Tag Archives: Louisiana Tech Bulldogs

Auburn Tigers and Malzahn Are More Fit to Win than Razorbacks and Bielema

This is not a team I usually write about, but I just couldn’t resist weighing in on this game. I know the Auburn Tigers are ranked a little below the Arkansas Razorbacks, but they’re going to beat them anyways. Plain and simple: Auburn is a more balanced team than Bret Bielema’s Razorbacks.

Before I get to pump up those Tigers, let me smack down these Razorbacks just a little bit.

Remember their first game of the season this year? I do. It was almost a borderline erotic upset win—for the other team. Arkansas hosted the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs and only won by a single point. The Razorbacks were a 21.5-point favorite heading into that game and they beat the Bulldogs 21-20. That’s just plain embarrassing.

Speaking of embarrassing games, Arkansas got absolutely whooped by the Texas A&M Aggies almost a month ago now. I don’t care if they’ve proven to be a good team this year and they have the 12th Man, that’s just inexcusable. The 19-point loss at home against the Alabama Crimson Tide is far more excusable than that.

Really, the only thing the Razorbacks have going for them is their win over the Ole Miss Rebels last weekend. No, the double-overtime win over the TCU Horned Frogs is not that impressive. TCU is overrated once again. But somehow the Razorbacks are still ranked ahead of the Tigers. I just don’t understand.

Maybe the Razorbacks had more preseason optimism surrounding the team than the Tigers did, but the preseason is long gone now. What matters is what these teams have actually done on the football field so far. And Auburn definitely has the edge there.

Auburn has two losses this year: a 6-point loss to the Clemson Tigers and a 13-point loss to the Texas A&M Aggies. It’s worth noting that Auburn’s loss to the Aggies was less severe than that of Arkansas. And having a 6-point loss against a team that went to the National Championship Game last year is nothing to be ashamed of either.

If you’re like me and you need numbers to justify this clear advantage I say that the Tigers have, then you’ll love this part.

Arkansas has allowed 398.9 yards per game and 27.9 points per game. Auburn has allowed 346.8 yards per game and 16 points per game. The gap there undeniably favors Auburn’s defense. If you swear by ESPN’s statistical analyses then you’ll enjoy knowing that the Tigers are 13th in defensive efficiency while the Razorbacks are 60th.

Although Auburn has the advantage defensively, the two teams are pretty evenly matched offensively. They’re also pretty evenly matched as far as special teams go.

The difference here really does come from the defense. With a stronger defense and the home field advantage at Jordan-Hare Stadium, you’d be crazy to think that Auburn doesn’t have the upper hand.

Heck, even ESPN’s FPI gives Auburn an 84.7% chance of winning this game. Considering the Razorbacks are ranked no. 17 and the Tigers are ranked no. 21, I’d say that kind of margin is a pretty good sign for the Tigers.

And if you really want to get ugly about it, let me just remind you that the Arkansas head coach, Bret Bielema, looks like he ate Auburn’s head coach, Gus Malzahn. Low blow? Maybe. But come on, the Tigers are clearly more fit to win this game when you take everything into account. Plus Coach Malzahn can actually move around the sidelines with his team as they put points on the board over this unimpressive Razorback defense. You can’t beat that!

So let me leave you with two of the most recognizable words in all of college football: WAR EAGLE.

You can email Kristen at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter @OGKristenB.

Photo courtesy of Organizedchaos02 on Wikimedia Commons.

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Woo Pig Sooie! Here Comes Bret Bielema and His Razorbacks

It should come as no surprise to anyone that, when talking about the SEC, the West is king of the mountain. And when talking about the SEC West, all roads to the divisional championship go through Tuscaloosa. Any notion of Alabama having a down year was laid to rest when the Crimson Tide made short work of USC in the season opener. The final nail in that down year coffin was smacked when Alabama came from behind to put Ole Miss in its place.

Alabama is a team that none of us really need to watch on any given Saturday. As long as Nick Saban is on the sideline, we should all expect the team to win.

