In the 100 days leading up to the kickoff of the college football season on Saturday, Aug. 25, HERO Sports is ranking the top 100 teams in the FBS. Each day, starting May 17 and ending Aug. 24, a new team is revealed in the HERO Sports Top 100.
[divider]RANKINGS: Top 100 FBS Teams for 2018
TRIVIA: Daily CFB Trivia Question
MORE: Best FBS Player for Each Jersey Number
MORE: Best FCS Player for Each Jersey Number[divider]
No. 89 Eastern Michigan
The great news for an Eastern Michigan team after an agonizing 2017 season: Maxx Crosby and Jeremiah Harris form one of the best pass-rushing tandems in the FBS and they return key pieces at nearly every position. The bad news: "Nearly every position" doesn't include quarterback or receiver.
The Eagles are capable of earning a bowl berth for the second time in three years if they find offensive production to pair with a couple senior running backs and finish games.
2017 Record: 5-7 (3-5, MAC)
A lot of good happened for Eastern Michigan in 2017. They beat a Power Five team (Rutgers) for the first time ever and recorded back-to-back seasons with at least five wins for the first time since 1994-95.
Three overtime losses. Three more losses by five or fewer points.
That is, unfortunately, how the season will be defined. The Eagles could've easily hit seven, eight or nine wins with arguably their best team ever.
Head Coach: Chris Creighton (5th Year, 15-34)
Chris Creighton paid his NAIA, D3 and FCS dues (and coached in Sweden) and was rewarded with one of the most difficult jobs in the FBS. In 2014, he took over a program that had one season with more than four wins since 1996.
Remarkably, he's turned Eastern Michigan into a winner, recording 12 wins the last two seasons, the highest two-year total in nearly 30 years. Oh, and he's done it amid talks that his program would be disbanded.
QB Brogan Roback, WR Sergio Bailey II, WR Antoine Porter, WR John Niupalau, DE Luke Maclean, LB Jason Beck
Brogan Roback didn't have the senior season many expected but the three-year starter's graduation still leaves a big hole in the Eagles' offense. Roback spread the ball around (nine players had at least 10 receptions, five had at least 20) and his top three receivers are gone, led by Sergio Bailey, a JUCO transfer who had 114 receptions the last two seasons.
Defensively, Jason Beck finished third in tackles, respectively, while Luke Maclean was the third piece in their three-headed pass-rushing monster.
Returning Offensive Players
QB Isaac Stiebeling, RB Ian Eriksen, RB Shaq Vann, WR Mathew Sexton, OT Chris Bukoski, OL Jimmy Leatiota, G Jeremy Hickey, G Jake Donnellon, C Dakota Tallman
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Aaron Keen's offseason search for Roback's replacement will carry into fall camp. Keen, nor Creighton or anyone else, has given any indication if any candidates — sophomore Isaac Stiebeling, grad transfer Tyler Wiegers and freshman Aaron Jackson — have separated themselves.
The only candidate with experience is Stiebeling, Roback's backup last year who attempted 17 passes as a true freshman and has similar size (6-foot-4, 210 pounds).
“I was fortunate to sit behind a good quarterback with Brogan and learned a lot,” said Stiebeling this spring. “We had a close-knit group with the freshmen class and I learned a lot last year. Coach Keen, becoming the offensive coordinator, he’s probably one of the best teachers that I’ve ever had.”
The winner gets two senior running backs in Shaq Vann (below) and Ian Eriksen. Vann missed time with an injury but returned to run wild in their win over Bowling Green (16 carries for 117 yards). When the ground game was humming in 2017, Eastern Michigan was humming. Conversely, when it wasn't, Eastern Michigan wasn't.
To say the receiver room is inexperienced is an egregious understatement. Mathew Sexton is the only returning receiver who caught at least 10 passes last season.
At least the quarterback should have time to hit his new targets. Last year, Roback had one returning starting offensive lineman but now all five starters return, along with other upperclassmen with starting experience.
Returning Defensive Players
DE Maxx Crosby, DE Jeremiah Harris, LB Kyle Rachwal, DB Ikie Calderon, CB Kevin McGill, CB Ross Williams, S Vince Calhoun, S Brady Hoying,
Defensive coordinator Neal Neathery and his 4-2-5 system returns, as do his two best players: Maxx Crosby and Jeremiah Harris. Crosby — who is the best No. 92 in college football — and Harris are the two biggest reasons why Eastern Michigan is not outside the top 100.
Crosby can do this:
The pair combined for 17 sacks and nearly 30 tackles for loss last season that ranked in the nation's top third in sacks, passing yards allowed and fourth-down conversions (first in the FBS). Crosby finished the season with 53 quarterback pressures, the fifth-most among all FBS edge defenders.
Three of Neathery's four linebackers are gone, though they do return junior Kyle Rachwal and senior defensive back Ikie Calderon, who can play anywhere on the field. Calderon played well in 2016 but missed all but three games last year with an injury.
An experienced, smart secondary is back, led by Brody Hoying, a junior safety who led them in tackles.
QB Tyler Wiegers, QB Aaron Jackson, WR Michael Thompson, WR Arthur Jackson III, TE Thomas Odukoya, LB Tyron Neal, LB Kobie Beltram
Tyler Wiegers returns to his home state after four years at Iowa, where he was stuck behind C.J. Beathard and Nathan Stanley.
"He’s really bright," Creighton said of Wiegers. "I’m just really impressed with how quickly he’s picked things up, you know just coming in January. He was out there today making checks, getting us in the right play."
Eyeing the impending departures of their top pass-catchers, the EMU staff signed three JUCO transfers. Michael Thompson is a 6-foot-4, 189-pounder who averaged 20 yards per receptions and nearly one touchdown per game in two seasons at Modesto College.
Two other JUCO players, linebackers Tyron Neal and Kobie Beltram will also play immediately. Beltran had 101 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss and three interceptions for City College of San Francisco in 2017.
Eastern Michigan has a wacky schedule. They play three straight road games in September, going from Purdue to Buffalo to San Diego State .
Four of their final five games are at home, a stretch that includes three straight home games and one bye week.
|Friday, Aug. 31||vs. Monmouth|
|Saturday, Sept. 8||at Purdue|
|Saturday, Sept. 15||at Buffalo|
|Saturday, Sept. 22||at San Diego State|
|Saturday, Sept. 29||vs. Northern Illinois|
|Saturday, Oct. 6||at Western Michigan|
|Saturday, Oct. 13||vs. Toledo|
|Saturday, Oct. 20||at Ball State|
|Saturday, Oct. 27||vs. Army|
|Saturday, Nov. 3||vs. Central Michigan|
|Saturday, Nov. 10||vs. Akron|
|Friday, Nov. 23||at Kent State|