Unlike last week, nobody really needs any convincing that Louisiana Tech is a solid opponent. The Bulldogs head into Saturday’s matchup as A&M’s second ranked opponent of the year, and the first they’ll play outside of College Station.
The crowd should get a boost from this game being delayed from late August. Now, both team are coming in ranked.
But how good is Louisiana Tech really? Let’s take a look.
On the plus side…
The Tech offense has been one of the nation’s best through the first half of the season. Only once has Sonny Dykes’ team fail to score at least 50 points, and they scored 44 in that contest. By yardage, they’re 11th in the nation (one spot ahead of A&M), and by scoring they’re third.
Their most impressive stat however is their turnovers. More precisely, their absolute lack of them. Through five games Tech has turned the ball over just four times, and they were all fumbled. Yes, you’re reading that right, despite throwing 180 times for over 1,450 yards this season, Colby Cameron has yet to throw an interception.
Louisiana Tech has turned their opponents over 15 times, which gives them an average turnover margin slightly over plus two per game. That’s good enough for second in the nation, tied with Mississippi State. (Interestingly, A&M also plays the team that leads the nation, Alabama,)
Another thing that Dykes’ team doesn’t get enough credit for is that they’re balanced. The Bulldogs rank 27th in passing with 181 total passes on the season, but they also rank 16th in rushing with 217 attempts on the season.
Basically, when you break it down, there’s no other conclusion to come to other than Louisiana Tech’s offense has been among the nation’s best so far this season.
On the down side…
As good as their offense is, their defense is just as bad. They rank 108th in the country in scoring defense, 119th in passing defense and 119th in total defense. Of their five opponents, three had their largest point total of the season when they played Louisiana Tech.
Part of that though is Louisiana Tech’s own doing. Obviously when you score over 7 touchdowns a game your opponent is going to get at least seven possessions.
When you look at per play average, Louisiana Tech’s defense becomes slightly more respectable. They give up 5.9 yards per play, which isn’t good, but also isn’t 119th in the country. However, they’re still 102nd in pass efficiency defense. The Bulldogs also rank 101st in third down conversion percentage defense.
Again, it’s pretty clear, as good as their offense is, their defense is equally as terrible. Perhaps only Baylor has as good an offense but as bad a defense as Louisiana Tech.
What does it mean?
Here’s another fact before we go into the opinion world. Texas A&M is far and away the best opponent on paper that Louisiana Tech will have seen this season.
Louisiana Tech’s five opponents this season have a combined record of 8-21, and none of them have a winning record. In fact, between the five, they only have two victories over BCS opponents (Virginia beat Penn State and Rice beat Kansas. Interestingly, the Rice win at Kansas is also the only road victory for those five opponents combined.)
The reason I point that out is that there could be an adjustment period early in this game where Louisiana Tech struggles with the speed of A&M. Not so much in the tempo of the offense that’s so often talked about, but the actual speed of the players. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Cameron throw his first pick early in this game.
But the question is, how good is Louisiana Tech? Well, the answer is that we just don’t know. Their offense is theoretically good, but the best defense they’ve faced is 78th ranked Illinois. Will they be able to score at will against A&M? The one thing we definitely know is that their defense is bad, and that they haven’t really been tested yet by a quality opponent. That changes on Saturday.
You could make a similar argument for A&M though. Ole Miss is the best opponent the Aggies have beaten so far this season, and their offense struggled through a good portion of that game. That’s why Saturday’s matchup is one of the more interesting games of the weekend. We should learn quite a bit about both the Bulldogs and the Aggies this week.