Still, there is plenty to play for if your team is in the SEC West and this weekend is an opportunity for the “best of the rest” to create separation from the also-rans. Arkansas versus Texas A&M is a week four matchup that will begin creating that separation.

I’m a fan of Bret Bielema and therefore am also a fan of Arkansas. As I’ve written about in past articles, Bielema has the confidence, charisma and swagger that make a football fan believe in not only him, but also his Razorback team. And unlike a coach like, say, Jim Harbaugh, Bielema doesn’t carry his swag in a way that portrays arrogance.

Prior to the season kicking off, Arkansas was my pick for SEC darkhorse and I have no reason to eat crow as the Razorbacks prepare to play the Aggies. Arkansas defeated Louisiana Tech in the season opener, 21-20. In holding a typically potent Tech offense to 20 points, the Razorbacks showed us all that the defense was capable of standing up to a high powered offense. Arkansas followed this win up with a thrilling 41-38 overtime win against TCU. In scoring 41 points, Bielema’s offense proved that it could keep pace with a full throttle Power 5.

And here is what should scare the rest of the SEC going into conference play – Arkansas can grind it out and win or the team can win in a shoot out. Don’t look now, but here come the Hogs.

The SEC game that everyone will be fixated upon this weekend will be Florida versus Tennessee. While the rest of you are watching that SEC East classic, i’ll be focused on this Arkansas versus Texas A&M game. You know, a game that will actually mean something in the big picture of college football.

Whichever team wins this game will be in the driver’s seat to give Alabama a run for its money and I expect the winner of this game to be Arkansas. if the Razorbacks do, in fact, win the game this Saturday, it will set up one of the biggest games in Bielema’s career when Alabama visits Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium on October 8.

Like I said, it would be difficult for me to pick against a Nick Saban coached Alabama team, but Arkansas was my darkhorse pick and I continue to stand by that. it’s for that reason that i’d give Arkansas a chance against Alabama, Especially with that game being in Fayetteville.

Woo pig sooie! The preface to Arkansas’ season starts against Texas A&M.

 

E-mail Seth at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @SethMerenbloom

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

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I Guess TCU Beats Arkansas, But the Big 12 Still Sucks

Here at Campus Pressbox, my disdain for Bret Bielema is well-documented, as is my complete lack of faith in the Big 12. When faced with two, unsavory options, what is a man to do?

In this weekend’s matchup between Arkansas and #15 TCU, I’m airing on the side of talent. I’m taking the Horned Frogs.

Although, again, I’m not loving my options. Both teams embarrassed themselves last week in spite of earning victories. Arkansas eeked out a one-point victory against Louisiana Tech. TCU allowed 41 points and 461 yards against an FCS squad. Certainly not inspiring performances.

Nevertheless, TCU is still my pick to win the Big 12. That’s contingent upon their defense being able to stop a nosebleed, but hey, fingers crossed. Aside from an 87-yard rush that briefly gave South Dakota State the lead, TCU only allowed 1.8 yards per carry last week. The Horned Frogs’ rushing defense wasn’t the problem, their secondary was. Thankfully, Austin Allen doesn’t look poised for a 300-yard passing day anytime soon. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe Austin Allen proves me wrong, but the SEC has failed to do that so far this season.

When TCU has to face Big 12 opponents clinging to the air raid, the Frogs may have a reason for concern. This week, the fans in Fort Worth shouldn’t be concerned. Expect TCU to handcuff the Razorbacks’ developing offensive line and shut down their rushing attack.

Now that’s out of the way, it’s time for the main event: Bielema-bashing.

Let me get this straight. Bret Bielema almost became a victim of the BielemaMeter last week, but this week he’ll rally the troops and defeat a ranked opponent? With an unproven QB incapable of making big plays? With an offensive line that revealed a myriad of flaws against a C-USA team? After a dismal week for the SEC? Count me among the skeptics. Arkansas might be tracking upwards, but the issues they showed against Louisiana Tech aren’t being resolved overnight.

