Eastern Michigan is a long way from Baton Rouge.
To get you properly acquainted with the Eagles, we brought on Robert Hull — an EMU football beat writer at The Eastern Echo — for this week’s Pick 6. You can follow Robert on Twitter @RobertHull124 and read his work here.
1. Obviously, Eastern Michigan is outmatched on almost every front in this game. What can the Eagles do to keep it competitive?
On offense EMU must control the clock. That’s something EMU hasn’t been very good at all year, but they will need to do that to keep the score as low as possible. The offense tries to play fast, but that only works if they can move the ball. EMU also needs to establish a ground game. Darius Jackson is one of the best running backs in the Mid-American Conference, but I don’t think EMU has used him as much as they should. He needs the ball in his hands to keep this game close.
The defense hasn’t stopped anybody (Old Dominion, Wyoming, Ball State or Army) on the ground yet. I would think EMU will try some different things on defense to contain the run as much as possible. Lastly, win the turnover margin… and win it by a lot. It won’t be a competitive game if EMU can’t at least force three turnovers or have some big plays on special teams.
2. Speaking of matchups…Leonard Fournette, who leads the country with 210.3 rushing yards per game, will go up against a rushing defense that surrenders 373 rushing yards per game, which is dead last in the nation. How long of a night do you think it’ll be for the Eagles’ front seven?
It’s been painful to watch this season. Teams that aren’t known for running the ball have destroyed the EMU defense by running the ball, and EMU doesn’t have an answer from what I’ve seen. There’s been times where it’s 3rd and long, and the opposing team will pick up a first down on the ground.
It also doesn’t help that the two best defensive lineman on the team have sat out this season. Pat O’Connor is done for the season with a shoulder injury, and Jeremiah Harris did not play against Army, and is a questionable for the LSU game. It’s going to be a long night for the defense.
3. The Eagles’ offense is in the middle of the pack nationally in scoring, rushing and passing offense. After seeing Syracuse find spurts of success against LSU’s defense last week, can EMU do the same?
From what I’ve seen this season it’s hard to know what EMU offense will show up for this game. Like I said earlier, EMU must establish a run game. There are so many good running backs on the roster and I’m not sure why EMU doesn’t utilize them more. EMU insists on playing fast and try forcing throws and it hasn’t worked. EMU is missing a HUGE piece on offense, as the starting quarterback, Reggie Bell is out with a jaw injury. He produced almost all of EMU’s offense a year ago.
In this game I could see EMU going into a wildcat formation for a few plays, where the running back will get the direct snap. Then short choppy passes, and screen passes to move the ball. Long methodical drives will be the key for EMU in this game.
4. Darius Jackson looks like a big, physical running back. He averages more than 100 yards a game, but how likely is he to break the century mark against the Tigers’ defensive front?
I could see Darius Jackson playing on Sundays; he is that good. I think he is the best option in this game for EMU to have any chance. There aren’t many teams that have had an easy time taking him down; he’s plowed over tackles and it takes much more than an arm tackle to bring him down. He could definitely run for 100+ yards, but the ball has to be given to him in order for that to happen, obviously.
5. Freshman Eddie Daugherty is EMU’s leading receiver with 255 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Standing at only 5-foot-7, 157 pounds, will he be able to create separation from LSU’s physical defensive backs?
Daugherty is an outstanding route runner, and finds holes in the secondary where the ball can come his way. This will be much more of a challenge with LSU, but I do think he can create enough space to make a catch. Daugherty has also been more of a long ball receiver, where he’ll catch a ball 30 yards down field and then be elusive enough to go for more yards. Dustin Creel and Kris Strange are also very good receivers that may match up a little better with the LSU secondary.
6. The Eagles are 13th in the country with 42.14 net yards per punt, and sophomore punter Austin Barnes averages 47 yards per attempt. Can EMU turn that into an advantage and play field position against LSU?
Austin Barnes is one of the best punters in the country. He has been phenomenal this year. But EMU hasn’t been able to use the field position to its advantage much this season. What good is pinning the opposing offense on its own 5-yard line if the defense can’t stop anybody?
The EMU special teams has been fairly strong this year. Not many teams have been able to return punts or kickoffs on EMU this season. We’ve only seen one kickoff be returned out of the end zone this year, and most punts go over the return-man’s head.
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