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Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. LSU Tigers Preview and Prediction

Leonard Fournette

Leonard Fournette

The game preview for Eastern Michigan (1-3) versus No. 9 LSU (3-0) could stop at one statistic for each team but in fairness of a FBS David vs. Goliath showdown on Saturday a breakdown of the two teams is deserving.

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Despite the Eagles having won one game already this season, the disparity in talent between the two teams feels more like Eastern Michigan being one of the six D-I teams without a win going into Week 5 of the season. Eagles second-year head coach Chris Creighton has a balanced offense but will rely heavily on running back Darius Jackson, quarterback Brogan Roback, and wide receiver Eddie Daugherty to make plays and help move the chains. The defensive side of the ball is where the Eagles are struggling, making LSU a tough matchup.

For LSU, it is all about the run game and the entire nation is all about sophomore running back Leonard Fournette. The 6-foot-1, 230-pound back is coming off a career-high 244 yards against Syracuse. The stat line could have been 87 yards better with three touchdowns instead of two had one of his amazing runs not been called back due to a penalty. As is, Fournette is the nation’s third-leading rusher with 631 yards and tied for second in FBS with eight scores on the ground.

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Eastern Michigan at LSU

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET

Coverage: ESPNU

Line: LSU -44.5

Three Things to Watch

1. Eagles' pass offense vs. LSU pass defense

LSU’s “DBU” label has slipped a little bit thus far in 2015 as compared to last season when they had the nation’s No. 3 pass defense. The Tigers are allowing 196 yards a game in the air, 32 more per game than allowed in 2014 without getting into the heart of their SEC schedule. If Eastern Michigan hopes to score one of the biggest upsets of the season attacking LSU’s pass defense might be the way to do it.

The Eagles have a fairly balanced offense with the No. 58 rushing offense at 187 yards a game and the No. 50 passing offense at 249 yards per game. Roback is averaging 219 yards passing per game but has not faced an elite defense like LSU so far this season. When Roback drops back he has four receivers with double-digit receptions to pick from: Daugherty, Dustin Creel, Darius Jackson, and Kris Strange.

The idea is for passing lanes to be opened up with the running attack. Jackson leads the team with 407 yards on the ground and seven touchdowns scored. Shaq Vann has done a great job spelling Jackson rushing for 245 yards and three scores on 39 touches.

2. LSU vs. LSU

The matchup against Eastern Michigan should be a good time for LSU to fine tune a few things like the passing game and cleaning up the penalty problems. So far the running game and defense have been good enough to carry the team but the passing offense has been horrible. LSU has the nation’s No. 123 passing offense, out of 127 teams, picking up an average of 100.7 yards per game. Saturday would be a good day to get starting quarterback Brandon Harris familiar with his wide receivers again.

Hard to believe Malachi Dupre, Travin Dural, and John Diarse have not hit the double-digit reception mark yet.

Fournette was a beast against Syracuse on the road and luckily he is a once in a generation type of talent or LSU would be in serious trouble. The passing offense is anemic at best and the team’s sloppy play on both sides of the ball moved the ball back 14 times for 120 yards against the Orange. The Tigers are good enough against EMU to get past another sloppy game but come November LSU has to be much improved at playing clean to win the SEC West.

3. Leonard Fournette vs. Eastern Michigan’s defense

The two stats that could have completed the preview in the opening paragraph without further explanation as to how the game should shape up are: LSU has the nation’s No. 5 rushing offense at 315 yards per game and EMU has the nation’s worst run defense allowing 373.3 yards per game.

The big question is how long will Fournette stay in the game?

If Harris (117 yards) comes out of the EMU game still listed as the team’s second leading rusher over Darrel Williams (94 yards) and Derrius Guice (68 yards), LSU offensive coordinator Cam Cameron might deserve a pink slip before the last crazed Tigers fan has left Death Valley.

The EMU game should allow Harris to set his feet in the pocket not scrambling for yards and give valuable confidence time to Guice and Williams with both padding their stat lines along the way.

Related: College Football's Top 10 Running Backs for September

Final Analysis

Army snapped a 21-game road losing streak dating back to 2010 last week against Eastern Michigan and the Eagles have not had a winning program since 1987. Another fun fact that does bode well for the Eagles, their lone win against Wyoming came against one of the six D-I teams entering Week 5 without a win this season.

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Fournette shredded Syracuse’s defense behind his big offensive line. The Orange came into the Week 4 contest sporting the nation’s No. 3 run defense, now at No. 19.

Prediction: LSU 56, Eastern Michigan 10

— Written by Ryan Wright, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and an established media professional with more than two decades' worth of experience. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.