After hosting Army West Point in Week 4, Eastern Michigan wraps up its non-conference slate in Death Valley as it takes on #13 LSU. Despite a lackluster 2014 where they finished 5th in the SEC West, the Tigers have plenty of talent and will look to showcase that talent early on in the season as they head into the game against the Eagles following conference match-ups with Mississippi State and Auburn as well as a road test at Syracuse.
The quarterback situation at LSU is always an issue, and 2015 is no exception as Anthony Jennings and Brandon Harris return to the fold. Passing for 1,611 yards, 11 touchdowns, and seven interceptions with 48.9% of his passes complete, Jennings split time with Harris last season as the true freshman went 25/45 for 452 yards, six touchdowns, and two interceptions in eight games played. If LSU continues to utilize the the two quarterback attack, expect some wildly inconsistent play from the position.
Travin Dural is the only real standout of the receiving corps as he is the only one to surpass 20 catches last season. With 37 receptions for 758 yards and seven touchdowns, Dural needs to be the gamebreaker in the passing game if LSU wants any semblance of a balanced offense.
There are no questions in the backfield for the Tigers as Leonard Fournette had a tremendous freshman season in 2014 with 1,034 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns as well as seven receptions for 127 yards. With two of the top three rushers from last season gone, it will be up to the Preseason All-SEC Second Teamer to carry the load for LSU in 2015.
Bookend tackles Vadal Alexander and Jerald Hawkins look to be the anchors of a talented offensive line that boasts three Preseason All-Conference selections. Alexander is the most experienced of the group with 34 starts and was named to the All-SEC Second Team in 2014. Hawkins has yet to miss a start in his career and was second on the team with 834 snaps played last season.
The strength of the Tigers has been on defense, and the 2015 iteration does not disappoint. Led in the secondary by a safety that has never missed a start in Jalen Mills, LSU brings back some key pieces of its 2014 unit that was eighth in the nation in total defense. With Preseason All-SEC picks Christian LaCouture and Kendell Beckwith leading the charge in the front seven, the defense looks to be a handful for opposing offenses.
Special teams is a strong unit as well with Fournette handling kickoff return duties to the tune of 26 yards per return and a touchdown, while Tre'Davious White comes back as the punt return man with a return touchdown of his own. Field goals were bit of an issue last season as LSU went 13/19, but it was able to control field position with Jamie Keehn averaging nearly 45 yards per punt with 17 punts of 50 yards or more while Trent Domingue averaged over 62 yards on kickoff with 28 touchbacks.
For Eastern Michigan to pull of the upset in Baton Rouge, the Eagles need to figure out a way to contain Fournette, as he is the majority of the offense. Having LSU throw the ball 25 times or more is a win for the Eagles, as well as forcing the team to settle for field goals. On offense, EMU needs to have success running the ball; the Tigers allowed over 140 rushing yards per game last season and most of their talent in 2015 is in the back end. Pulling this off is unlikely for Eastern Michigan, but it is doable and crazier things have happened in Death Valley.