Date: Saturday, September 1, 2018
Kickoff Time: 6 p.m. CT
Location: Mobile, Alabama
Stadium: Ladd-Peebles Stadium
Series Record: La Tech leads 1-0
Last Meeting: La Tech won 34-16
Betting Line: La Tech -10.5
Football is back, and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and South Alabama Jaguars will get things started by facing each other in Mobile. This will be the second game of the two-game series they started last season in Ruston. The Dawgs took game one 34-16 last year. Can the Jags get revenge, or will Tech sweep the series?
Louisiana Tech Overview
The Bulldogs come into 2018 after a somewhat disappointing 2017. Several close losses kept Tech from competing for the division title, but they finished strong. After winning their final two regular season games, the Dawgs thumped a short-staffed SMU in the Frisco Bowl. Now, they bring back quite a bit from last year’s young squad and hope to be back in the division title race.
You never want to overreact to a week one game, but this could finally give us a first-hand look at how J’Mar Smith and the Tech offense have progressed over the offseason. They return basically everyone except the running backs, which will be another position group to keep a close eye on.
In last year’s game, the Bulldog offense started fairly strong, then stalled out for much of the game before finally putting the Jags away in the fourth quarter. The defense held strong until the offense woke back up, but that may not be enough on the road. For Tech to complete the sweep, the offense needs to be more active this time around, while the defense continues to control the game as they did in Ruston.
South Alabama Overview
The Jags are coming off a 4-8 season, but they’ll be breaking in a new coach for the first time in USA’s brief football history. Steve Campbell, a former Troy player, comes to Mobile after four years heading the Central Arkansas Bears. The latter two years saw 10-win seasons and FCS playoff berths. He also has head coaching experience with Mississippi Gulf Coast Junior College and Delta State, with whom he won the 2000 Division II national title.
The Jags bring back seven starters on both offense and defense. The big question is who will get the start at quarterback? Two different signal-callers saw significant playing time last year, Dallas Davis and Cole Garvin. Davis has since transferred to UAB, leaving Garvin. Garvin was the USA quarterback when they played La Tech last season, but he’s not guaranteed the starting role. Fellow senior Evan Orth and redshirt freshman Cephus Johnson are also in consideration. Coach Campbell isn’t revealing who will start and has even said all three could see playing time this season. However, Johnson seems to have a slight edge on the others. It will be interesting to see who takes the field for the first snap against Tech, but there’s no guarantee that quarterback will play the whole night.
If South Alabama is to pull the upset, they’ll need more production from their offense than they had last year. In Ruston, they scored an early touchdown, but could only muster three field goals after that. The Jaguars will need more points this time, while also getting similar production from their defense as they had a year ago.
Louisiana Tech is a road favorite, and rightfully so. However, Skip Holtz needs to see his offense be more consistent than in last year’s game. If that doesn’t happen, USA could surprise Tech. If Tech performs well, it could be a confidence booster going forward. However, the same could be said for South. Both fanbases could learn a lot about their respective teams from this opening game.