Eastern Michigan Eagles

SOUTH BEND, IN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Brian Kelly of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is seen during the game against the Stanford Cardinal at Notre Dame Stadium on October 15, 2016 in South Bend, Indiana. Stanford defeated Notre Dame 17-10. (Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images)
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Independents and Group of Five National Signing Day Recap: Irish bounce back, Memphis tops AAC

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Outside of the Power Five conferences, recruiting went about as expected in 2017.

Notre Dame continued to pound the national trail and landed a top 12 class full of players who will be expected to play early. BYU managed another impressive group that was one of the most diverse out there. The schools with a talent-rich backyard to draw on did well in the AAC.  Boise State was once again tops in the Mountain West and did better than a few peers in the region. And yes, Lane Kiffin earned that recruiting reputation by pulling in the best class of Conference USA.

Though there wasn’t much drama outside the top schools, there nevertheless was plenty of action for many programs on National Signing Day.

Top recruits (all rankings via 247Sports Composite): No. 67 overall Brock Wright (TE, Notre Dame), No. 154 overall Chaz Ah You (DB, BYU), Aisa Kelemete (DE, Boise State), Nick Robinson (TE, Memphis), Nicholas Sims (RB, Toledo)

Top classes: Notre Dame (No. 11 overall), Memphis (No. 58 overall), Boise State (No. 60 overall), BYU (No. 65 overall), Florida Atlantic (No. 71 overall), Toledo (No. 74 overall), Texas State (No. 87 overall)

Biggest storyline: Irish still land solid recruiting class

Despite the worst season in South Bend since Charlie Weis and a nearly brand new coaching staff, Notre Dame still managed to cobble together a top 12 class on Signing Day. Tight end Brock Wright was the highest rated player and should see early playing time but the number of quality offensive linemen was really evident in the group Brian Kelly signed. Will it be enough to help with a big turnaround? We’ll see.

Biggest surprise: Memphis runs away with things in the AAC but new coaches still fared well

Given all the turnover in the American this year, it should probably come as no surprise that the Tigers pulled the top recruiting class in the conference. That’s a testament to what Mike Norvell is building with the program and the fact that they don’t have to go far for players. Many of the same factors played a role in Scott Frost landing the second-best class at UCF. It was also pretty impressive what Luke Fickell did on the recruiting trail at Cincinnati and Charlie Strong did at USF given those two didn’t have a ton of time to get things lined up.

Don’t sleep on: Boise State, Colorado State

The Broncos were once again the class of the Mountain West on the recruiting trail and fended off several Pac-12 schools for prospects. That will put them firmly in the mix to win the league again in 2017 but don’t overlook another good job by Mike Bobo and staff at Colorado State in landing 17 three-star players.

We’ll see about: Everybody else

Jeff Tedford hires away Eastern Michigan OC, O-line coach to Fresno State

LAS VEGAS, NV - OCTOBER 10:  Josh Harper #3 of the Fresno State Bulldogs runs for yardage against Ryan McAleenan #56 of the UNLV Rebels during their game at Sam Boyd Stadium on October 10, 2014 in Las Vegas, Nevada.  (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
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Eastern Michigan lost the Bahamas Bowl on Friday, and then lost two of its most important coaches.

Eastern Michigan offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer and offensive line coach Ryan Grubb are leaving the staff to accept the same posts on Jeff Tedford‘s new staff at Fresno State, the Bulldogs announced Saturday.

Offensive coordinators bringing along offensive line coaches has become common practice in recent years, like an architect collaborating with a specific contractor to make sure the nuts-and-bolts of the new build go in where they’re supposed to go.

DeBoer and Grubb each spent three years on staff at Eastern Michigan, helping turn arguably the most moribund program in FBS into a bowl participant. Prior to that, the pair worked together from 2007-09 at the University of Sioux Falls, where DeBoer was the head coach and Grubbs his offensive line coach and run game coordinator.

DeBoer and Grubbs transformed an offense that ranked 111th nationally in total offense in the year prior to their arrival into a unit that placed 35th in 2016.

They’ll take over a Fresno State offense that finished this fall ranked 123rd in yards per play and 125th in scoring.

