It’s week two of the college football season and for Kentucky (1-0) it means another game against a Mid-American Conference foe. This time it’s the Eastern Michigan Eagles (1-0) in a rematch of a 2017 battle that saw the Wildcats narrowly avoid an upset as they won by a final score of 24-20.
Entering round two, both teams are much improved since their last meeting and both have points to prove. Eastern Michigan will look to put itself on the map by taking down an SEC foe while Kentucky is looking to show the college football world last year was no fluke.
Will the Cats avoid the upset? Here’s a preview of Saturday’s match-up.
EASTERN MICHIGAN NOTES:
HEAD COACH CHRIS CREIGHTON IS A PROGRAM CHANGER
Before Chris Creighton took over as head coach of the Eagles in 2014, the program was a mess. EMU was coming off two straight 2-10 seasons, went winless in 2009 and only had two bowl appearances in program history. That changed when Creighton came to town after six seasons at Drake. Since his arrival, Creighton has taken the Eagles to two bowl games and last year guided them to a winning conference record for the first time since 1995.
QUARTERBACK MIKE GLASS III IS AN ACCURATE PASSER
Eastern Michigan starting quarterback Mike Glass III can not only beat defenses with his legs, but he is also among the MAC’s most accurate passers. Last season Glass posted a completion rating of 61.5% and threw nine touchdowns against just one interception. Last week against Coastal Carolina, Glass was a remarkable 20-22 passing but only threw for 188 yards. Thus expect for Glass to hit the open man but not exactly throw the ball deep.
UNLIKE TOLEDO, EASTERN MICHIGAN CAN PLAY DEFENSE
Last week Kentucky played a Toledo team known for great offense but lackluster defense. This week the Kentucky offense will have face more of a challenge as the Eagles know how to shut down an offense. When Eastern Michigan came to town in 2017, the Eagles got to then-UK quarterback Stephen Johnson for five sacks, held Kentucky’s rushing attack led by Benny Snell to 53 yards and forced a turnover. In 2018 the Eagles finished 31st in the nation in total defense. The name to watch Saturday will be defensive back Brody Hoying, who made four tackles and grabbed an interception in last week’s win over Coastal Carolina.
THE CATS HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN 2017
All week long at practice, the Kentucky coaching staff has made clear they have gone back and watched tape from the 2017 battle with the Eagles. It’s safe to say they haven’t enjoyed watching those tapes. Offensive coordinator Eddie Gran said, “We got our tail kicked,” when asked about the 2017 game. The coaching staff has made sure to play those tapes for the players as they look to make sure this time around they prevent a potential letdown.
BIG DAY FOR TERRY TOUCHDOWN?
As solid as the Eastern Michigan defense is, Saturday should still be a good match-up for Terry Wilson and the Kentucky passing game. Last week, Coastal Carolina quarterback Fred Payton threw for 309 yards, went 29/43 passing and tossed two touchdown passes. In Kentucky’s season opener, Wilson was able to spread the ball out to eight different receivers and throw for 246 yards on just 26 attempts. The key for Wilson will be to limit turnovers as the Eagles grabbed four interceptions a week ago. If Wilson can do that he may just have a carer day.
As mentioned early, Eastern Michigan quarterback Mike Glass III went 20/22 on passing attempts last week. However, it only resulted in 188 yards as he threw several short passes with his longest two passes going for 32 and 19 yards. Thus, there’s a good chance defensive coordinator Brad White could go to some zone defensive schemes. The young Kentucky defensive backs will need to keep the ball in front of them and prevent the big plays they gave up last week. If they keep the ball in front and hold Glass’s completions to short gains, they’ll be able to get off the field and force punts often.
While Eastern Michigan is no pushover, Kentucky has too much talent to lose this game. UK has a number of different receivers, so it can spread the ball out to and make life difficult for the Eagles’ secondary. Defensively, the Wildcats will allow Glass to make some plays and find the end zone once or twice, but they should be able to do a better job of preventing the big play and getting off the field on third down. If they do all of that there’s a good chance they win big.
KENTUCKY 42, EASTERN MICHIGAN 17