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LA Tech Opens On the Road Against No. 4 Oklahoma

The last time Louisiana Tech opened on the road against the #4 team in the nation, the Bulldogs put on an aerial display before falling to Nebraska 56-27 back in 1998. Tim Rattay and Troy Edwards set a few records that still stand today, but the Bulldogs defense ultimately did them in.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

The Bulldogs are no strangers to playing top ranked teams on the road. In 1999, Tech opened the season in Tallahassee against the top ranked Florida State Seminoles and lost 41-7. In 2003, the No. 2 Miami Hurricanes traveled to Shreveport to start the season and beat Tech 48-9. In 2005, Tech went to Gainesville and lost to #10 Florida 41-3. After seeing enough of the Sunshine State, Tech went back to Nebraska to begin the 2006 season and lost 49-10 to the 20th ranked Cornhuskers.

After those whoopings, Tech has scheduled a little smarter, playing the likes of Kansas, N.C. State, Virginia, Illinois, Ole Miss, and Mississippi State. The Bulldogs had slightly better success against those teams (3-3) and seemed to have figured out a better scheduling formula for success. That's what made the announcements of playing Oklahoma and Auburn in 2014 puzzling — the Bulldogs have seen teams like that before and had supposedly learned from those lopsided losses.

Oklahoma has had mixed results in recent years when it comes to home openers, but the last three have resulted in wins. The Sooners beat ULM 34-0 last season and they beat Tulsa 47-14 in 2011. In 2010, Utah State came into Norman and played the Sooners tight, only losing by a touchdown, 31-24.

So is this just another blowout waiting to happen? There are a few factors that point to Louisiana Tech being able to keep it within three touchdowns, which would be much better than the 38-point beat down that the odds makers are predicting.

First of all, this game should be played mostly on the ground, and that will keep the clock running. Tech has a very experienced defensive backfield and Oklahoma doesn't have the big, veteran receivers that can overmatch the Bulldogs' corners — Sterling Shepard is 5-foot-10, Durron Neal is 5-foot-11, and redshirt freshman K. J. Young is 6-feet, 177-pounds. Most of Tech's defensive backs match-up size wise at the very least, and have plenty of game experience. Oklahoma's quarterback, Trevor Knight, is not the most experienced signal caller in the country, and a lot of Oklahoma's success on offense will depend on his consistency.

Louisiana Tech should be able to have some success running the ball. Tech's offensive line averages 313 pounds and they will bring in 265-pound tight end Josh Gaston to block at times. Oklahoma has a great defense, and they bring most of their starters back from a team that finished 25th in the nation against the run (137.6 ypg). However, Oklahoma only has one defender over 290 pounds, Jordan Phillips (6-foot-6 334 pounds) and Kenneth Dixon should be able to get some one-on-one opportunities where he can try to break a tackle or make someone miss.

What does Louisiana Tech need to do in order to win the game? The Bulldogs would need to win the turnover battle by at least two to have a chance. The forecast for Saturday in Norman calls for an 80% chance of rain, and if the field gets sloppy, anything can happen.  Also, Oklahoma is without their two top big play threats in Joe Mixon and Dorial Green-Beckham, so someone new will have to step up and make the big plays that will blow the game wide open for the Sooners.

On the other hand, if the Bulldogs are forced into a couple of three and outs, give up a big special teams play, or turn the ball over early; Oklahoma could get out to a big lead and never look back. The 38 points that the Sooners are favored by could be in reach. Oklahoma's offensive line averages 321 pounds and if the Sooners get a good lead, they will be able to wear the Bulldogs' defense down.

Tech's focus will most likely be on trying to get first downs to keep the clock moving and limit Oklahoma's chances, and to not make costly mistakes. If the Bulldogs can play mostly mistake free football, they can keep this game within three touchdowns. In a game like this, it's all about health and wealth; make it through the game without serious injuries, get the paycheck, and get home to prepare for the next game. Hopefully Louisiana Tech will be able to do some positive things that the coaching staff can build on.