The schools are located just seven miles from each other.
The only other NCAA Division I football teams that are closer are Rice and Houston. Even Southern California and UCLA are further away.
While the schools are physically close, in some ways the football programs at the University of Michigan and Eastern Michigan are millions of miles away.
Michigan, the winningest college football program in NCAA history plays at Michigan Stadium and last week in a win over Notre Dame, drew 114,000 fans to watch them play. Eastern Michigan plays at Rynearson Stadium and last week in a win over Alabama State drew 4,000 fans.
Both play in Washtenaw County. Michigan plays in Ann Arbor and Eastern in Ypsilanti. The two will meet on Saturday at the Big House at noon and it will be televised by the Big Ten Network.
Both teams are 2-0. For EMU it’s the first time the team has won its first two games in over a decade. The school hasn’t been to a bowl game since 1987.
The schools have played nine times over the years and Michigan has won all nine, including six by shutout. Last year Michigan won 45-17.
EMU head coach Ron English was defensive coordinator at Michigan under former head coach Lloyd Carr and in his first year at Eastern the team lost every game and then won only two last year. On his staff as an unpaid assistant coach is Mike Hart, a former All-American at Michigan and the school’s all-time leading rusher. He spent the last two years as a running back for the Indianapolis Colts.
EMU’s two wins came against Howard University and Alabama State, two FBS schools. The Eagles are averaging 333 yards per game, fifth best in NCAA Division I. The attack is based around backs Dominique Sherrer and Javonti Green. Quarterback Alex Gilbert also likes to run the football.
Eastern’s only chance is keep the game close because if the Eagles have to pass they could be in trouble.
Michigan is 2-0 after wins over Western Michigan, like EMU a member of the Mid-American Conference and Notre Dame.
In both games, Michigan has won mainly because it has forced turnovers. They had five turnovers against the Irish and three against the Broncos.
“We emphasize that in practice,” Michigan defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said earlier this week. “Whether we’re in shoulder pads or not, we’re trying to strip the ball from backs.”
Under former Wolverine coach Rich Rodriguez, Michigan was minus-32 in turnover margin over the three previous years, worst among all major college football teams. New defensive coordinator Greg Mattison has made takeaways a priority for the Wolverines.
On offense this week, Michigan is hoping quarterback Denard Robinson won’t have to win it all along. The junior had nearly 500 yards in total offense last week and the Wolverines are looking to find a running back who can shoulder more of the load. Fitz Touissant, who missed last week’s game with a shoulder injury, is back and will look to make his mark.
Michigan is 28-1 all-time against Mid-American teams. The only loss came to Toledo under Rodriguez.
Following Saturday’s game Michigan returns home next week to host San Diego State.
For more info: mgoblue, annarbor.com, Detroit Free Press