. Junior Melvin Vaughn (30/315/3TD) gives Old Dominion three wide receivers with 30+ catches last fall on the roster. Led by Tyler Fisher, the Monarchs return four offensive linemen that made 8+ starts last season. Fisher was an Honorable Mention All-CUSA selection last fall.
Led by linebacker TJ Ricks (80 tkl), the Old Dominion defense should be better than in 2014 when it struggled to stop the better offenses in Conference USA. Defensive linemen Pnhoch Barnwell (34 tkl), Bunmi Rotimi (30 tkl), and Rashaad Coward (26 tkl) give the Monarchs some experience in the trenches. Senior Martez Simpson (75 tkl) will be able to give some added support to Ricks at linebacker and help give Old Dominion an experienced front seven that should surprise quite a few this fall. The Old Dominion secondary returns 22 overall starts from 2014 but 12 of those starts came from Fellonte Misher (79 tkl). Misher will need to lead a group that includes two sophomore in Justice Davila (33 tkl) and Christian Byrum (20 tkl). The Monarchs secondary only returns a total of four interceptions from last season and must find a way to make plays in the passing game with so many high quality passing attacks in Conference USA.
Eastern Michigan Outlook: The Eagles were just not very good on offense last season to be nice but do return some interesting players including quarterback Reginald Bell. The sophomore rushed for over 500 yards and passed for nearly 1,300 yards last season while learning how to be a FBS quarterback. Darius Jackson (61/295/1TD) is the only returning running back with over 100 yards rushing and should be able to improve upon those numbers with added touches this fall. Wide receivers Dustin Creel (24/228/0TD) and Kris Strange (14/179/2TD) are the only returning receivers with double digit catches in 2014 and will be expected to lead a group of receivers that must step up this fall. Juniors Darien Terrell and Andrew Wylie both made 9 starts last fall and should be stalwarts on the offensive line with several other linemen ready to earn more playing time.
The Eagles have several good individual pieces on defense with linebacker Great Ibe (133 tkl) leading the way. The senior is one of the best linebackers in the MAC and averaged over 10 tackles per game from his spot. Fellow linebacker Anthony Zappone (90 tkl) was also able to stop quite a few ball carriers for the Eagles defense in giving EMU one of the better linebacker duos. Senior Pat O'Connor (64 tkl, 14 tfl, 7.5 sacks) earned First Team All-MAC honors in 2014 and should be a player to watch on the EMU defense this fall. Mike Brown (32 tkl) and Jeremiah Harris (31 tkl) also showed the ability to make several tackles from their defensive line positions with 30+ tackles a piece. Sophomore Jason Beck (86 tkl) nearly doubled any returning secondary member in tackles and should be able to push 100 tackles this fall. DaQuan Pace (45 tkl) helped to give the Eagles seven returning starters with 30+ tackles last fall.
Prediction: This was an interesting game last season as Eastern Michigan held the Monarchs well below their average on offense but could not generate enough offense to even get in the game. Old Dominion will not be as powerful offensively this fall but as long as they can generate something offensively, it should be enough to get the win.