This upcoming Tuesday the Texas Tech Red Raiders will take on the LSU Tigers in the Advocare V100 Texas Bowl. Albeit for different reasons, it will be a meaningful game for both teams when they hit the gridiron. LSU wants to finish the season strong with two straight victories after losing three straight contests. It will only be the 4th time that the Tigers will not reach the 10 win plateau in the 11 seasons Les Miles has been head coach. On the other hand, Tech wants to prove to the nation, and possibly themselves, that they can hang with a perennial powerhouse from the SEC. A win can go a long way for momentum and confidence for the program moving forward. Also, a win could change the entire direction of the program.
Tech has a 0-2 record vs. LSU with their last meeting coming in 1957. In this matchup the Red Raiders will be without some familiar names. Recently, they cut ties with co-defensive coordinator Mike Smith, cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis, and outside linebackers coach Trey Haverty. The Tech defense was absolutely horrendous this season, ranking 124th out of 127 FBS teams with 42.6 points per game allowed. The Red Raiders might not miss the fired coaches as much as their most notable absence on the field. Tech suspended second leading wide receiver Devin Lauderdale indefinitely for failure to uphold school expectations for athletes. Lauderdale caught 43 receptions for 639 yards this season.
Most experts and fans predict this might be a blow out and the numbers don’t disagree with that notion. LSU’S workhorse back and maybe the nation’s best player, Leonard Fournette, is expected to slice and dice the Tech rushing defense. He averages an FBS-leading 158.3 rush yards per game. Meantime, the Red Raiders give up the third most rushing yards in the country allowing a dreadful 271.8 yards per game. Even more maddening, they have allowed a 200-yard rusher in four Big 12 games this season. Defensive coordinator David Gibbs even admitted to this glaring weakness before the upcoming bowl game. “We’re not gonna stop LSU from running the ball. We gotta slow them down, get a couple of turnovers, make them kick a couple of field goals and give our offense a chance to win the game.”
However, even with the deck stacked against them, Tech can prevail because of their potent offense. A great offensive game plan will be key for Tech to steal this game. I believe they can keep LSU from racking up yards on the ground by controlling the game tempo and putting up points. Tech boasts the Big 12’s leading rusher in Deandre Washington. He ran for 1,455 yards this season, with 421 of those coming in the last four games. Ball control will be a huge advantage if Tech can get their running game going. The longer the offense is on the field the more time the big bruiser Fournette is off.
If the stout Tiger rush defense holds strong then the old bread and butter passing attack is not a bad option either. LSU hasn’t faced an air attack like the Red Raiders this season. Tech’s second ranked offense in the nation was largely due to quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the prolific passing game. They averaged 389.7 passing yards and 46.6 points per game. LSU never faced a quarterback that attempted more than 34 passes a game. Mahomes averaged 43 per game this season, so this will be a great test for the Tigers secondary. I think that Tech will be able to find success in the passing game and their high octane offense could expose LSU like many air raid spread offenses have done to traditional SEC teams in the past. Another underrated element Tech has going for them is their motivation towards beating a revered juggernaut. I believe this will be the x-factor in sealing the win for the Red Raiders, and something that LSU must not take for granted. This will truly be a test of different styles and strengths. It will be a great barometer for both teams and should be a fascinating game to watch.
If Tech prevails, which I think they will, this could catapult them into a team that can contend in 2016. A victory would bring so much confidence to the program from the top to the bottom. Not only will a win on national TV make Tech more appealing to undecided recruits, but it will instill the winning culture that every contending team needs. A win without the three fired coaches and the second best wide receiver would reassure everyone that head coach Kliff Kingsbury was and is the right man for the program. A win against the former number one ranked Tigers would most certainly be the biggest of the season and a total game changer for a young team trying to take that next leap for the future.
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