When LSU and Texas Tech meet on Dec. 29 in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl, two different and distinct styles of play will go head-to-head as a treat for old school fans and the new generation. The Texas Bowl has a short-lived history taking over from the previously named Houston Bowl, but this postseason game has a strong lineage of top college talent showcasing their skills before taking off for the NFL. The Texas Bowl has a MVP list that includes Rutgers running back Ray Rice (2006), TCU quarterback Andy Dalton (2007), and Texas A&M quarterback Ryan Tannehill (2011). This year's version between the Red Raiders and Tigers also features plenty of top level talent still carving out a well-deserved niche in the college game before heading off for NFL riches.
Texas Tech (7-5, 4-5) enters the game as a program ready to get back to prominence in the Big 12 under third-year head coach Kliff Kingsbury. In the 2000s, Mike Leach made the Red Raiders a consistent 8- and 9-win program, including an 11-win campaign in 2008. The same “Air Raid” type of passing attack used under Leach is deployed by Kingsbury, making Tech one of the most exciting and dangerous teams in the nation to watch with their quick-strike offense.
LSU (8-3, 5-3) has been a model of consistency since 2000 when Nick Saban turned the program around, winning a national championship in 2003 and continued with Les Miles from 2005 forward. Miles won a national championship in 2007 and played in a BCS National Championship Game in 2011. The Tigers are known for stout defenses and a ground-and-pound running game, making LSU one of the more feared teams in the country year after year.
AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl: LSU vs. Texas Tech (Houston)
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET (Tuesday)
TV Channel: ESPN
Spread: LSU -7.5
Three Things to Watch
1. Patrick Mahomes vs. LSU Pass Defense
Texas Tech’s strength is its passing game with sophomore quarterback Patrick Mahomes as the team’s driving force. The Red Raiders swept through the regular season competition in 2015 with the nation’s No. 2 passing attack averaging 390 yards per game, seven yards behind Mike Leach’s Washington State attack. Mahomes threw for 4,283 yards with 32 touchdowns against 14 interceptions and averaged 357 passing yards per game.
The Tigers have built a reputation as “Defensive Back University” over the years, but Texas Tech is catching a break, as this is a down season for LSU's secondary. The DBU moniker has been put on hold for one year after allowing 211 yards a game. The Tigers were not horrible per say against the pass, they just played some of the better passing teams in the nation - No. 5 Western Kentucky (372 yards), No. 10 Ole Miss (334), No. 16 Mississippi State (311), and No. 33 Arkansas (264).
LSU will look to get pressure on Mahomes off the edge with Lewis Neal (team-high eight sacks) and Arden Key (five sacks). Safety Jamal Adams leads the Tigers with four interceptions. Tech counters with eight different players that have caught 20 or more passes led by receiver Jakeem Grant. Grant has 80 receptions for 1,143 yards with seven touchdowns aided by Devin Lauderdale’s 43 receptions for 639 yards with four scores on the other side. However, Lauderdale was suspended for the bowl game. Junior receiver Reginald Davis is an end zone magnet for the Red Raiders with seven touchdowns on the year.
2. LSU’s Running Game vs. Texas Tech’s Run Defense
Led by All-American running back Leonard Fournette, LSU is one of the premier running teams in the nation. The super sophomore rushed for 1,741 yards in 11 games with 18 touchdowns. He was third on the team with 18 pass receptions for 209 yards, giving Tech another dimension to gameplan for on Tuesday night.
Statistically, Texas Tech is one of the worst defensive teams in the nation allowing 540 yards per game, only topped by a win-less Kansas squad that gave up 561 yards a game on average. Tech allows 272 yards a game on the ground.
3. Texas Tech’s Run Game vs. LSU’s Passing Attack
With defenders pressed to stop Texas Tech’s passing attack, holes were left all over the field for their running backs. Deandre Washington had a great season rushing for 1,455 yards off 223 carries in 12 games. Washington scored on the ground 14 times and added two more touchdowns in the passing game, while pulling in 34 passes for 304 yards.
Nearly as bad as Texas Tech’s defense is LSU’s passing attack. The Tigers have a ton of talent on the outside, but sophomore Brandon Harris has been inconsistent getting the ball out. LSU averages 173 passing yards a game, relying heavily on the rushing attack for offensive production.
Which unit can be the difference maker helping out either squad’s strengths?
Texas Tech has enough offensive firepower to be in any game, but coach Kliff Kingsbury's squad has wilted under the pressure against better teams with losses to then- No. 3 TCU (55-52), No. 5 Baylor (63-35), No. 17 Oklahoma (63-27), and No. 12 Oklahoma State (70-53). Tech will need to exploit LSU’s middle of the road pass defense in hopes of pulling out a win. The Red Raiders picked apart Arkansas’ pass defense for a 35-24 win on Sept. 19.
LSU has the strength up front on offense - led by standout linemen Vadal Alexander and Ethan Pocic - to quickly wear down Tech’s front seven. If offensive coordinator Cam Cameron does not get cute with the passing game trying to show Tiger Nation what he can do with Brandon Harris in the pocket, Texas Tech's defense will be in for a long game.
The Tigers will have to stop Mahomes when plays break down for Tech. Mahomes gained 484 yards with 10 touchdowns making his running abilities an x-factor in the game. LSU was able to bottle up a player with a similar skill set in Dak Prescott by holding him to -19 yards rushing on 10 attempts with three sacks.
Bowl games are a different beast than regular season games. Which team shows up is anyone’s best guess. LSU has at least five underclassmen interested in being early NFL Draft entries. If Miles can keep his Tigers focused on the game at hand, LSU should run away with the Texas Bowl.
Prediction: LSU 42, Texas Tech 28
— 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. Over the years, Wright has written for numerous sites and publications and he recently started his own recruiting site, www.recruitingnewsguru.com. Follow him on Twitter @HogManInLA.