Note: For three consecutive weeks, Jake Martin will take a look at the schedules of ULM, Louisiana Tech and LSU in anticipation of the 2018 college football season. The second team featured in the three-part series is Louisiana Tech…
Defensive superstars, an experienced offensive line and narrow 2017 losses give reason to believe in another memorable season for Louisiana Tech in 2018.
The Bulldogs lost four games by a touchdown or less in one of the more heartbreaking seasons Louisiana Tech fans can recall. Thus, Louisiana Tech was a play or two away in several games from being a 10-win team last fall.
So does the 2018 schedule set the Bulldogs up for success?
Back-to-back games against South Alabama and Southern should be a great way to get J’Mar Smith rolling early. Expect Bulldogs running back Jaqwis Dancy to establish himself as the feature back in the 2-0 start.
That brings us to the big one. The Bulldogs get LSU in Baton Rouge a week after a bye and week after LSU takes on Auburn. LSU cannot and will not allow a slip-up to Louisiana Tech. Losing to Troy is one thing, but losing to an in-state school would likely lead to immediate termination of Ed Orgeron. As good as Louisiana Tech is, LSU’s front seven should be enough for the Tigers to avoid disaster.
At 2-1, the Bulldogs enter conference play against North Texas, who was picked in the preseason as the top team in the West. North Texas received 18 first-place votes, and the second-place Bulldogs received four. Here’s Louisiana Tech’s chance to prove the voters wrong, but it won’t be easy. Mason Fine, the reigning 2017 Conference-USA Offensive Player of the Year, lit teams up through the air in 2017. But as good as he was, that North Texas defense allowed more than 40 points in six different games last year. Louisiana Tech is good enough to win this football game on the road, but UAB is also good enough to beat the Bulldogs in Ruston. It’s reasonable to think the Bulldogs split these two games, which would make Louisiana Tech 3-2 on the season.
More than likely Louisiana Tech will string together wins against UTSA and UTEP — two teams the Bulldogs handled last season. At 5-2, an important battle against Florida Atlantic hits Boca Raton, Fla. Lane Kiffin’s FAU squad took the conference by storm last season, and with the returning squad Kiffin has under his watch, it’s not a stretch to say he’ll do it again in 2018. One of the few teams that can prevent that from happening is Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs, who should have one of the best rosters in the conference, isn’t far away from winning a conference title. But this game will show Louisiana Tech just how close (or how far) the Bulldogs are from achieving that goal. You hate predicting this matchup before seeing what both teams look like, but for the sake of home field advantage, an FAU win is a safer bet.
That plus a showdown against Mississippi State could bring Louisiana Tech’s record to 5-4, but matchups against Rice, Southern Miss and Western Kentucky to close out the season open the door for a three-game win streak. At 8-4, the Bulldogs would have an opportunity to play for a Conference-USA Championship with a split against top western division teams UAB and North Texas and a sweep the rest of the way. Getting another shot at FAU is high on most fans’ wish list heading into the season. FAU or not, getting to play for a conference championship and winning the conference is undoubtedly the greatest gift any Louisiana Tech fan can receiver —outside an upset over LSU, of course.
The Bulldogs are good enough for the former. Bad swings went against Louisiana Tech in 2017. A few good bounces here or there and this bunch could be your conference champions.