Start Time: 6:00 pm CST, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: Joe Ailliet Stadium, Ruston, Louisiana
TV: American Sports Network
Radio: KXKZ 107.5, http://www.latechsports.com/collegesportslive/?media=500013
Series Record: First Meeting
Live Stats: Link http://statbroadcast.com/events/statmonitr.php?gid=latech
Betting Line: No Line
Southern is coming off back to back 9-4 seasons so Head Coach Dawson Odums squad is used to winning. However, the Jaguars have started each of the last three seasons on the road against FBS opponents and the results haven't been very pretty. Southern lost to New Mexico to start the 2012 season by a score of 66-21. In 2013, the Jaguars opened with a loss at Houston, 62-13. Last season, Odums and Co. went down the road to ULL and lost 45-6.
Jaguars starting nickelback Rhaheim Ledbetter will miss the game due to being academically ineligible. His absence will make the Jaguars even thinner in the secondary as starting safety Bryan Anderson was also ruled academically ineligible over the summer.
Odums does return nine starters on offense from a 2014 team that scored over 40 points on five different occasions. Quarterback Austin Howard threw for over 2,000 yards last season as a freshman with 17 touchdowns and only 8 interceptions.
Southern is expected to bring a big following to Ruston on Saturday. All of the RV tailgating spots are taken up and Jaguar fans could number over 5,000 on game day.
LA Tech Outlook:
For Louisiana Tech, this game is all about getting Jeff Driskel and his teammates on track in their first game. The transfer quarterback from Florida has been with the team since spring practice, but this is his first chance to play in a real game with his new teammates.
The offense will have to work out the kinks quickly as the Bulldogs have to turn around and play at Western Kentucky next Thursday. The Hilltoppers play at nearby Vanderbilt this Thursday and will get a full week to prepare for the Bulldogs.
Despite beating Western Kentucky 59-10 last season, LA Tech Head Coach Skip Holtz knows that the quick turnaround will be even more difficult on the Bulldog's defense. The Hilltoppers scored at least 40 points on seven occasions last season and outside of the LA Tech loss; they never scored less than 34.
The Bulldogs have not only the quick turnaround and the WKU offense in the back of their mind, they also have the loss to Northwestern State to think about from last season. The Bulldogs got out to a comfortable lead in the third quarter, but fell 30-27 to the Demons. It will be important for LA Tech to put this game away early and avoid any thoughts of last season's loss to a FCS team from creeping into the back of their minds.
On offense, Tech will look to get Kenneth Dixon going, get Jeff Driskel comfortable, and establish the starting five on the offensive line. Senior Josh Robinson seems to have locked down the starting right guard spot, but redshirt freshman Shane Carpenter has a chance to win the starting right tackle spot over senior Jens Danielson. Carpenter, a Baton Rouge native, will see his first college action against his hometown Southern Jaguars.
Defensively, the Bulldogs will look to build on last season's dominating performance. The Bulldog return Vernon Butler, Vontarrius Dora, Adarius Barnes, Xavier Woods, and Kentrell Brice to lead the way for Coach Holtz. This will be Blake Baker's first game as defensive coordinator as he replaces the departed Manny Diaz.
Baton Rouge area products Deldrick Canty and Russell Farris both played as true freshmen for Louisiana Tech on defense last year and will see expanded roles this season. As Holtz tries to build depth, several more true freshmen could see action in 2015. Cornerback Ephraim Kitchen, Linebacker Brandon Durman, Defensive End Immanuel Turner, and Defensive Tackle Courtney Wallace are among the true freshmen that could see action against Southern. Turner at 6-3 250 and Courtney Wallace at 6-3 336 could bring much needed size and depth to the defensive line.
Saturday also marks Louisiana Tech's first opportunity to show of the new $22 million Davison Athletic Complex. The new facility dominates the south end zone and will create a new game day atmosphere at Louisiana Tech.
Saturday could also be the first ever sell out in the history of Joe Aillet Stadium. With capacity now just over 28,000 (down from 30,600) and the excitement for the 2015 season, the Bulldogs are likely to be playing in front of a sold out stadium. The new facility in the end zone and the visiting crowd help make tickets for the game a hot commodity.
Southern 13 LA Tech 45