By Brian Nemerovski
Ypsilanti – Eastern Michigan brings eight new defensive starters, a pair of new offensive tackles and a true freshman tailback into Thursday night's opener at Cincinnati. Can the Eagles really be more experienced than the Bearcats?
Cincinnati lost 16 starters from last year's 7-5 team, but, like most major-conference schools, they were able to fill nearly all of those holes with experienced upperclassmen.
The Bearcats feature a power running game, using a tight end and a fullback to block for 225-pound bruiser Bradley Glatthaar. That doesn't bode well for EMU's slimmed-down defensive line. The Eagles' heaviest lineman is 264-pound freshman T.J. Lang.
On the other side of the ball, the Eagles will be tested by a physical Bearcat defense. Cincinnati head coach Mark Dantonio has plenty of experience against the spread offense. As defensive coordinator at Ohio State, Dantonio successfully employed agressive schemes to beat Big Ten spread teams Northwestern and Purdue.
In Matt Bohnet and Eric Deslauriers, Eastern has the two most experienced skill players on either team. They should help the Eagles succeed early on offense. Defensively, EMU would love to make freshman quarterback Dustin Grutza beat them, but they may not get the chance. Look for the Bearcats to pound their way to an early lead and chew up plenty of clock in the second half.
Cincinnati 31, EMU 20
Click on the 'MP3' icon above to hear Brian's audio preview. And tune in to Thursday's game at 6:45 p.m. on 89.1, WEMU.