Date: Saturday, September 10, 2016
Kickoff Time: 6:00 PM CDT
Location: Ruston, LA
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium
Streaming Video: CUSA.tv
Streaming Audio: LaTechSports.com
Radio: 107.5 FM
Series Record: La Tech leads 1-0
ESPN FPI Matchup Predictor: La Tech has a 97.0% chance to win
Betting Line: Louisiana Tech -33
One thing is for sure: the Bulldogs will win.
Last week, Louisiana Tech shed doubts about this season. J’Mar Smith performed well for a freshman starting his first game on the road in SEC territory. A defense with almost no returning starters held an offense that averaged almost 40 points a game last year to just 21.
South Carolina State, on the other hand, was shut out 38-0 by a UCF team that went 0-12 last year.
Louisiana Tech had 2 major questions going into the Arkansas game: quarterback and defense. J’Mar Smith started in place of Ryan Higgins. Skip Holtz had suggested that Higgins may play at some point. He didn’t.
However, Holtz has indicated that Higgins is still QB1, and Smith is QB2. That, combined with Holtz stating Monday that Smith is “questionable” for SCST following an apparent injury, implies that Higgins will start against SCST. On the last offensive play for La Tech, Smith was sacked by two Razorbacks. In the process of the sack his helmet was ripped off and he could be seen holding a towel to his face afterwards. Holtz stated that if Tech had gotten the ball back, Higgins would have gone in at that point.
So, the QB question seemed to be answered, but it seems the questions aren’t quite answered just yet.
Defense, however, is another story.
The Bulldog defense held Arkansas to 297 total yards (191 passing and 106 rushing). SCST amassed only 223 total yards against UCF, so it’s hard to imagine the visiting Bulldogs being able to move the ball against the home Bulldogs. Tech’s defense also forced two turnovers by way of interception, which has been a hallmark of this defense under Skip Holtz. SCST gave the ball away 3 times against UCF: 1 interception and 2 fumbles.
La Tech shouldn’t have too much trouble getting stops on defense. The concern, then, is how Higgins will play. But against this SCST defense, which gave up 466 yards to UCF and recorded no interceptions, Higgins shouldn’t have too much trouble. If he does, then we’ll probably see Price Wilson (if the game is a blowout, we’ll probably see him at some point anyway). But for now, the starting job still belongs to Higgins.
Following the Arkansas game, a new question appears: the run game. With an experienced offensive line, I didn’t expect the run game to suffer much even with the loss of Kenneth Dixon. However, Tech only recorded 79 rushing yards, although both Tech touchdowns were rushing (Smith and Craft). Is that a reflection of a struggling run game, or just a solid run defense by Arkansas? This game should give us a good idea.
It’s hard to imagine South Carolina State being shut out 2 straight weeks, but they will struggle on both sides of the ball. They will also suffer from self-inflicted wounds (SCST had 13 penalties against UCF, costing them 138 yards). They probably won’t be shut out entirely, but it will be another blow out, and we’ll probably see every healthy Tech QB at some point.
La Tech 51, SC State 3