College Football Odds & Picks for Eastern Michigan vs. Kent State: Betting Value Lies With Eagles
Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Willie Parker (26).
- Eastern Michigan travels to Kent State on Wednesday night for the first MACtion game of the 2020 season.
- The Eagles enter the game as 4.5-point underdogs, but Stuckey thinks they hold the most value on the moneyline on Wednesday's slate
- Check out Stuckey's full betting breakdown with updated odds below.
Eastern Michigan vs. Kent State Odds
|Eastern Michigan Odds||+4.5 [BET NOW]|
|Kent State Odds||-4.5 [BET NOW]|
|Moneyline||+148/-180 [BET NOW]|
|Over/Under||65 [BET NOW]|
|Time||Wednesday, 6 p.m. ET|
Eastern Michigan Eagles
It’s a potential rebuilding year in Ypsilanti for head coach Chris Creighton, who has done a remarkable job turning this program around from almost dead to respectable.
Creighton’s first and toughest task will be replacing quarterback Mike Glass, who threw for over 4,000 yards last season. That job will fall to Preston Hutchinson, who did at least sparkle in his only career start against Western Michigan last year. The junior finished 31-of-36 for 357 yards, so he at least has confidence he can produce at this level even if only in a one-game sample size.
Still, it’s hard to imagine there won’t be at least some drop-off early on after everything Glass did for this offense. It wasn’t the most explosive offense, but it ranked in the top 20 in efficiency, Success Rate and completion percentage. Those numbers will be hard to duplicate.
After the departure of offensive coordinator Aaron Keen, Creighton will take over play-calling duties. He hopes an inexperienced running back by committee can get the job done on the ground. EMU lost its top four rushers from 2019 after Shaq Vann graduated and Willie Parker II opted out.
The Eagles lost leading-receiver Arthur Jackson in addition to Matthew Sexton, but they still have 6’6 tight end Thomas Odukoya and a dangerous duo on the outside in Dylan Drummond and Quian Williams. For my money, Williams is one of the most underrated wide receivers in the country.
Jairus Grissom, a converted quarterback, also has loads of potential at wide receiver. The weapons are certainly there for Hutchison.
The offensive line has two reliable returning starters in center Mike Van Hoeven and tackle Brian Dooley, but it also must replace two other key starters. It’s all eyes on Hutchison on Wednesday night. If he looks as pristine as he did last year against Western Michigan, this EMU offense might not miss a beat.
After a rough season for EMU’s base 4-2-5 defense, it now must replace the following contributors:
- First-team All-MAC safety Vince Calhoun (most starts in EMU history with 49)
- Second-team All-MAC hybrid safety/linebacker Brody Hoying
- Third-team All-MAC inside linebacker Kobie Beltram
- Third-team All-MAC cornerback Kevin McGill (40 starts; signed with Chargers this summer)
The front seven had a particularly tough go last season. The Eagles struggled to stop the run (outside top 100) and couldn’t get any pressure, ranking 121st in tackles for loss. That wasn’t too surprising after losing star defensive linemen Maxx Crosby (now starting for the Raiders) and Jeremiah Harris (who got a shot with the Giants).
Defensive end Turan Rush leads a defensive line that should improve with experience, but major questions remain at linebacker. Also, the secondary lost three players who previously received All-Conference recognition. Cornerback Freddie McGee is a playmaker but extremely undersized. Safety Blake Bogan will have to elevate his game to compensate for the attrition in the secondary.
The offense has to replace a substantial amount of production from last season, most notably Glass. That won’t be easy in an offseason with shortened preparation and the loss of an offensive coordinator.
The same can be said for a defense that lost most of its primary contributors from a unit that had a down year in 2019. EMU ranks in the bottom 10 nationally in returning production, which might show out of the gates.
However, if Hutchison is the real deal, a lot of those concerns go away. From a pure numbers perspective, EMU is a play for me at +7.5 or better. If it doesn’t get there pregame, I’d look for the Eagles live.
