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NCAA Football

Game by Game Breakdown: Eastern Michigan

Eastern Michigan Head Coach Ron English; photo courtesy Flickr

Week four for Penn State will be another chance for the Nittany Lions to prepare for a tough Big Ten slate. A return to Beaver Stadium before the start of the Big Ten schedule should have the Lions refreshed. Eastern Michigan finished with a 2-10 record in 2010 and has been building from a very rough first season under Ron english in 2009 when they went 0-12. Eastern Michigan should be a surprise in the MAC conference this season as English finally has the type of guys he needs to build the mindset he preaches. English is very familiar with Penn State having been with Michigan from 2003-2007.

With a win over Alabama, Penn State should be 3-0 heading into this game. Penn State has dominated MAC opponents and this game should follow the trend. The Eagles should have a 2-1 record heading into the matchup with wins over Howard and Alabama State and a loss at Michigan.

This game is the final chance to prepare for the Big Ten conference and what should be a very tough year in the conference overall. In this game you are looking for overall team growth. Penn State will be tested early with Alabama and an away game at Temple, so in this game we will look for all the pieces to come together. That includes the most important piece of an offense, the line. Seeing the offensive line start to gel by the fourth game is absolutely critical.

Let’s get to the game:

Eastern Michigan returns QB Alex Gillett who is a dual threat. Gillett is not afraid to scramble and can also connect on the deep ball. He reminds me very much of Dan Persa from Northwestern, but does not have the same level of talent as Persa. If you remember, Persa tore up Penn State in 2010 in the first half of their game. Penn State was able to adjust in the second half to shut him down and will have to do the same against Gillett.

We all know Penn State has been absolutely scary bad on special teams coverage in the last few years. Eastern Michigan brings one of the most exciting return men from the MAC conference in Corey Welch. Welch averaged 20.8 yds per return last year and is very exciting to watch. If Welch can move the Eagles into reasonable starting field position, the Eagles may be able to benefit from a short field. While we are talking about special teams, it must be mentioned that Eastern Michigan holds one of the best punters in the MAC conference, Jay Karuth. The australian player has converted his aussie rules football skills for American college football skills and has done a great job. He is very much like Sav Rocca of the Eagles.

In this game expect Penn State to start slow and show a lack of excitement early on. A 10-0 end to the first quarter will have Penn State fans wondering what is going on? Penn State will get their first punt return for a TD by Devon Smith early in the second. The return will jump start the team out of their funk and take them to a 24-0 lead at the half.

In the second half, expect to see a Penn State team rolling. They will turn heavily to the running game and expect both Stephon Green and Silas Redd to surpass 100yds rushing. I also like Brandon Beachum to make a statement in this game.

The talk of the town will be the Penn State linebackers in this game. Two fumbles by Gillett will set Penn State up with a short field and easy scoring opportunities, but Gerald Hodges, Nate Stupar and Michael Mauti will bring back visions of Lee, Hull and Bowman.

X-Factors:

1) Devon Smith: I think Smith has a breakout game as a WR and a big punt return for a TD has all Penn State fans rejoicing.

2) Noon kickoff: Penn State has routinely started slow in noon games at Beaver Stadium. A slow start will have some wondering what’s up? But all will be fine.

3) D’Anton Lynn: The campaign for Lynn to the NFL will kick into high gear with two interceptions for the senior.

Score Prediction:

Eastern Michigan – 7
Penn State – 48

Penn State fans will start drinking the blue kool-aid and realizing that this team has a chance to be special.

Next up: At Indiana

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