Time: 2:30 pm CT
Location: Joe Aillet Stadium, Ruston, Louisiana
TV: KMYS-CW 35
Radio: Ticket 760
Betting Line: Louisiana Tech -22.5, O/U 71.5
Live Stats: Game Tracker
Series History: Louisiana Tech leads the series 3-1. LA Tech won the last meeting 34-31 in 2015.
Let’s be honest. Did any of you see this coming?
A week ago, few eyeballs were on this game. It was the presumptive division favorite hosting a middling team that had experienced mixed success. UTSA has done well at home, but had been unable to compete on the road.
But then UTSA, a 20 point road underdog, bludgeoned the MTSU Blue Raiders by 20 and all of a sudden this game just became a whole lot bigger. Before UTSA beat MTSU, the Roadrunners’ chances of making their first ever bowl game were slim. Now, not only is a bowl game likely, but winning this game, which has been close the past two years, would all but guarantee the western division crown.
Louisiana Tech Outlook (Tanner)
The Bulldogs are on a roll, having won six straight. Ryan Higgins continues to prove himself as one of the best quarterbacks around. He has over 3,000 yards with 30 touchdowns to just four interceptions. Fun fact: Higgins has completed more passes (226) than Dalton Sturm has even attempted (211). Wide outs Trent Taylor and Carlos Henderson continue to carve up secondaries. Henderson has been the more dominant recently and leads the nation with 15 receiving touchdowns, but Taylor remains the leading receiver with over 1300 yards and nine touchdowns. Last year, Taylor recorded 99 catches. He needs just two against UTSA to surpass last year’s total and the 100 completion mark.
The past couple of weeks have seen LA Tech make a concerted effort to grow the ground game. Although Tech remains a spread offense, the play calling has shifted to running the ball more often as Jarred Craft continues to lead Tech’s rushing attack post-Dixon. Expect to see more run plays (ranging from quarterback draws to jet sweeps) than we saw earlier in the season, but you’ll still see deep shots to Henderson.
The defense and special teams are much improved from the debacle we saw against Texas Tech, MTSU, and WKU. Tech hasn’t allowed more than 28 since that game and held Rice scoreless for the entire first half. Jaylon Ferguson and Xavier Woods both continue to stand out. Ferguson leads the conference in sacks (10.0), Woods in interceptions (5).
UTSA Outlook (Jared)
It may seem silly to outsiders to learn that this is the most important football game in UTSA’s history but the fact remains. With little winning history (or history at all) to speak of, tomorrow’s winner-take-all affair introduces the Roadrunners to an echelon of competition that has previously evaded them. This season started with modest external expectations that slowly morphed into unforeseen post-season potential. The Roadrunners will certainly come out of the gate highly motivated and prepared to prove that their wins over Southern Miss and Middle Tennessee were no flukes.
For the first time in program history, the Roadrunners have an identity of their own. The UTSA power run game has established the program as a tough-nosed, gritty group that’s able to control game tempo and impose a certain level of physicality on opponents. UTSA was able to upset MTSU by methodically marching down the field on offense, shortening the Blue Raiders’ time of possession and forcing them to press the issue offensively when they had the ball.
UTSA will aim to carve out the same niche in Ruston. Their offensive line has shown unbelievable progress in 2016 and the Roadrunners will lean on the unit to pound the Bulldog defense on the ground. Despite playing a core group of freshmen on defense, UTSA has taken great strides in their ability to create turnovers. If the Roadrunners can continue their two game streak of causing four turnovers then an upset and division title are certainly in play.
Tanner: Both teams will come into this game confident and spirited. This game has a history of getting chippy. We didn’t see much of that last year, but with first place in the division on the line, something tells me you might see an unsportsmanlike penalty or two. I’m not buying the 22.5 point spread and I can see this going down to the wire, but in the end, the Tech offense will be too much for the Roadrunners.
LA Tech 52, UTSA 42
Jared: As Tanner said, UTSA is going to come out of the gate with their hair aflame and looking for a scuffle. I’m not buying that 22+ point spread in Vegas at all but I still think that Louisiana Tech will find a way to squeak out a win. Trent Taylor should have a big game for the Bulldogs as the slot receiver will be able to pick up short but consistent yards in the slot. UTSA is still a year away from pulling off these high-stakes wins in my most modest opinion.
LA Tech 38, UTSA 28