Why Bielema ever accepted the Arkansas job is beyond me. Bielema was 68-24 while coaching in Madison. He could operate his smashmouth offense against the likes of Rutgers and Purdue and still make a Rose Bowl every now and then. Instead, Bielema opted to take over a stalled program in an impossible conference, only now beginning to dig Arkansas out of a years-long slump. The money isn’t any better, and now he’s the fourth or fifth best coach in the SEC rather than the third best coach in the Big 10. Is that relevant to this Saturday’s matchup? Absolutely not. It is, however, an important chapter in the brilliantly confusing, unending book that is Bret Bielema.

So yeah, I’m not crazy about either team. I’m not a Bret Bielema fan. I’m not an Arkansas fan. I’m not a fan of terrible offense. I guess that means I’m picking TCU.

But the Big 12 still sucks.

Photo: Dallas Morning News

Email Cole at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

It’s Time to Make the SEC Great Again

Any follower of my writing here at Campus Pressbox knows that I am a fervent supporter of the so-called “Make the MAC Great Again” movement. If fact, I am its only supporter.

Like a proud mother, I lovingly birthed the “Make the MAC Great Again” movement just a matter of months ago, feeding it, burping it, cradling it in my arms. And while my love for all things #MACtion will never subside, I must momentarily abandon my precious child. It seems there is an orphan in need, and that orphan is the SEC.

That’s right. It’s time to Make the SEC Great Again.

While the Mid-American Conference was but a shy, forgotten child simply searching for its wings, the poor Southeastern Conference faces far greater psychological damage. Raised by two abusive, over-ambitious parents getting regularly ejected from their kid’s tee-ball games, the SEC was raised its whole life to pursue expectations it couldn’t possibly attain. Everybody pushed the SEC to be the star of its high school basketball team. But really, all the SEC wants is a callback for the school musical.

The SEC bottled up those insecurities for years, even decades. But once the 2016 season began, the SEC could no longer bear it. Last weekend, the SEC appeared unusually shattered and broken, meaning it’s time to pick up the pieces in a step-by-step diagnosis of a meltdown that was the SEC’s Week 1.

It all began Thursday night in Knoxville, Tennessee, where Joshua Dobbs proved his worth as an early-season Heisman contender. Sure, Appalachian State may have joined the FBS only two seasons ago, but that didn’t stop the Sun Belt heavyweights from taking the ninth-ranked team in the nation to overtime. Tennessee’s offensive line volunteered for a shellacking at the hands of a gritty Mountaineers unit.  Even though they escaped with a narrow victory, the implication of an SEC offense only managing 1.4 yards per carry against a Sun Belt squad can’t be ignored.

Then, before SEC Nation could even recover, this happened.

Mississippi State blew a 17-0 lead, and they blew it against another Sun Belt team. Safe to say the #FunBelt wasn’t so fun for Dan Mullen on Saturday, as he should probably be out of a job this morning. South Alabama possessed the ball for 36 minutes and threw for 285 yards, nearly doubling Mississippi State’s meager 143 yards of production. They also incurred eight penalties and missed both of their field goal attempts, but the Bulldogs still could not prevail.

Shortly thereafter, the fifth-ranked team in the country forgot how to play offense. Even with Wisconsin gifting LSU three turnovers, the Tigers’ attack never kicked into gear. One offensive touchdown wasn’t enough to outduel the Badgers in an ugly, defensive showdown. LSU and Leonard Fournette couldn’t overcome their first-half struggles, resulting in a 16-14 loss at Lambeau Field.

Tennesee suffered a gashing on the offensive line. Mississippi State got out-passed by a mid-major. LSU got out-slugged by a Big 10 school. Aren’t all those elements supposedly hallmarks of the SEC?

The bleeding certainly didn’t stop there. Missouri predictably faltered against West Virginia. Arkansas needed a late, go-ahead touchdown to survive Louisiana Tech. Kentucky blanked the entire second half in a loss to Southern Mississippi. Florida entered the fourth quarter locked in a 10-7 battle against UMass- another FBS newbie. Auburn botched every single chance it had at beating Clemson. And as the icing on the SEC’s intervention cake, Ole Miss spoiled a 22-point lead against Florida State in primetime, Monday night.

