The Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-6, 3-5) will face the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-5, 4-4) in the Quick Lane Bowl on Thursday, Dec. 26 at Ford Field in Detroit. Both teams are just 2-3 in their last five outings and still have a bad taste in their mouths following losses in the regular season finale. EMU lost to Kent State, while Pittsburgh fell to Boston College.
“We are absolutely fired up to be here at the Quick Lane Bowl. I want to sincerely thank everyone. It is a big deal for us. You may not know that it's the first time in school history with back-to-back bowls,” EMU head coach Chris Creighton said. “It’s an absolutely big deal for us to be here and we’re going to give it everything we’ve got. We’re absolutely thrilled.”
Despite the Panthers playing in the ACC, the Eagles seem to have the superior quarterback. Mike Glass III, the senior signal caller for EMU, will start his second career bowl game and will look to improve on his already-impressive statistics. He has 2,858 passing yards, 22 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions this season.
Kenny Pickett, on the other hand, hasn’t had a very prolific season. He has been able to stretch the field with 2,737 passing yards, but Pittsburgh struggles to score in the red zone and that shows as Pickett has thrown for only 10 touchdowns, while also throwing nine interceptions.
“Our quarterback makes things go for us in Mike Glass. I think he’s a special quarterback,” Creighton said. “When I got here six years ago, we had a crystal clear vision. We wanted to make those associated with EMU proud. We are far from perfect but we’re no longer where we were six years ago and we’re getting better.”
As for the running back position, neither team seems to have a big advantage. Shaq Vann will get the start for the Eagles in his final appearance and he comes into the game with 667 yards on 136 carries and eight touchdowns. A.J. Davis, Pittsburgh’s junior running back, has totaled 532 yards on 126 carries and four touchdowns.
The Panthers have the far superior defense, which will likely play a major role in this one. Pitt has the ability to slow the tempo and limit big plays, as they give up just 21.8 points per game. EMU allows 30.3 points per game. That could be the deciding factor in who wins the Quick Lane Bowl.
Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi talked about what he’s seen from EMU this year: “I haven’t had a lot of time, we’ll start getting into it, but I did get a chance to watch one game. One thing you see is a similar thing that you see at the University of Pittsburgh. They play hard at every snap. They are going to run the quarterback and they’re a well coached football team.”
Creighton talked about his opponent as well: “Narduzzi is an excellent football coach. They’re known for their defense and it starts with that. It’s toughness. So much respect for what he’s done at Michigan State and now at Pitt. It’s a very tall task for us but it’s an awesome opportunity for us to play a great football team.”
ESPN FPI gives Eastern Michigan a 30% chance to win. The Eagles are just 1-3 in bowl games in school history and Creighton hasn’t led EMU to a bowl victory yet in two appearances. The Eagles will try to change that and earn their first bowl victory since 1987 when EMU took home the California Bowl title.
“We’re proud of it and we’re thankful. We want to continue to get better. It’s been fun getting to back-to back bowl games but we have a long ways to go,” Creighton said. “We’re enjoying the process of getting better. The list of people that have helped us get to where we are is really long.”