Old Dominion caps first 10-win FBS season with Bahamas Bowl victory over EMU

RALEIGH, NC - SEPTEMBER 17: David Washington #10 of the Old Dominion Monarchs hands off to Ray Lawry #33 against the NC State Wolfpack at Carter-Finley Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Raleigh, North Carolina. (Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images)
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Old Dominion (10-3) checked off a few items on the season-long to-do list for the still young FBS program. On Saturday, with a 24-20 victory over Eastern Michigan (7-6) in the Bahamas Bowl, Old Dominion capped the first 10-win season in program history since moving up the FBS and Conference USA with its first bowl victory in its first bowl game in program history. Old Dominion quarterback David Washington passed for three touchdowns and Ray Lawry rushed for 133 yards on the ground in the win for the Monarchs.

Eastern Michigan had their chances on offense against Old Dominion, but racking up 470 yards and owning the lead in time of possession was put to waste against Old Dominion. Settling for a field goal in the fourth quarter from the two-yard line and punting the ball on a fourth and eight from the Old Dominion 48-yard line with under six minutes to play gave the Monarchs a chance to put the game on ice. Eagles quarterback Brogan Roback passed for 300 yards and a couple of touchdowns to lead the Eastern Michigan offense, bringing a disappointing close to an otherwise remarkable season for the Eastern Michigan program.

Old Dominion never trailed in the game. After taking a 10-0 lead into halftime, Old Dominion had to fend off Eastern Michigan in the second half. The Eagles tied the game at 17-17 late in the third quarter but could only score a field goal while Old Dominion tacked on a touchdown in the fourth quarter. The game-winning score came on a five-yard touchdown pass from Washington to Jonathan Duhart.

At the moment, the MAC is still looking for its first bowl victory of the season after dropping to 0-3. Conference USA improved its record to 3-2 this bowl season with the Old Dominion win. Conference USA now owns bowl victories against the American Athletic Conference (Western Kentucky over Memphis in the Boca Raton Bowl), MAC and Sun Belt Conference (Southern Mississippi over Louisiana-Lafayette in the New Orleans Bowl). The lone loss of the bowl season so far came against the Mountain West Conference, with UTSA coming up three points shy against New Mexico in the New Mexico Bowl. Conference USA can even its record against the Mountain West in the Hawaii Bowl when Middle Tennessee takes on Hawaii.

Old Dominion’s 2017 season kicks off on September 2 at home against Albany. The Monarchs will also host North Carolina and play at Virginia Tech in back-to-back weeks in September before diving into Conference USA play.

Eastern Michigan will get the 2017 season underway on September 2 at home against Charlotte. The Eagles also play three non-conference game son the road against Rutgers, Kentucky and Army next season.

Old Dominion holds halftime lead in first bowl appearance in school history

NASSAU, BAHAMAS - DECEMBER 10:  View of the Junkanoo Parade during CMT Story Behind The Songs LIV + Weekend at Sandals Royal Bahamian Spa Resort & Offshore Island - Day 3 at Sandals Royal Bahamian on December 10, 2016 in Nassau, Bahamas.  (Photo by Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images for Sandals Royal Bahamian)
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Playing in the first bowl game in program history, Old Dominion is certainly not holding back in the Bahamas Bowl against Eastern Michigan. The Monarchs faked a punt on their first possession of the game and took a 10-0 lead on the Eagles with a 47-yard touchdown strike from David Washington to Zach Pascal in the second quarter.

Eastern Michigan’s first offensive possession of the game ended with Old Dominion stuffing the Eagles on a 4th and 2 attempt from the Eastern Michigan 49-yard line. But Old Dominion failed to do anything with the possession starting just inside the Eastern Michigan half of the field by going three-and-out. A brilliant punt by Bailey Cate pinned the Eagles at their own one-yard line (and probably inside their one-yard line). The Eagles ran 11 plays to work out of their own end but ended the drive with a punt. The two teams then exchanged interceptions on the next two possessions before Old Dominion took to the air to get in the end zone.

Much is made about bowl game attendance by some people, and the Bahamas Bowl is certainly not helping to change the bowl game narrative out there.

It may never happen, but I would imagine the attendance of the Bahamas Bowl would be far better if it included Alabama and Ohio State. Maybe they should put a College Football Playoff game in the Bahamas one year?

