Tigers hoping to avoid a letdown against in-state rivals
A gridiron battle between undefeated teams is going down in the Sportsman’s Paradise on Saturday when the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (2–0) travel to Baton Rouge to take on No. 6 LSU (3–0) in front of 100,000-plus in Tiger Stadium. The winner earns the bragging rights as Louisiana’s best.
Upsets big and small have taken place across the country this season, which has not been lost on the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech hopes to sneak into Death Valley to recreate a nightmare LSU lived through just a year ago when Troy upended LSU 24–21 at home. Led by junior dual-threat quarterback J’Mar Smith and four returning starters in the trenches, the Bulldogs have jumped on the opposition early this year, averaging 42 points per game and 527 yards of total offense.
LSU has fought their way to an unbeaten start being the same old Tigers squad — that is a stifling defense and an offense that wears down the opposition into submission. Dave Aranda’s defense is holding teams to an average of 308 yards per game, while the offense has been balanced, led by Ohio State graduate transfer QB Joe Burrows.
Louisiana Tech at LSU
Kickoff: Saturday, Sept. 22 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: LSU -21
Three Things to Watch
1. J’Mar Smith vs. LSU’s front seven
Smith had some growing pains during his sophomore season but still threw for 2,974 yards with 16 touchdowns and rushed for 377 yards accounting for six more scores. The junior has started off this season completing 65 percent of his passes but has had difficulty taking care of the ball with a 4–3 touchdown to interception ratio. With Jaqwis Dancy and Israel Tucker running effectively out of the Bulldogs backfield, Smith has not had to run that much this year but may have to scramble to keep drives alive against a fast and furious Tigers front seven.
Smith will be challenged for the first time this season against LSU. If he gives the ball away, how long before the Bulldogs defense wears out? He also has a tendency to take sacks, something LSU will work to its advantage.
2. Louisiana Tech’s defense
The strength of schedule is not close to comparable, but it may surprise all to know that the Bulldogs enter the game with a better defense — statistically, anyway. The Bulldogs have held South Alabama and Southern to an average of 297 total yards of offense. The Tigers are not an offensive machine, coming into the game ranked No. 112 out of 129 FBS teams averaging 334 yards per game. Even against a common opponent, Southern, LSU only compiled 335 yards of total offense.
LSU’s fans may not like winning ugly, but a 3–0 record that includes wins over two Top 10 ranked teams (Miami and Auburn) may be all one needs to know about the effectiveness of the offense.
3. Avoiding the letdown
LSU was absolutely stunned last season when Troy walked out of Death Valley with a win. The loss was one part lack of taking the Trojans seriously and another part looking ahead to a road trip to Florida. LSU head coach Ed Orgeron finds himself in a similar situation again facing Louisiana Tech. After two big wins, including a physically challenging game against Auburn on the road last week, LSU will host Ole Miss in Week 5. Can Orgeron fire up his squad to put the Bulldogs away early, or will the Tigers allow Louisiana Tech to hang around?
Louisiana Tech, purposely or not, had a bye week in Week 3 to prepare for big brother. The Bulldogs will take the field as rested as they will be for the rest of the season and with something to prove.
Until LSU’s offense finds that flow and rhythm on offense, close wins, even against teams that may not be on its level, should be expected. The Bulldogs have talent on defense in linemen Jaylon Ferguson and Jordan Bradford, linebacker Dae’Von Washington, and corner L’Jarius Sneed, but is that enough?
Prediction: LSU 35, Louisiana Tech 21
— 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 and is a member of the FWAA. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and has his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @RyanWrightRNG.