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Louisiana Tech Bye Week Thoughts

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This year has been interesting, but it’s not over yet.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Alabama-Birmingham Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

It seems like just yesterday we were all still waiting for the season to start, and now the regular season is half over. It’s amazing how fast time flies when you’re enjoying the greatest sport on Earth.

First, let’s recap the season for the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs thus far.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at South Carolina
J’Mar Smith
Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

After a slow start, Tech turned it on to get revenge on an old rival with a 52-24 win over Northwestern State. The following week, in the second-highest-attended game in Joe Aillet Stadium history, the Dawgs started fast but were just plain outmatched with a surprisingly good Mississippi State team, losing 21-57. Tech then went on the road and took down the reigning C-USA champ WKU 23-22, a much lower scoring game than we would otherwise expect when these two budding rivals meet up.

Tech finished the road trip with a tough slug fest with South Carolina, where the Gamecocks just made one more play in the end to beat Tech 16-17. The Dawgs returned home and put away South Alabama 34-16 to finish non-conference play with a 2-2 record. Then last week, Tech traveled to a very emotional UAB team, where the Blazers harnessed the energy of the sick kids they were playing for to pull off a miracle win over Tech 22-23.

Now, Tech finds itself in a midseason bye week, something they haven’t experienced the past couple of years. This bye week comes at a good time, as Tech played UAB without four wide receivers, including two starters in Alfred Smith and Rhashid Bonnette. Tech desperately needs this week to get healthy in preparation for the Rivalry in Dixie showdown next week against Southern Miss.

So, now seems like a good time to take a breath and examine the situation La Tech finds itself in.

NCAA Football: North Texas at Southern Mississippi
North Texas and Southern Miss have both proven to be contenders for the division crown
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Tech fans, the first thing you need to understand about 2017: C-USA West is good. It’s no longer just cannon fodder for Tech and Southern Miss to plow through. UTSA, North Texas, UAB, Southern Miss, and Louisiana Tech are all legitimate division title contenders. Yes, all of them. Only Rice and UTEP aren’t in the conversation, but as the Miners showed against WKU last week, you can’t overlook anyone.

Now, many will quickly say that Tech just isn’t as good as last year. And to some extent, they’re probably right. But that doesn’t mean Tech is bad. The defense is better than last year, that much is proven. The offense has definitely not lived up to last year, but consider that Tech’s 2016 offense was one of the most prolific ever in college football. If you’re measuring 2017’s offense by that standard, of course you’re going to be disappointed.

Here’s the thing. Tech 2017 is a young team. There’s a few seniors to provide leadership, such as Jarred Craft, Boston Scott, Russell Farris, Secdrick Cooper, and Jonathan Barnes, but look at many of the other key positions. Quarterback J’Mar Smith is a sophomore. Marlon Watts is a senior and Teddy Veal is a junior, but the other receivers? Mostly freshmen (true frosh in the case of Adrian Hardy) and sophomores. Defense? Yes, Jaylon Ferguson is a junior, but you’ve also got a true freshman in Amik Robertson. This is a young team who is only going to get better as time goes on. And come 2018? 2019? Look out.

NCAA Football: Louisiana Tech at Western Kentucky
Boston Scott (6) and the Bulldog bench celebrate Barnes’ game winner against WKU
Steve Roberts-USA TODAY Sports

But how good Tech may or may not be in 2018 doesn’t mean anything for this year. So what about this year? Tech is 3-3, 1-1 in C-USA play. Losing to UAB hurt a lot of fans, but take heart! Six games remain, all are conference games, and four of them are at home.

Every remaining contender has to come to Ruston. Tech’s only road games are Rice and UTEP. UTEP has trap game written all over it, true. But all of Tech’s goals are still there for the taking. This division is wide open, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the division champ is 6-2 or even 5-3 in conference play.

Maybe this is going to be a division championship year. But what if it isn’t? That’s okay, too. Unless you have Nick Saban as your coach, you’re just not going to win your division every single year, and you’re going to have rebuilding years from time to time. And if this is a rebuilding year, it might be a good time for it. With C-USA trading it’s spot in the Heart of Dallas Bowl for a spot in the Armed Forces Bowl vs Army, a bowl game against a Power 5 team probably wasn’t going to happen, anyway.

NCAA Football: Mississippi State at Louisiana Tech
Joe Aillet Stadium
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Since Tech went to the AFB last year, it then follows the New Orleans Bowl is a likely landing spot for Tech regardless of record. Maybe this is a hot take, but of Tech’s last three bowls, the New Orleans Bowl had by far the best atmosphere in my opinion. So enjoy the wacky season that is in store, and if it comes to that, enjoy a weekend in the Big Easy to cap it off.

The Bulldogs will use this bye week to heal up and prepare for Southern Miss, who will be coming to Ruston at 6 pm on Saturday, Oct 21. If you want to get a feel for the Golden Eagles, they will be hosting UTEP this Saturday at 6 pm. The game will be on Stadium/Twitter.

One last thing. In case you missed it, a Middle Tennessee player was active on Twitter engaging with fans about the lack of attendance.

The players notice how many people show up, and I’m sure it can have an effect. So even if you are a bit discouraged about this season, I would encourage you to still attend the games in Ruston, especially the Southern Miss Red Out game next weekend. Unless, that is, you want to hear Southern Miss fans talk about attendance for the next two years again!

How bout them Dawgs?