CFT Previews: Your Dec. 23 Bowl Viewer’s Guide

STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 01:  Head coach Frank Solich of the Ohio Bobcats motions from the sidelines during the second half against the Penn State Nittany Lions at Beaver Stadium on September 1, 2012 in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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Taking a quick-hit look at the Dec. 23 bowl menu, which not only gives us our first multi-bowl GameDay since the opening Saturday of the postseason but also the first matchup involving a team ranked in the College Football Playoff Top 25.

WHO: Eastern Michigan (7-5) vs. Old Dominion (9-3)
WHAT: The 3rd Popeyes Bahamas Bowl
WHERE: Thomas A. Robinson National Stadium, Nassau, Bahamas
WHEN: 1 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: Nearly three decades ago, Eastern Michigan won the first bowl game in the first postseason appearance in the football program’s history.  Since then, the Eagles have been searching for the school’s second postseason win — mainly because they haven’t played in a bowl game in the ensuing 29 years.  Chris Creighton has led a remarkable turnaround in Ypsilanti, with EMU winning just three combined games his first two seasons before the jump to seven in Year 3; those seven wins are the most since they won the same number in 1989.  An eighth win would be just the third time they’ve hit at least that mark in their FBS history.  Old Dominion is also in uncharted territory as they didn’t become an FBS program until 2014, and this will mark the Monarchs’ first-ever bowl appearance.  The two teams come into their first-ever matchup on different trajectories, with ODU riding a five-game winning streak in winning eight of its last nine — all of those wins came by double digits — while EMU went 3-4 after 4-1 start.  Both the Eagles and Monarchs average more than 30 points per game offensively, while their defenses aren’t in the top half of the country in keeping the opposition off the scoreboard.  The final scores in the first two Bahamas Bowls, also featuring Conference USA and MAC teams, were 49-48 and 45-31.  I’m guessing this game won’t deviate too much from those previous offensive matchups.  If there is one player to watch, it might be ODU’s David Washington.  Washington (28-4) was one of just three starting quarterbacks at the FBS level who threw 28 or more touchdowns and four or fewer interceptions during the 2016 regular season, the others being Western Michigan’s Zach Terrell (32-3) and North Carolina’s Mitch Trubisky (28-4).
THE LINE: Eastern Michigan, +4
THE PREDICTION: Eastern Michigan 37, Old Dominion 36

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WHO: Louisiana Tech (8-5) vs. No. 25 Navy (9-4)
WHAT: The 14th Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl
WHERE: Amon G. Carter Stadium, Fort Worth, Texas
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE LINE: Navy, +6
For the remainder of an extended preview, click HERE.

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WHO: Ohio (8-5) vs. Troy (9-3)
WHAT: The 18th Dollar General Bowl
WHERE: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
WHEN: 8 p.m. ET on ESPN
THE SKINNY: This might be my most favorite not-even-remotely relevant fun fact of the entire 2016 postseason: Ohio head coach Frank Solich (72) is exactly twice as old as his Troy counterpart Neal Brown (36).  The former Nebraska coach, though, has turned his Bobcats into an annual postseason presence.  After just one bowl game his first four years, OU will be playing in its seventh the last eight years.  While a postseason game has become an annual expectation in Athens, Brown will be leading Troy, playing in its home state, to its first bowl appearance since 2010 in just his second season with the program.  OU won by 16 points at Kansas — hey, technically, they are a Power Five team — lost by just nine points at Tennessee and then took Western Michigan, unbeaten and headed for a New Year’s Six game, to the brink in losing the MAC championship game by six points.  Ohio’s last three losses?  By a combined 20 points to three teams that will be bowling this season.  Then there’s Troy, which held a first-quarter lead on College Football Playoff semifinalist Clemson in Week 2 and was down just 13-10 at the half before dropping a 30-24 road decision to the No. 2 team in the country.  A win here would give the Trojans their first-ever 10-win season in their 16 years as an FBS program.  If the latter portion of the 2016 season is any indication this could be a close game as eight of Ohio’s last nine games were decided by 10 points or less, with seven of those decided by seven or less.  There might be one certainty in this game: don’t expect much when it comes to the ground game as Troy is 19th nationally in stopping the run (123.7) while Ohio is seventh (105.8).
THE LINE: Ohio, +4
THE PREDICTION: Ohio 24, Troy 20