Week 1 of the college football season has finally arrived, and the schedule is packed with intriguing matchups. This slate features multiple Thursday and Friday games, giving fans additional opportunities for viewing games during the week. In this article, you can find a breakdown of the Friday night matchup between Howard and Eastern Michigan.
For a full breakdown of the Lineups crew’s best bets for the Thursday and Friday games this week, check out the YouTube channel. In addition, you can find various matchup previews and best bet articles across the site. Let’s dive into this matchup between Howard and Eastern Michigan.
Howard Bison Vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles Prediction & Pick
Eastern Michigan kicked off last season by hosting Eastern Kentucky, a fellow FCS team, and it was close throughout with the Eagles pulling out a 42-34 win. Howard opened last season with a 42-20 road loss against South Florida.
The Eagles have performed very well against FCS teams, going 72-55-10 (56.2%) all-time in the regular season, and they are specifically 5-0 all-time against the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference, where the Bison reside.
The Eagles are opening the season at home for the eighth time in ten years under head coach Chris Creighton, and they’ve done quite well in those games, picking up a 6-1 record in season-debuting home games since 2014.
After finishing with a 9-4 overall record and second-place in the MAC West, Creighton’s team will be looking to make the next leap to the championship game. Since the MAC Championship was played for the first time in 1997, Eastern Michigan is the only team to have not played in a championship game.
Larry Scott, a former South Florida offensive tackle and assistant coach for his alma mater, also coached at Miami, Tennessee, and Florida. He led Miami to a 4-2 record as the interim coach in 2015, so he’s capable of competing against a seasoned FBS head coach in Creighton.
Howard is a middle of the road team in the FCS, finishing with a 5-6 overall record last season, although they were co-conference champions in the MEAC. Still, the expectation is they won’t present much of a challenge for Eastern Michigan as ESPN Analytics gives them a 98.7% win probability while Howard sits at 1.3%.
I like Howard to cover the spread of 20.5 points in this game as I believe they’ll be up for this one against an Eastern Michigan team cycling in some new players on offense. My official score prediction is 27-13, as I still believe the Eagles secure a comfortable win on the back of special teams and defense.
Howard vs Eastern Michigan Odds
Sportsbooks released odds for Howard at Eastern Michigan early Friday morning, and the line opened with Eastern Michigan favored by 24.5 points. Howard took money throughout the morning as the spread currently sits at 20.5 and is still falling. The over/under for this game sits at 54.5 points, which is just below 55, the most key number in college football totals.
Howard Bison Vs. Eastern Michigan Eagles Key Matchups
Eastern Michigan’s Reshuffled Offense vs. Howard’s Defense
Eastern Michigan ranked 51st in offensive EPA/play last season, but rank just 110th in returning offensive production. Quarterback Taylor Powell is off to the CFL after a season with over 2,100 passing yards and 16 touchdowns.
Running back Samson Evans is back for Eastern Michigan, and you can expect the Eagles to lean on him heavily. Evans ran for 1,166 yards and 15 touchdowns last season on his way to a Second Team All MAC season. His production will be somewhat dependent on a very new offensive line.
The Eagles have just two of the team’s five starters on the offensive line returning. Sidy Sow, a First Team All MAC player and the best offensive lineman in program history, was a recent fourth-round draft pick by the New England Patriots. Fellow All MAC performer Brian Dooley returns to anchor the line at right tackle.
Howard boasts some intriguing defensive linemen, including All-MEAC performers Jevin Jackson, Marcus Brown, and Darrian Brokenburr. The individual matchups up front could go a long way to determining how successful Howard can be in its upset bid.
Quinton Williams vs. Eastern Michigan’s pass defense
The Eagles had a very stout pass defense last season, ranking 6th in passing explosiveness allowed and 63rd in overall pass defense EPA. That happened with a very young secondary, but with experience under the belt, look for another strong year from the unit. Defensive backs Kempton Shine, Quentavius Scandrett, and Joshua Scott return poised to make a big impact.
The Eagles return 11 of their 15 defensive players with 250+ snaps last season, and while defensive coordinator Neal Neathery retired, Ben Needham replaces him as a seasoned coach who has been in Ypsilanti since 2018. We shouldn’t expect much dropoff, if any, in the coaching department.
Howard brings back a very creative dual-threat quarterback in Quinton Williams, who had a combined 20 passing and rushing touchdowns last season. Williams fared admirably against South Florida, the lone FBS team on Howard’s schedule last year, as he completed 75.7% of his passes for 250 yards.
The Bison will attempt to ease the pressure on Williams with their deep backfield. Jarrett Hunter, Eden James, and Ian Wheeler all averaged over 5 YPC last season and return – they combined for over 1,300 rushing yards. The return of First Team MEAC offensive lineman Anim Dankwah makes things easier on the backfield.
Special teams duel
If you’re a fan of special teams play, this might be the game for you. Howard was graded as having the fourth-best special teams play in the FCS last season by PFF. Meanwhile, Eastern Michigan has consistently had great special teams play under Creighton.
The Eagles ranked 23rd in special teams play on PFF and were 52nd in the FBS by FEI. Punter Mitchell Tomasek and return man Jaylon Jackson both return after First Team All MAC nominations in 2022.