Week 4 Preview: Eastern Michigan at Jacksonville State
EMU hits the road to take on first-year FBS program Jacksonville State for one last test before MAC play opens up.
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When Eastern Michigan takes the field this Saturday on Burgess-Snow Field at JSU Stadium, there will be a lot of new sights to see.
It’ll be the first meeting between Eastern Michigan and Jacksonville State. Joining Conference-USA, it’s currently the Gamecocks’ first season as an FBS squad. Back when Rich Rodriguez was Michigan’s head coach, UM beat EMU 45-17 in 2009, but whatever advantages he had back then aren’t there for him this time around.
But also, will Eastern fans see a change from #4 at the quarterback position?
Eastern, record-wise (2-1 overall), is in a good spot entering its final non-conference game of the regular season. On the field, it’s easy to see that this team’s not playing up to the level it wants to on the whole. EMU head coach Chris Creighton hasn’t been shy about how much has been lacking in the pass game.
“It’s been three games and we just haven’t gotten into the rhythm that we know that we can get into yet, so we’re talking about that a lot,” Crieghton said Monday at his weekly press conference. “We do like how we’re running the football but want to be equally proficient in both the run and the pass. It feels as though we’ve had some opportunities in every play and you can figure out why and why not. So we’re going to continue to work on it.”
No matter who plays QB this weekend for EMU, they’re going to have their hands full.
JSU SP+ Rank: 111
EMU SP+ Rank: 109
Jax State (2-1 overall, 1-0 CUSA) isn’t crossing its fingers and hoping for the best as a first-year FBS program. This team is hungry for relevancy as a C-USA member.
JSU was a Division 2 program for much of its history through the Alabama Collegiate Conference, Mid-South, Gulf South, and finally bridged into Division 1-AA (later known as FCS) with the Southland Conference in 1996. Since it became a D1 program, JSU has had 15 seasons with at least seven wins, and six 10+ win seasons between 2013-2020.
The last time this school fired a head coach was 2012. Jack Crowe was JSU’s coach from 2000-2012 and finished with an 87-57 overall record, 66-35 in Ohio Valley Conference play, won two OVC titles (missed out on a 2009 OVC title due to APR penalty, and tied for a share of first place in 2011), and had three playoff appearances. Crowe never had a losing record, but Jax State still wanted more. Since then, JSU has hired Bill Clark (one season, 11-4 record, #10 ranking, left for UAB after one season), John Grass (six OVC titles over eight years, resigned during the 2021 season with no reason given, is now at Clemson as an off-field analyst), and, now, Rich Rod.
Rodriguez’s rise went from leading really small West Virginia schools (Salem, Glenville State) to bringing West Virginia University maybe its best run of football success ever from 2001-2007, then bounced for Michigan. His stay in Ann Arbor was pretty bad, especially for Michigan’s standards, and has since drug his offensive playbook to Arizona, Ole Miss, Louisiana-Monroe, and now Jax State.
Everywhere Rodriguez goes, his offenses have always driven to lead the field with its fast-paced play and constant movement.
As a first-year Gamecocks coach, his team, fresh off of a 5-6 finish in 2021, went 9-2 with average scores of 36.2 points for and 22.9 against. If not for some stupid rules that prohibited JSU from playing in the FCS postseason last year, who knows how far the 9-2 Gamecocks could’ve gone in the playoff?