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Playin’ Nice: Louisiana Tech, by Way of Underdog Dynasty

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Underdog Dynasty’s Tanner Spearman gives us some information on the Tigers’ second in-state opponent on the year.

Underdog Dynasty

1. Tech’s had just two games on the year, a narrow win over South Alabama and a blowout win over Southern. What’s your feel for this team in that small sample size?

Well like you said, it’s a small sample size, so it’s hard to tell. Most probably see beating South Alabama by only four as a disappointment, even on the road. The offense looked suspect outside of running back Jaqwis Dancy in the first half. The offense looked much better against Southern, but it should against an FCS foe. Regardless, quarterback J’Mar Smith seemed much more comfortable and accurate in that game, so maybe that will carry on throughout the season. Having the bye week this early in the season is concerning, especially with the tough stretch of games coming up, but at least they have time to work on what they need to fix.

2. Tech’s been known for productive offenses in recent years, and are currently averaging 42 a game — what’s been working?

Don’t let the numbers fool you. After a spectacular offensive display in 2016, the offense stepped WAY back in 2017. Only two games into 2018, it’s hard to know what this offense will be, but a return to 2016 seems unlikely. Even in his best games, J’Mar Smith has never looked like a gunslinger like Ryan Higgins was two seasons ago. With that said, he has shown the ability to run the offense in his role as a dual-threat quarterback. As long as he’s making good decisions and the running game, led by Israel Tucker and Jaqwis Dancy, is doing well, Tech SHOULD be fine on offense. I hesitate to think that the pace of 42 per game will continue, however. What saved the Bulldogs’ season in 2017 was a resurgent defense. Only time will tell if that continues.

3. J’Mar Smith is completing a lot of passes but already has three interceptions as well. Inconsistency still a concern?

Inconsistency is the key word with Smith. Last season, he had good games and bad games. In good games the offense was able to do enough to win. In bad games the offense looked completely inept. The thought was that Smith would improve this past off-season, but that didn’t seem to be the case against USA. He looked much better against Southern, so maybe it was just opening week jitters. Having had two weeks to prepare for LSU’s defense, it will be interesting to see how he performs. To his credit, however, he mostly took care of the ball last year. That will be key against the Tigers.

4. Has the excitement built up for this one since we talked in the spring?

I think the excitement dipped after the narrow win over South Alabama, especially after LSU beat Miami. A lot of Bulldog fans thought Tech had finally caught LSU in a down year, but now LSU is ranked sixth in the nation. With that said, now that it’s game week, the excitement has skyrocketed. Tech fans are in full Han Solo “never tell me the odds” mode right now, and will likely stay there until given a reason not to be optimistic. They saw Troy do it a year ago, and they desperately want the same outcome.

5. What’s your thought on how the game will play out on Saturday?

I really don’t know what to expect. Logically, Tech shouldn’t stand a chance. However, Tech has a habit of playing a P5 team close every year these days. The past three seasons have seen one point losses to Arkansas and South Carolina with a triple overtime loss to Kansas State in 2015. Tech held leads in all of those games. It’s been since 2014 Tech beat a P5 team (Illinois) and since 2011 Tech beat an SEC team (Ole Miss), but the chances have been there. The last time Tech played LSU, the 3-6 Bulldogs led No. 8 LSU at halftime and only lost 24-16. Tech is much better these days than 2009, however. So as for this year, who knows? Tech could get destroyed, or the Bulldogs could cover the spread and keep it close. I’m not sure either would surprise me. If Tech finds a way to win, I have to wonder if the combination of coming off a bye week while LSU is coming off an emotional road win would be a factor.