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Today at No. 101: EASTERN MICHIGAN Coach: Chris Creighton (2-10, entering second season, 141-56 overall) 2014 record: 2-10, 1-7 in the Mid-American Conference; sixth...

vrsportsbook2Today at No. 101: EASTERN MICHIGAN

Coach: Chris Creighton (2-10, entering second season, 141-56 overall)

2014 record: 2-10, 1-7 in the Mid-American Conference; sixth in West Division

Look back: The Chris Creighton era at Eastern Michigan got off to an inauspicious start, with the Eagles plagued by injuries and inconsistency on both sides of the ball. The team lost four of its first five games and then six of its last seven to finish with its third straight two-win season.

Offensive starters returning: 5

Offensive starters lost: 6

Defensive starters returning: 7

Defensive starters lost: 4

Key losses: RB Ryan Brumfield , WR Tyler Allen, C Campbell Allison, RT Lincoln Hansen, LT Robert McFadden, TE Tyreese Russell, SS Pudge Cotton, CB Willie Creear, FS Kevin Johnson, DE Mike Steals

Top returnees: QB Reginald Bell Jr., WR Dustin Creel, WR Kris Strange, RG Darien Terrell, LT Andrew Wylie, DE Pat O’Connor, NG Mike Brown, LB Hunter Matt, LB Anthony Zappone, LB Great Ibe

Strengths: Sophomore Reginald Bell Jr. was one of the bright spots during an otherwise dismal season for Eastern Michigan. The dual-threat quarterback led the team in both passing (1,297 yards) and rushing (562) with 13 total touchdowns. After struggling during his first two starts, Bell dropped on the depth chart before working his way back to start the last six games of the season.

Defensive tackle Pat O’Connor was a first-team All-MAC selection last season after leading EMU in sacks (7.5) and tackles for a loss (14.0). He’ll anchor an Eagles front line that also returns nose guard Mike Brown (32 tackles) and Jeremiah Harris (31). Great Ibe led the team in tackles (133), including 11 tackles for loss, as he directed a talented linebackers group that included Anthony Zappone (90 tackles) and Hunter Matt (49).

Weaknesses: Eastern Michigan finished last in scoring in the Mid-American Conference last season, averaging just over 15 points per game. The Eagles also finished last in total offense (289 yards per game). Injuries decimated the offensive line, with nine different players logging time up front, and the group gave up 35 sacks in 2014.

Bronson Hill (351 yards) and Ryan Brumfield (348 yards, 4 TDs) teamed to lead the rushing attack last season. Their departures leave senior Darius Jackson with the most returning experience.

Defensive back Willie Creear (56 tackles) was the most dependable player in the secondary, starting all 12 games. His exit, along with that of safety Kevin Johnson, leaves the team with Jason Beck (86 tackles, INT) and DaQuan Pace (45 tackles) anchoring a unit that ranked next-to-last in the league with just six interceptions.

Outlook: Last season was a statistical nightmare for Eastern Michigan. The Eagles ranked at or near the bottom of almost every offensive and defensive category in the league. The good news is there is nowhere to go but up. Injuries forced Creighton and his staff to lean on younger players and that experience should pay off in the form of much-needed depth at key positions. An easier schedule should help snap the streak of two-win seasons, but a winning season could be tough to achieve.

2015 SCHEDULE

Sept. 5 Old Dominion

Sept. 12 at Wyoming

Sept. 19 Ball State

Sept. 26 Army

Oct. 3 at LSU

Oct. 10 Akron

Oct. 17 at Toledo

Oct. 24 at Northern Illinois

Oct. 29 Western Michigan

Nov. 7 at Miami (Ohio)

Nov. 14 UMass

Nov. 27 at Central Michigan

Vincent Rizzo

College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com

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