UTSA Roadrunners at Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
Saturday, November 30, 2019 at 3:30 PM (Joe Aillet Stadium)
Louisiana Tech -19; Total 57.5 Click to Get Latest Betting Odds
A game that means nothing to UTSA and everything to Louisiana Tech will take place Saturday at Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, La. as the Roadrunners (4-7, 3-4 C-USA) will take on a Bulldogs (8-3, 5-2 C-USA) squad still hoping to win the West Division of Conference USA to reach the conference title game. However, there are a lot of ifs and buts even if Louisiana Tech wins in order for that to happen.
Louisiana Tech can win the West Division with a win over UTSA and a UAB loss against North Texas. The other team in the mix for the West -- Southern Miss -- will not factor in if Louisiana Tech wins. However, a Bulldog win might not be enough. If Louisiana Tech and UAB both win, UAB will hold the tiebreaker. Here’s where it gets crazy. If Louisiana Tech, UAB, and Southern Miss all win, the tie would not be able to be broken through the first seven criteria and the team to represent the West Division in the conference championship would be the team with the highest average computer ranking of five different ranking systems.
Heading into this week’s games, Louisiana Tech is ranked the highest of the three teams in consideration in two of those rankings and second in the other three, while Southern Miss is ranked first in two rankings, second in two, and third in one.
Louisiana Tech won’t be thinking about any of that. They will simply look to win and win big to take over that computer ranking if needed. That’s a bad sign for UTSA. But it was just two weeks ago that Louisiana Tech seemed to have the West Division nearly wrapped up. The Bulldogs were 5-0 in conference play and had won their first five conference games by an average of 17.2 points per game. But back-to-back losses on the road to Marshall (31-10) and UAB (20-14) have left Louisiana Tech in jeopardy of missing the conference title game.
The two losses coincide with senior quarterback J’Mar Smith and junior Adrian Hardy being suspended, along with defensive standout James Jackson being suspended for an athletic department policy violation. No further information about the suspension was given, except that Jackson would be suspended for one game while Smith and Hardy were suspended for two games. No doubt that the importance of these players was seen while they were gone and the Bulldogs will welcome their abilities on the field this weekend.
Smith ranks 17th in FBS in passing yards per game with 275.9, and even with the suspensions, Louisiana Tech is still the 33rd-best passing offense in FBS. It also ranks 35th in scoring offense at 33.4 points per game. That passing attack is balanced well by junior Justin Henderson’s ground game. He has carried 146 times for 862 yards, good enough for a 5.9 yards per carry average, which is good enough for 33rd in FBS. He also has 15 touchdowns on the season, good enough for seventh in FBS.
Hardy is one of six receivers who have caught between 321 and 534 yards of passes this season, with senior Malik Stanley leading the team with those 534 yards and sophomore Griffin Hebert leading the Bulldogs with four touchdown receptions.
Louisiana Tech’s big offense, the return of Smith and Hardy, and the Bulldogs’ defense that is good enough when combined with the offense (41st in FBS allowing just 23.4 points per game) all don’t bode well for UTSA, a team that has lost three of its last four. The Roadrunners have also just won three games since the beginning of September, and those wins have been a one-point win over Old Dominion which is 1-10 on the season, a four-point win over Rice which is 2-9 on the year, and a 10-point win over UTEP which is 1-10 this year. In short, it hasn’t gone well for UTSA this year.
While Louisiana Tech is a pass-first team, UTSA will look to establish the running game, and the games that the Roadrunners have seen the most success have been the ones that they have been able to effectively run the ball. To make that point, in UTSA’s biggest win of the season against FBS competition, the 26-16 win over UTEP, the Roadrunners managed just 46 yards passing, but they only attempted 14 passes because freshman Sincere McCormick averaged 8.6 yards per carry for 189 total yards on the ground while sophomore quarterback Lowell Narcisse rushed it 19 times for 115 yards. That type of rushing success will be key if UTSA is to have any chance of winning on Saturday.
McCormick is the team leader in rushing with 867 yards on the season to go along with eight touchdowns. Marcisse has completed 53.2 percent of his passes for 1,226 yards and eight touchdowns. Freshman Zakhari Franklin and junior Carlos Strickland II are the only receivers with more than 200 yards of receptions, catching 431 and 422 yards of passes respectively.
All signs point to Louisiana Tech in this one. The Bulldogs need to win to keep their conference postseason hopes alive, while UTSA’s season will simply be over after this one. Louisiana Tech also needs to win impressively in case its conference title game hopes come down to computer rankings. In addition, the Bulldogs are 3-1 this season against the spread as a home favorite. Look for Smith to come out and get that offense going again to lead his team to a blowout win in Ruston.