Date: Saturday, September 22, 2018
Kickoff Time: 6 p.m. CT
Location: Baton Rouge, Louisiana
Stadium: Tiger Stadium
Series Record: LSU leads 18-1
Last Meeting: LSU won 24-16
Betting Line: LSU -21.0
October 23, 1904. Ruston, Louisiana. The Louisiana Industrial Institute defeated Louisiana State University and Agricultural & Mechanical College by a score of 6-0.
That victory by the school now known as Louisiana Tech remains, to this day, the only time in history LSU lost a football game to a public school in Louisiana.
On Saturday, the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs will seek to repeat that feat, but it will by no means be a simple task. An LSU team that was thought to be on its heels has started 2018 3-0 with two wins over top 10 teams. The Bulldogs are 2-0, but have yet to play any real competition.
It’s about to go down on the Bayou.
Louisiana Tech Overview
The Dawgs are 2-0, but the game against South Alabama was much closer than it was expected to be. The offense struggled, and the defense had a tough time closing out the game. The offense looked more in sync against Southern, but the defense had a lapse in the second quarter that allowed the Jaguars to close a 21-0 deficit to 21-14 before the Bulldogs pulled away.
The Bulldogs had an early bye week afterward, which could haunt them come November. The bright side for this week is that it has given them two weeks to prepare for Tiger Stadium.
J’Mar Smith looked shaky against USA, but looked as good as he has against Southern. LSU’s defense is far superior to either team, however. It will take his best performance yet to spring the upset. This doesn’t mean he has to pass for 500 yards, but it does mean accurate throws, knowing when to run and when to pass, and not turning the ball over.
Israel Tucker and Jaqwis Dancy have done well so far running the ball. They, too, will need career days. The offensive line will have to hold their own against LSU’s front seven.
The biggest key of all, however, is the Tech defense. LSU is the only team in FBS that has yet to turn the ball over. The Bulldogs will need a couple takeaways to make this a game. Amik Robertson, who was a ball hawk a year ago as a true freshman, will need to lead the way in defending the pass. Jaylon Ferguson has received draft hype at defensive end; he will need to prove he’s worth it. LSU knows he’s coming, which means that either he has to beat the double team, or at least draw enough attention that someone like Jordan Bradford or Immanuel Turner can get to the quarterback.
The Bulldogs won’t win a shootout with LSU. They’ll need to keep it low scoring and win the turnover battle if they want to have a chance.
LSU has been one of the surprise teams of the season thus far, knocking off two top ten teams to start 3-0 and rise to sixth in the AP poll. Coming off a big road win against Auburn, they’ll need to refocus and avoid any kind of hangover. After beating Miami, LSU defeated Southeastern Louisiana 31-0 in their home opener. This, however, wasn’t considered satisfactory by many Tigers fans, and LSU knows Tech is better than SLU. Ole Miss is next for LSU after this game, but after what Alabama did to the Rebels, the motivation to look past Tech seems low.
LSU hasn’t been known for great quarterback play in recent years, which makes the case of Joe Burrow an interesting one. Statistically, the numbers aren’t great, despite three touchdowns to no interceptions. Burrow has a completion percentage of 46.2 this season, and has thrown for fewer yards in three games than J’Mar Smith has in just two. However, Burrow has found a way to elevate LSU’s offense without the big numbers. What’s key is that he hasn’t made many mistakes and has yet to throw a pick. Sometimes, slow and steady really does win the race.
LSU’s offense has changed from the Les Miles days, but this is still LSU. The offense has to do just enough. They win on defense. LSU averages allowing 12.7 points per game and surrenders fewer than 100 rushing yards a game. Tech is averaging over 200 rushing yards per game so far, but that mark seems beyond reach against LSU. The Tigers have also held opponents to 215.3 passing yards per game, which is quite impressive considering the level of competition that they have faced thus far. LSU’s game plan will be to stifle La Tech’s offense. They held SLU scoreless, and they’d like to repeat that against the Bulldogs. Tech will have to play at its best just to score a couple of times.
Louisiana Tech has had two weeks to prepare for this game, which could help make things interesting. At the same time, LSU is ranked sixth for a reason. Even La Tech’s absolute best may not be enough to top the Tigers. Even with LSU coming off an emotional road win, it’s hard to imagine they’ll be looking ahead to an Ole Miss team that just got embarrassed on national television. The Dawgs may keep it close for a quarter or even a half, but chances are high LSU will just be too much for them in the second half.
To win this game, Tech’s offense would have to show a level of skill it hasn’t shown since 2016, and the defense would have to play at a level equal to or higher than they achieved against SMU in December. Marrying those two things may give the Bulldogs a chance, but it might take a miracle to finish the job.
It’s not impossible. Troy did it a year ago, but LSU looks to be much better this year. The Bulldogs kept it close the last time they faced LSU in 2009, and even led at halftime. Can they find it in them to play at that level again?