Sep. 5 at Eastern Michigan- The Eagles, who finished 3-9 last season, have a new coach, Ron English. Eight starters return on both sides of the ball for EMU. Their best player on offense is quarterback Andy Schmitt who passed for 2,644 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Terrence Blevin at 6-foot-1, 238 pounds is quite a load for a running back. He rushed for 575 yards last season. Defensively the EMU has linebacker Jermaine Jenkins back, who had 64 tackles, 2 sacks, 5 tackles for losses, 4 passes broken up and 2 interceptions.
Thoughts: I think Army will win this one with superior coaching. English has a bright future ahead of him but Ellerson, because of experience, will have his team better prepared.
Prediction: Army 27, Eastern Michigan 24.
Sep. 12 Duke- The Blue Devils were much improved last season under new head coach David Cutcliff. Four wins might not seem like much but it was more wins than they had won combined in the previous three season. This season Duke has six offensive starters and five defensive starters back. The Devils best player on offense is their quarterback, Thaddeus Lewis. Lewis, unlike EMU's Schmitt, is a more athletic quarterback. He passed for 2,171 yards, 15 touchdowns and 6 interceptions and ran for another 96 yards and two scores. His top target will be wide receiver Johnny Williams who caught 30 passes last year. Defensive tackle Vince Oghobaase is a monster on defense for Duke. He had 51 tackles, 6 sacks, and 3 tackles for losses last season. Linebacker Vincent Rey, who led the Devils in tackles last year with 109, is back as well.
Thoughts: This will be a tough home opener for Army. Duke has recruited well the past couple of seasons and Cutcliff will have them well prepared. Additionally, the Devils have some experience with the triple option having won at Navy last year, 41-31.
Prediction: Duke 23, Army 14.
Sep. 19 Ball State- It's hard to believe that the Ball State Cardinals won 12 games last season but didn't win the MAC. This year BSU will start all over again with a new head coach, Stan Parrish who is the previous offensive coordinator. Ball State returns just four offensive starters and seven defensive starters. Their best player on offense is running back MiQuale Lewis who led the MAC in rushing last year with 1,736 yards and 22 touchdowns. Tight end Madaris Grant caught 26 passes a year ago. Defensive end Brandon Crawford is the big play man on defense. He had 31 tackles, 3 sacks, and 2.5 tackles for losses. He also broke up 3 passes a season ago.
Thoughts: This is just the type of game Army can play spoiler in. As long as the Black Knights can contain Lewis they have a shot.
Prediction: Army 24, Ball State 20.
Sep. 26 at Iowa State- The Cyclones had a miserable season last year finishing 2-10. Head coach Gene Chizik took off to Auburn after the season. Auburn's defensive coordinator, Paul Rhoads then accepted the head coaching position at ISU. Rhoads was able to convince Tom Herman, Rice's offensive coordinator, to join him at Iowa State. The Cyclones return 9 offensive starters and 6 defensive starters along with 50 lettermen. ISU's best player on offense is offensive guard Reggie Stephens (6-4, 338, Sr.) who has started 24 straight games over the past two seasons. Junior quarterback Austin Arnaud completed 61.6 percent of his passes last season for 2,792 yards and 15 touchdowns. Linebacker Jesse Smith had 84 tackles, 5 tackles for losses and 6 passes broken up. The Cyclones also have their top tackler back from a year ago in safety James Smith.
Thoughts: This team has the makings of having a breakout season in 2009. Did I mention that most of the receivers are also back too? They now have great coaches to guide them.
Prediction: Iowa State 38, Army 24.