Kent State Golden Flashes
At 3-6 on the season and down three touchdowns in the fourth quarter against Buffalo, it looked like it would be a disappointing season for head coach Sean Lewis. But after a miracle FBS-record fourth-quarter comeback, Kent went onto win its final two games to become bowl eligible.
The Golden Flashes then secured their first bowl win in program history over Utah State. They hope to ride that wave into this year.
Kent State does return star senior quarterback Dustin Crum, who threw 20 touchdowns to just two interceptions last year while also finishing as the team’s leading rusher with over 700 yards. Crum is a legit pro-prospect who had the fewest turnover-worthy throws of any quarterback, per PFF, which graded him as the third-best QB in the country.
Crum will benefit from the return of 2019 leading receiver Isaiah McKoy, but other weapons will need to emerge after the departure of the other top-three receivers, including third-team All-MAC Mike Carrigan. Will Matthews led all Kent State backs with 570 rushing yards, but with him now out of the picture, Xavier Williams will take over as the lead back.
The offensive line does return four starters, but it’s an undersized unit that ranked in the bottom 10 nationally in Sack Rate and tackles for loss allowed. There are some promising pieces to build on, including Nathan Monnin and Julian Sams. The entire group also played significantly better after Daniel Johnson stepped in at right tackle over the final four games.
It’s noteworthy that one lost starter was Nate Warnock, who started at center the past two seasons. He was arguably Kent State’s best offensive lineman at one of the most important positions on a fast-paced offense in which the center makes all of the line calls in just a few seconds. It will be interesting to see if Kent State moves someone like Sams over to center and how that impacts the offense.
Kent also lacks bulk along a defensive line that finished 120th out of 130 FBS teams in Line Yards last year. As you might imagine, the Golden Flashes really struggled against the run, allowing 5.1 yards per carry (114th). They do bring back eight of their top 10 tacklers, but there are still more questions than answers up front after losing third-team All-MAC defensive lineman Theo Majette, who led the team in sacks in 2019. Zayin West will really have to step his game up this season.
The secondary also lost its best player in third-team All-MAC cornerback Jamal Parker — a four-year starter. They will also need to replace starting safety Qwuantrezz Knight. There are at least two talented pieces to build around in cornerback Elvis Hines and senior safety Keith Sherald, who has first-team All-MAC potential.
Despite being a bit undersized (a consistent theme with Kent State), the linebackers should be the most reliable unit on the defense. Senior Manny Lawrence-Burke is one of the best backers in the conference, and he will get plenty of assistance from Kesean Gamble and Cepeda Phillips.
Reigning Special Teams Player of the Year Matthew Trickett returns at kicker and could even take over punting duties after Derek Adams transferred to Northwestern. Trickett is a weapon for the Golden Flashes.
Lewis has stated he wants to run the ball more, so maybe Kent State doesn’t play as fast. That could help out a defense with major questions, while also allowing it to figure out what other weapons will emerge to help out McKoy. Crum is the real deal, but he can’t do it on his own. Improvements in pass protection and on defense could make Kent State a bona fide threat in the East division.
Game Breakdown & Betting Recommendation
EMU has to replace plenty of key pieces on both sides of the ball, but its success will all come down to Hutchinson, who did look the part in his lone start last year.
I actually think there’s a slight bit of line value on the Eagles in a game I make -4. For reference, EMU was a 3.5-point home favorite in the season finale last year. Kent State won that game by eight with the difference being a kickoff return touchdown in a game in which EMU finished with over 500 yards of total offense.
With all of the roster turnover and increased uncertainty heading into this season, I’d prefer +7 or better on the Eagles before pulling the trigger. If that key number never pops prior to the opening kick, I’ll look for a 7 or better live. I also think EMU is the best ML dog on the card with the potential upside of Hutchinson under center. The total looks about right to me but could be a little high if Kent State really does run the ball at a higher clip, which is something I’ll be monitoring early in the season
Bets to Watch: EMU ML, EMU +7 or better (pregame or live)