Conference USA officially released the 2018 football schedules Tuesday, and Louisiana Tech will face quite the final stretch. The first three weeks should be a breeze, although the Dawgs only get one home game in September. Tech gets its bye week 3, which is earlier than you’d usually like to get it. On the bright side, that bye comes right before a trip to Tiger Stadium to face LSU, where Tech fans will desperately hope to repeat what Troy accomplished in 2017. The final five weeks will be pretty rough, however, as Tech will face Florida Atlantic, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss all on the road, with home dates against Rice and WKU.
The games that stand out the most are in bold.
Week 1: Sat, Sept 1 - at South Alabama Jaguars (Sun Belt)
Week 2: Sat, Sept 8 - Southern Jaguars (SWAC)
Week 3: Bye Week
Week 4: Sat, Sept 22 - at LSU Tigers (SEC)
Week 5: Sat, Sept 29 - at North Texas Mean Green
Week 6: Sat, Oct 6 - UAB Blazers
Week 7: Sat, Oct 13 - at UTSA Roadrunners
Week 8: Sat, Oct 20 - UTEP Miners
Week 9: Sat, Oct 27 - at Florida Atlantic Owls
Week 10: Sat, Nov 3 - at Mississippi State Bulldogs (SEC)
Week 11: Sat, Nov 10 - Rice Owls
Week 12: Sat, Nov 17 - at Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Week 13: Sat, Nov 24 - Western Kentucky Hilltoppers
Now, let’s take a look at each game individually.
at South Alabama
The Bulldogs will open 2018 on the road when they travel to Mobile to play USA. This will be the second-ever meeting between the two schools, following Tech’s win at home against USA in 2017. You never know what to expect week one, but Tech should be able to start 1-0.
La Tech will start 2018 with two straight games against Jaguars, as Southern University from Baton Rouge will be Tech’s FCS opponent. This will be the second-ever meeting between the two, with the first coming in 2015’s season opener. Tech defeated the Jags 62-15 in front of what was at the time the second biggest crowd in Joe Aillet Stadium history (now third behind last year’s Mississippi State game). Considering how well SU fans travel, mixed with SU’s archrival Grambling being just a few minutes away, expect another packed house this time around.
The big one. If Tech wins one game all year, this is the one most fans would want. La Tech’s all-time record against LSU is 1-18, although Tech remains the only public school in Louisiana to ever beat LSU. Since that was in 1904, however, a win this time around would be huge, as well as Tech’s first victory in Tiger Stadium. Tech has been placing billboards all around north Louisiana for the past few years, but if they truly want to claim to be the team of northwest Louisiana, they’ll need to dethrone the Tigers. Troy did it last year, but that just means LSU will be more careful to avoid it this year. Tech gets its bye right before, so we’ll see. Tech led LSU after 30 minutes the last time they played. Can they lead after 60 this time?
at North Texas
Regardless of how the LSU game goes, Tech will have no time to linger on it. They go on the road yet again a week later, this time to Denton to open conference play. North Texas emerged last year and won the west division, so Tech shouldn’t expect an easy game. It will be important to start conference play on the right foot, especially since it won’t be getting much easier afterwards.
The Blazers will be making their first trip to the Joe since 1998, and they’re coming off their first-ever victory over the Bulldogs in 2017. Tech should not expect to just breeze through one of the most unexpected teams of 2017, but if Tech can get back to form in 2018, they should be able to secure a win here. Will they is another question.
Tiger Stadium and Apogee Stadium back-to-back wasn’t enough for you? Then how about the Alamodome two weeks later? Another tough road test for the Bulldogs comes against UTSA. Tech is 5-1 vs the Roadrunners, but the lone loss came in San Antonio. UTSA is itching for a win over the Bulldogs after having to play in Ruston the past two years, and the way those games went only adds to it. They’ll be ready to play, so Tech better be, too.
On paper, this one shouldn’t be too much of a challenge for La Tech. However, one look at the schedule and this game smells like a trap. After a trip to the Alamodome, which is already a tough place to win, Tech will face UTEP before heading on the road again to face Lane Kiffin’s Florida Atlantic. Tech better be sure to not get caught looking ahead to their trip to Boca Raton.
at Florida Atlantic
Even in the down year Tech had in 2017, every conference loss was close. Except this one. After a slow start, the Owls plowed through conference play, facing little resistance. Tech couldn’t hang with FAU at home in 2017, so it’s hard to think they’ll win in Boca. Still, if Tech can get back to form, maybe they can pull the upset. Maybe. This game will be important, especially if Tech becomes a division contender again.
at Mississippi State
After a trip to Boca, Tech must then head down the road to Starkville for back-to-back tough road games yet again. This will be game five of a six-game series between the two Bulldog teams. Tech won the first game in 2008, then lost in OT in 2011. The two games since have been blowouts for State. Mississippi State will be under a new head coach in 2018, but it’s hard to expect they will drop off too far, so this could be rough.
This will likely be La Tech’s homecoming game, and shouldn’t be too challenging. Still, like UTEP, it has trap potential. Coming off two tough road games, Tech has to get through Rice before heading to Hattiesburg. Don’t get caught looking.
at Southern Miss
The Rivalry in Dixie is always a game to circle, but the past three games have been frustrating for La Tech, perhaps none more than last year’s double overtime defeat. Hattiesburg is never an easy place to win, but Tech’s last win over the Golden Eagles was there. They aren’t invincible, but Tech can’t let the last three games get in their heads.
In an interesting move, Tech will face an east division team for the last game of the season. The game is being played in “rivalry week,” and although this isn’t technically a rivalry, the two have played some close and exciting games the past few years. In 2017, Tech became the first team to win a road game between the Bulldogs and Hilltoppers. WKU will be looking to return the favor and crash senior day. The question: will this game return to being a matchup of the top teams in C-USA, or will it be another game of 6-6 teams? Hopefully, both teams will have clinched bowl eligibility before week 13.
- After spoiling fans with seven home games last year, Tech is back to just five in 2018. Outside of WKU, most of Tech’s toughest games are on the road, with trips to LSU, Mississippi State, North Texas, UTSA, Southern Miss, and FAU. Tech will have to perform away from home
- Despite so few home games, Tech fans will have plenty of chances for short road trips, with North Texas, LSU, Mississippi State, and Southern Miss all not too far away.
- The week 3 bye is nice for the LSU game, but Tech will have to play 10 straight games afterwards. Tech has to keep rested as well as they can to avoid being gassed by late November.
Way-too-early Season Prediction
After three straight nine-win seasons, Tech dropped off in 2017, needing to win their last few games just to qualify for a bowl game. They did manage to finish 7-6, but Tech wants to do better. Assuming that last year was just a rebuilding year and that Tech gets back to form in 2018, Tech could reasonably win somewhere between seven to nine regular season games. Keep in mind that although Tech finished 6-6 in the regular season, three losses were by a single point, and a fourth was in overtime. Tech was seven points away from 10-2 in 2017. With a lot coming back, Tech has the potential to do great things in 2018, although the schedule won’t be easy, especially in November.
If you make me take a guess, I’ll say 8-4 is the regular season mark, which would be consistent with 2014-16. However, the potential for better is certainly there; Louisiana Tech just has to prove they can do it.