It was a misprint. It had to be.
Louisiana Tech’s over/under win total at 4.5? Some odds maker is about to get fired, or so I thought. And then I saw the number again. And again. And again once more.
Less than a week ago I had a buddy find that number over in Mississippi before he gladly placed a wager on the Bulldogs to win five or more games in 2021. Like taking candy from a baby…
So why the disrespect? Did Skip Holtz leave in the middle of the night without the rest of knowing or something? Because otherwise I just don’t see how the odds makers got this one. Do the math with me. To go 4-8 or worse, Louisiana Tech would likely go 1-3 in non-conference play (beat Southeastern and lose to Mississippi State, SMU and NC State) and then go 3-5 in conference play after recording a 4-2 mark one season prior. For those of you wondering, by the way, Holtz hasn’t gone 3-5 in conference play since 2013. That was the first year Holtz arrived on campus too.
I suppose the question you have to ask yourself is whether or not you believe Louisiana Tech will be worse than it was a year ago.
The Bulldogs return four starters up front and hired a new offensive line coach with NFL experience, add transfers like Appalachian State running back Marcus Williams, Vanderbilt running back Keyon Henry-Brooks and West Virginia quarterback Austin Kendall, and boast one of the best returning linebacker corps in the conference. That’s without even mentioning studs like Smoke Harris returning to this team too.
In case it isn’t clear, the answer to the question earlier is emphatically, ‘No chance.” Louisiana Tech was picked to finish third within its division behind UAB and UTSA, so media members who cover the conference are obviously not too crazy about that 3-5 conference prediction either.
Now, while I’ve spent the large majority of this preview poking holes in the logic these odds makers used, I should also note that corrections have to be made. Whether it was Luke Anthony or Aaron Allen running the offense, the Bulldogs offense failed to get off the ground in 2020. A lot of that was because of the offensive line woes, but the quarterbacks deserve their share of criticism, as well. At times the ground game was nonexistent, which allowed defenses to just pin those ears back and go get the quarterback. Louisiana Tech gave up nearly three sacks per game last season, which was the third most of any Conference USA team. You would hope the hiring of new offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo helps alleviate some of those concerns ahead of 2021.
The offense was particularly unimpressive overall with just 317 yards per contest, which was 117th in the nation.
The good news is the defense returns 10 starters, which includes Tyler Grubbs, who led the team with 99 tackles a season ago. Like the offense, the defense will need to improve overall after giving up 427 yards per game and nearly 35 points per contest. Both statistics were the third worst marks in the conference last year.
But let’s not forget this team is less than two years removed from a 10-3 season, where the Bulldogs shut out a Miami team that is looking to knock off Clemson in the ACC this year.
A 5-5 season during a pandemic is one thing, but for this team to even flirt with proving these odds makers right in 2021 is a whole different animal. The program is just far too good to be that mediocre, even if both sides of the line of scrimmage failed to impress in 2020.
The Bulldogs will raise the bar in 2021 because that’s what programs do. And make no mistake about it, Holtz and his coaching staff have a program rolling in Ruston.