Dig Baton Rouge

Bowl Blues?

By Casey Gisclair

It’s a high-powered, high-octane passing offense against a school that’s known as DBU.

It’s Leonard Fournette versus a rushing defense which allows yards by the bushel.

It’s an SEC-hater of a head coach versus one of the SEC’s premier programs.

It’s… it’s… it’s…the AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl?

Believe it or not, there are a lot of things that are sexy to me about the Texas Bowl between LSU and Texas Tech, and this is a matchup that I’m eagerly anticipating for a large number of reasons.

To me, honestly, the only thing unsexy about the game is that it’s taking place in a crummy bowl – a game that’s not a top-tier destination for the SEC football hierarchy in bowl season.

Blah. Get over it. If you aren’t first, you’re last.

This game is a good one to break down and analyze, and it’ll be fun to watch because of all of its many intricacies.

For starters, can LSU tame the Red Raiders’ offense?

I have my doubts.

After being a mountain of defense under former-coordinator John Chavis, the 2015 version of the Tigers’ defense was a bit of a mess under first-year DC Kevin Steele. LSU was No. 10 (of 14 teams) in the SEC in scoring defense in 2015, allowing 24 points per game.

That number looks even messier when one considers that the Tigers allowed 20 or more points nine times in 11 games in 2015. That number pales in comparison to the six times LSU let up 20 or more in the 13 games it played in 2014.

LSU also only held opponents to single digits once in 2015 – the finale against Texas A&M. The Tigers kept opponents in single digits five times in 2014.

That doesn’t bode well when facing a Red Raiders team which hung 50+ points six times in 12 games, while tossing for 4,676 yards in the passing game.

The Red Raiders will score, and they will likely score a lot. It’s inevitable. That’s just sort-of what they do and have done for the past two decades in the Big 12.

But can they hold Leonard Fournette under 300 yards rushing to control the pace of the game?

That, my friends, is another sexy, intriguing angle in this equation.

The Red Raiders play fast, run and shoot football. LSU is a sledgehammer which wants to own the line of scrimmage.

Texas Tech usually doesn’t respond well when punched in the mouth.

The Red Raiders are No. 125 in America in rushing defense, allowing 271.8 yards on the ground per game. That’s third from last in America and leads only Idaho and the bottom-feeding Eastern Michigan, which LSU gutted for 391 rushing yards on October 3.

Add in the fact that Leonard Fournette is angry and Heisman-less, and I can easily envision a scenario where Fournette breaks the single-game rushing record for LSU and eclipses 2,000 yards and 20 touchdowns for the season.

Fournette needs 259 yards for the former and two touchdowns for the latter. It’s not inconceivable to think that both goals may fall at mighty No. 7’s feet during the late-night hours of December 29’s tilt. It’ll surely be fun to see him chase it.

Perhaps more important than all that, the bowl game is exciting because it’s one last chance to see an LSU team that is surrounded by controversy and angst.

With a vote of confidence and seemingly another year to right his wrongs, will LSU coach Les Miles open up his offensive wings a tad against Texas Tech?

Will the Tigers play more freely than they did in the final month of the season, knowing that Miles will be around in 2016 – the outcome most players seemingly wanted?

If LSU can’t move the ball against Texas Tech’s porous defense, and the Red Raiders win, does Les Miles’ seat heat up again – even now that it’s somewhat lukewarm?

I don’t know the answers to any of those questions, and that uncertainty is enough to have me glued to the television on December 29 to find out.

It’s the Texas Bowl, sure.

But it’s still LSU football – the last recognizable semblance of it that we’ll have for the next eight months.

I, for one, will cherish it before it’s gone.


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