Key Matchups: Army vs. Eastern Michigan

The first game of the year matches the Army Black Knights (Sagarin 132, 2009 5-7) and the Mid-American Conference West Eastern Michigan Eagles (Sagarin 184, 2009, 0-12.) The Cadets lead the all time series 3-0 and won last year's meeting 27-14.

Just like last year, this is a significant game, simply because one of these very lightly regarded teams will start the year 1-0. Rich Ellerson and staff begin their second year with great expectations, while Eastern Michigan's Ron English, also in his second year, has cleaned house and will bring in many new players coached by a new staff.

Off Season Developments

Army returns a wealth of experience. The offense will be led for the second straight year by Trent Steelman. Steelman has added 20 lbs of muscle and reportedly playing faster with a better knowledge of the offense. He will be helped significantly by the presence of Air Force Academy transfer Jarrid Hassin, who will take over as the starting FB. He is big (230lb) and fast (4.5), and his inside running threat should help Army get to the corners and open up some passing lanes. Three senior offensive line starters return: C Zach Peterson (267 lbs.), LT Anees Merzi (283 lbs.), and RT Jason Johnson (257 lbs.). There is not a lot of returning depth at wide receiver, but Austin Barr and especially Davyd Brooks, who had a phenomenal spring and pre-season, should fill in just fine.

On Defense, the Double Eagle Flex will feature 8 returning starters. LB Stephen Anderson (MIKE - LB), Josh McNary (QUICK – DE) and Mike Gann (DT) are big time players who, when healthy are amongst the nation's best. McNary in particular is coming off a spectacular break-out season where he became Army's all time career leader in sacks and tackles for loss as a junior. He was named on several pre-season honorable mention All-American teams and watch lists, and he is unquestionably the key player on the defensive unit. Richard King (BC – CB), Antuan Aaron and Donovan Travis have enough speed and skill to manage the secondary if ample pressure is applied.

Eastern Michigan is rebuilding after a very tough year. The Eagles will be led by senior running back Dwayne Priest, who set new career highs — with 633 yards rushing and 7 touchdowns in 2009. Sophomore, Alex Gillett, who started three games last year, will emerge as their starting quarterback. Do not mistake this team as a passing team, they are very one dimensional.

The Eagle defense was ranked 117 last year and has no where to go but up. They have three returning starters in tackle Brandon Slater and ends Javon Reese and Brad Ohrman.

Who is favored?

Army is favored by 9.5 points.

What to look for?

In 2009 Army improved and Eastern Michigan found reasons to rebuild. The Army offense was horrendous last year, but they were more effective than Eastern Michigan. The Army defense is top 20 and has returning, healthy key players. Eastern Michigan is bottom 20 and is looking to gain some experience.

Look for Army to run their entire playbook. They should be very effective on the ground and, if things go well, this should open up the passing game. In general, look for Army to be far more aggressive throwing the ball this year than they were last year. If they do not commit turnovers and execute, this could be a great day for Trent Steelman and the Cadets.

The Eagles have few options on offense. They will feature Dwayne Priest, and they will attempt long passes early. If Army can get pressure on Alex Gillette, as they most certainly will, they will have a very long day. The Double Eagle Flex will look a little different with only two down linemen, or at least, two defensive players in three point stances. The confusing and fast defense should keep the Eagle Offense from doing anything.

If Army does not allow Eastern Michigan to stay in the game with turn-overs, they should win handily.

Final Score – Army 35 – Eastern Michigan 7

Game will be shown on Knight Vision.

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