The Louisiana Tech Bulldogs look to close out the 2020 regular season with their third consecutive win when they head to Fort Worth for a non-conference showdown with the TCU Horned Frogs. Neither team has had long to prepare, as the announcement of the game was publicized just last week.
Louisiana Tech spent more than a month on the sidelines as a result of cancellations due to COVID-19 after its 37-34 double-overtime win against UAB on Halloween but came out with a 42-31 win over North Texas this past Thursday. The Mean Green jumped out to a quick 14-7 lead in the early going, but Louisiana Tech roared back with three second-quarter touchdowns to take a 28-17 lead into halftime and ultimately won by that same 11-point margin after each side tallied a pair of second-half touchdowns.
TCU opened its season with three matchups against currently-ranked Big 12 foes in its first four games, squeaking out a win over No. 20 Texas but losing to No. 7 Iowa State and No. 11 Oklahoma. But the Horned Frogs picked up another win over a ranked team last week — and their third win in their last four games — when they took down then-No. 15 Oklahoma State 29-22 in Fort Worth. The Cowboys led 13-0 after just a quarter of play, but the Horned Frogs crept to within one point entering the fourth quarter before scoring the only touchdown of the final 15 minutes to secure the win.
Saturday's non-conference meeting will be just the second all-time between these two teams. The only prior meeting came in 2011 in San Diego when they squared off in the Poinsettia Bowl, a 31-24 TCU win in San Diego.
Louisiana Tech at TCU
Kickoff: Saturday, Dec. 12 at 7 p.m. ET
Spread: TCU -21.5
When Louisiana Tech Has the Ball
Louisiana Tech plays two quarterbacks, with both featured in most games. Luke Anthony has thrown 15 touchdowns — the second-highest total in Conference USA — as the Bulldogs' greater pocket-passer with Aaron Allen more of a running threat. Against North Texas, Anthony attempted 20 passes for the second straight game, completing 13 of them for 110 yards with two touchdowns and an interception while Allen went 6-for-11 for 48 yards passing.
The Bulldogs had struggled mightily to run the football coming into last week's game, but Israel Tucker — who had amassed just 336 yards on the ground this season — totaled nearly half of that last week alone with 161 yards rushing and two touchdowns on a career-high 37 carries (previous high was 19). Smoke Harris led all receivers with seven receptions for 40 yards and a touchdown — adding a 12-yard rushing touchdown on his only carry — while Kyle Maxwell grabbed Anthony's other touchdown pass of the game just seconds before halftime.
Defensively, the Horned Frogs rank fifth in the Big 12 nearly across the board, including in passing, rushing, and total yards allowed, giving up 226.9, 135.9, and 362.8 yards per game, respectively. TCU's 25.1 points allowed per game also sits fifth in the conference and among the top 50 nationally, with each of the Horned Frogs' last five opponents — and six of their nine total — held under 24 points. TCU has been strong in the red zone, however, allowing opponents to score on 76.9 percent of their trips inside the 20-yard-line — the second-best mark in the Big 12.
When TCU Has the Ball
After scoring 73 points in three games between Oct. 31 and Nov. 14, TCU bounced back in a big way with a 59-23 win over Kansas on Nov. 28 and then its 29-22 win over Oklahoma State last week. Max Duggan completed just under 50 percent of his passes against the Cowboys, totaling 265 yards with a touchdown and an interception on a 12-for-26 effort. That marked Duggan's first game over 250 yards passing in more than a month, with his last such performance coming Oct. 24 against Oklahoma when he went 25-for-35 for 276 yards and a touchdown.
Where Duggan and the Horned Frogs truly thrive, though, is their rushing offense, which paces the Big 12 at 201.6 yards per game. Duggan — who stands behind only Iowa State's star running back Breece Hall (17) with nine rushing touchdowns in 2020 — rushed 19 times for 104 yards and a pair of touchdowns, while Darwin Barlow notched 40 yards on eight carries. Of note, Duggan's 12 completions found just three different receivers: Derius Davis, Quentin Johnston, and Barlow. This group's big-play ability came to light once again, as Johnston — whose 20.82 yards per reception tops the Big 12 and is the ninth-best mark in the FBS — caught three passes for 114 yards while Davis led the way with six receptions for 139 yards and brought in Duggan's lone touchdown, a 71-yard connection.
Of the eight teams that Louisiana Tech has played this season, only UTEP and UTSA haven't eclipsed 30 points against the Bulldogs. Louisiana Tech has averaged 32.1 points and 416.4 yards allowed per game in 2020, both among the bottom half in Conference USA. While the Bulldogs rank in the bottom-40 nationally in both sacks and tackles for loss, they have picked off nine passes this season, which ranks behind only UTSA's 11 for the top mark in Conference USA.
Both Louisiana Tech and TCU have found a way to bounce back coming into this week, with an opportunity to make one final statement to close the regular season. There isn't a whole lot of familiarity between these two programs, which — combined with the relative last-minute scheduling of this game — should make for an intriguing non-conference showdown.
Prediction: TCU 34, Louisiana Tech 27
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— Written by Juan Jose Rodriguez, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network and a 2019 graduate of the University of Notre Dame. Rodriguez was an intern for Athlon during summer 2017 and worked for a variety of media outlets on campus, including as the Editor-in-Chief of Scholastic Magazine. Follow him on Twitter @JuanJoseRG02.