Date: Saturday, November 10, 2018
Kickoff Time: 6:00 p.m. CT
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium
Series Record: La Tech leads 7-4
Last Meeting: La Tech won 42-28 in 2017
Betting Line: La Tech -24.0
The Bulldogs were not expected to be able to compete with Mississippi State, but were completely dominated for 60 minutes. Rice, meanwhile, was embarrassed at home as UTEP secured its first win since 2016.
Both teams will be looking to bounce back in front of a sea of red at Tech’s annual red out game.
Louisiana Tech Overview
Prior to this season, Tech had not been held to single digits since 2008. It has now happened twice in 2018. Against Mississippi State, Tech was held to just a field goal for the first time since a 38-3 loss to #17 Boise State in 2008.
The Bulldog offense will have an opportunity to bounce back against a Rice defense allowing 38.5 points per game. Jaqwis Dancy needs more than the three carries he got against Mississippi State. He’s the best running back on this team, but doesn’t always get the touches he should.
The defense will need a little bit of a bounce-back, as well. Mississippi State scored on every drive they had in the first half, and Tech was unable to force any turnovers. Rice only averages 19.6 points per game, so the Bulldog defense should be able to have a strong outing.
Speaking of defense, Tech will be on record watch once again. Last week, Jaylon Ferguson broke the school record for career sacks. He has 40 to his name now, and 12.5 this season, which leads the nation. He needs just 2.5 more to break his own single-season record of 14.5, which he set in 2016 as a sophomore. He is also four shy of Terrell Suggs’ NCAA record 44 career sacks. He likely won’t break Suggs’ record against Rice, but a good day could see him break his own single-season record.
Regardless of the score or number of Ferguson sacks, Tech needs to play this game carefully. The Bulldogs don’t want to overlook Rice, but they also need to keep everyone healthy and perhaps save a play or two for next week’s showdown with Southern Miss in Hattiesburg.
Rice’s awful season got worse last week. The Owls lost at home to winless UTEP, who hadn’t won a game since 2016. UTEP had lost 20 straight games and 13 straight road games.
Grad transfer quarterback Shawn Stankavage is set to return after missing the past three games with a leg injury. Prior to his injury, he had thrown for over 1000 yards and nine touchdowns, but Stankavage was also intercepted seven times. If Rice wants to have any hope of making this game competitive, they have to protect the ball. Tech has some strong defensive backs, led by Amik Robertson, who will be ready to pounce if Stankavage puts the ball in a dangerous place.
Rice will also need to be able to run the ball. Rice averages less than 200 passing yards a game, and Tech averages allowing less than 200. However, Tech allows an average of 170 rushing yards per game. If Austin Walter and Emmanuel Esukpa can take advantage, Rice may be able to move the ball. A strong running game would also negate the danger of Ferguson and the Tech pass rush.
However, Rice allows even more rushing yards per game than Tech. They also allow over 260 passing yards per game. Tech’s offense has struggled, but if Rice lets Jaqwis Dancy and Kam McKnight get going, it will be a long day for the Owls.
The positioning of the game has some of the makings of a trap game. After two straight road games, Tech is coming home to face a 1-9 team before going back on the road to face their biggest conference rival. Tech may choose to play somewhat conservatively as a result.
Tech has to be careful, but this Rice team probably doesn’t have the ability to capitalize if Tech does come out flat. If Rice can run the ball effectively, not allow Tech to do the same, and win the turnover battle, then perhaps they have a chance to keep this closer than expected. Still, despite their struggles, Tech should be able to just out-athlete the Owls.