Start Time: 6:00 P.M. CT, Saturday, Oct. 3
Location: Joe Aillet Stadium. Ruston, LA
Records: Louisiana 1-2, LA Tech 2-2.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Louisiana Tech -18, Over/Under: 60
For the Bulldogs, the key for the game is to not just start fast, but to finish the game off. The Bulldogs fell to Northwestern State in Ruston last year despite being heavily favored and despite taking a 20-10 lead into the fourth quarter.
Louisiana Tech ranks 28th in the nation, giving up 112 rushing yards per game. McGuire has fueled the Cajuns to the 19th rated rushing attack in the country with 239.7 yards per game. The Cajuns are also converting on 3rd down at a rate of 45% - good for 31st in the country. This will be the determining factor for the game: if the Bulldogs stop the run, then they should win.
In last season's win, Tech forced three turnovers and jumped out to a 31-7 lead after three quarters. ULL is 123rd in turnover margin this season at -2. Blake Baker's Bulldog defense has heated up the last two weeks, but they have yet to force turnovers at a high rate. LA Tech recovered 2 fumbles in their last 3 games, but they have not had an interception. The Bulldogs held Kansas State to 355 total yards and FIU to 308 total yards; can they take the next step and create turnovers this week?
On offense, Kenneth Dixon leads the way for LA Tech with 524 yards and 5 touchdowns. He rushed for 169 yards and 2 scores against one of the top defenses in Conference USA last week in FIU. The Ragin Cajuns give up 210.7 yards on the ground this season, so look for Tech to attack them on the ground early and often.
Tech has been shuffling their offensive line due to injuries. Joseph Brunson came in to play center last week and Jens Danielson came out of the game after starting at right tackle. Freshmen Shane Carpenter and Lafayette native O'Shea Dugas have seen plenty of playing time early this year. The Bulldogs will try to find their combination up front this week, but the good news is that they have 7 healthy players with experience to work with.
The Ragin' Cajuns:
For a team that is only scoring 30 points per game, the Ragin’ Cajuns have been one of the most efficient offenses in the nation with a 49.7% success rate. Running the ball is the key for the offense with 239.7 yards gained on the ground per contest. Elijah McGuire (57/331/5TD) leads a rush attack that is #7 in S&P+ and #8 in success rate (55.4%).
Passing the football is much tougher for the Ragin’ Cajuns with only 197.3 yards per game coming in the air. Brooks Haack (37-62/458/0TD) has yet to throw for a touchdown on the season, while completing only 59.7% of his passes. Backup Jalen Nixon (15-24/134/1TD) has not been much better in the passing game. Jamal Robinson (10/151/0TD) and Gabe Fuselier (13/121/1TD) are the main targets for Louisiana quarterbacks, but have only caught 23 of a possible 37 pass attempts.
Louisiana has been one of the worst in the nation in guarding against explosive plays. Only three teams rank worse than them in that category. Part of that problem comes from a rush defense that cannot stop anyone. The Ragin’ Cajuns defense has stuffed 21.6% of all rush attempts, but are getting gouged for big yardage when not making the quick stop. Pass defense has been better for Louisiana in giving up only 210 yards per game in the air, but it is an all or nothing gamble for the most part.
Tracy Walker (20 tfkl, 2 tfl, 1INT), Zachary DeGrange (14 tkl, 3 tfl, 2 sacks), and Tre’maine Lightfoot (12 tkl, 2.5 tfl) are the players to watch for a Ragin’ Cajuns defense that has 20 tackles for loss and seven sacks on the season.
Jeremy: This is not a good matchup at all for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Louisiana Tech has a very good running game and are playing at a high level this season. Anything is possible, including an upset by Louisiana, but this game should not even be close. Louisiana Tech 45, Louisiana 21.
Jason: ULL is coming off of a 35-14 loss to Akron and should be coming into Ruston with a chip on their shoulder. This game has to have been circled on their calendar all year. In the end, I feel like Tech's running ability and their ability to stop the run will earn them the victory in the long run. Bulldogs 34, Cajuns 24