Last season saw a return to normalcy for Purdue vs. MAC opponents. After Danny Hope dropped a few MAC games and Darrell Hazell dropped more than a few, Purdue had a relatively easy win over a good Ohio team in the home opener. This year Purdue hosts Eastern Michigan so, I spoke with Kenneth Bailey of The Hustle Belt about the Eagles:
T-Mill: Last season Eastern Michigan finally beat a Big Ten team in Rutgers. Sure, it was only Rutgers, but we couldn’t do that. How much of a boost was that for the program?
Kenneth: I think it was a good morale victory for the team. It represented both the first Power Five and Big Ten win for Eastern Michigan. I’m not sure how much of a boost the program got since they went on a six game losing streak afterwards. I think they would have gotten a bigger boost if they had beat Kentucky and Army in the following games. It was however, a win that I predicted for Eastern. For some reason, they had it coming and Rutgers is the sort of program that Eastern can beat.
T-Mill: Chris Creighton is coming home (sort of). He was the long-time coach at nearby Wabash College before moving to EWU. Is it big for him to be coming back to Indiana?
Kenneth: He’s been in Indiana at least two times for his games against Ball State. If he wins, it will be big if they win.
T-Mill: With three overtime losses last year EMU was almost there in a lot of ways. How do the eagles get over the hump in close games this year?
Kenneth: In that six game losing streak I mentioned, they lost by a touchdown or less in each of the games. In the Western Michigan and Northern Illinois games, their playcalling got a little stale. I think the last few series in each of those games was run up the middle, run up the middle, some sort of pass and punt. It didn’t seem like they were using imaginative play calling. I don’t think they had the line for running up the middle last year. That might be a different situation as their line is a little more experienced.
T-Mill: How is the quarterback situation looking?
Kenneth: It sounds like Tyler Wiegers is going to get the call. From what I saw of Isaac Stiebling, I liked what I was setting but he is still pretty inexperienced. He got some mop up time in the Ball State game last year. He played quite a bit in the spring game but so did Tyler. If the past is any indication, Creighton is going to go with the transfer student in Wiegers.
T-Mill: EMU could have one of the better defenses in the MAC again. Is it enough to compete at Purdue?
Kenneth: They’ve got a very aggressive defense. They got a number of sacks last year and did okay against the run. I’m not sure how they stack up against Purdue but if they show signs of improvement, they could be tough. I think in order to compete at Purdue, Shaq Vann has to stay healthy and Eastern Michigan has to utilize their running game better. They have a very experienced running game with Ian Eriksen and Breck Turner returning. But Shaq Vann gives that running game a wrinkle. They lose a ton of experience in the passing game with the loss of Roback, Bailey and Porter. So we’ll see.
T-Mill: What needs to happen for EMU to spring the upset?
Kenneth: Like last year, they just need to keep it close. Each of the six games they lost in the streak were winnable. They let Central Michigan get away from them.