While Georgia, Texas A&M, and Alabama all registered impressive victories, these were clear exceptions to a dismal rule. Excluding the intra-conference matchup between South Carolina and Vanderbilt (not that anybody cares about Vanderbilt anyway), the SEC went 6-6 in a Week 1 full of both high expectations and terrible competition.

The SEC was favored in nine of those contests. It fared an abysmal 4-8 against the spread. It appears the conference hit rock bottom.

For whatever reason, we keep expecting the SEC to be supreme on the college football landscape. It’s time to measure those expectations. A good conference, yes, but the SEC is just that: a good conference. Its quarterbacks are no better, its schedules are no tougher, and it should be no more guaranteed a playoff spot than any other conference.

Five or ten years ago, in the heyday of the BCS, it might be fair to claim that the SEC cornered the market on skill and talent. Today, when coaches like Urban Meyer inhabit the Big 10, when teams like TCU near triple digits on the scoreboard, and when players like Ed Oliver choose to enroll at Group of 5 programs, that’s no longer a fair claim.

SEC schools should be judged based on the merit of their play, not based on some media-driven pseudo-merit of the conference that they play in.

Those truths might be hard. But only through those hard truths can we begin the conference’s healing process. Only through those hard truths can we remind a bruised and battered SEC that it’s okay to be human. So this college football season, when you find yourself suffering through yet another three-hour dose of Verne Lundquist, take a moment to reflect on a movement for college football fans, coaches, and players across all conferences. We’re all in this together.

Being a great conference doesn’t require yelling and screaming about being great, it requires proving it on the field. It’s time to let the SEC know, because only then can we truly Make the SEC Great Again.

I only hope the MAC can lead by example.

Photo courtesy of Wikipedia

Email Cole at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @Cole_Hankins.

Separating the Haves and Have-Nots: The Folly of Louisiana House Bill 971

The state of Louisiana has a major budget problem, which is so bad that governor John Bel Edwards took to the airwaves in February to explain how dire the situation was.

Its impact was undoubtedly going to be felt by the state’s public colleges and universities, but it’s likely that none of these institutions would have ever expected the legislation that was eventually proposed.

And it’s certain that either the chief architect of the bill either didn’t know or didn’t care about the long-term ramifications.

House Bill 971, filed by Rep. Stephen Carter (R-Baton Rouge) would prohibit any sports program that wasn’t football or basketball from traveling more than 375 miles for any athletic events. Allowed under this bill, however, would be playoffs or championships, as well as any competition in which the opposing team covered the costs.

The kicker in this bill was that this would apply to every college and university in Louisiana, with the sole exception of LSU’s main campus in Baton Rouge and various branches. Why is this significant? Because Carter, who’s in his third term as a state representative, used to be an assistant athletic director and tennis coach at Louisiana State. Also, his district includes LSU’s campus.

Whether this bill ever gets debated on the Louisiana House floor or even sees the light of day in committee is relevant. What matters is that in spite of the strides the so-called non-revenue sports have made in gaining traction in terms of relevance, measures such as House Bill 971 prove that these programs remain out of sight and out of mind to many.

And remember, that this is a former LSU tennis coach proposing this.

Louisiana Tech has already struggled competing with its larger in-state counterpart, plus is reeling from the Tyler Summitt scandal that recently rocked its women’s basketball team. Having invested millions of dollars in facilities for all of its programs, not just football and basketball, Louisiana Tech would stand to have the most to lose if House Bill 971 ever became more than just an idea out of right field.

The Bulldogs and Lady Techsters are part of Conference USA, which, in recent years, has grown into a league with members stretching all across the South. The restrictions that House Bill 971 would place upon Louisiana Tech would essentially be a death sentence, and it would have no choice but to leave Conference USA, as its non-revenue sports would be unable to compete.

While the proposed bill would affect just on team in Conference USA, it would cause mid-majors conferences like the Southland and Sun Belt to implode. The Sun Belt would especially be affected, as the two University of Louisiana schools in Lafayette and Monroe would have to bow out.

For the UL-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns, the slight would be especially cruel, particularly to their softball program. So far this season, Louisiana is sporting a 32-3 record and ranked fifth in the country. The Cajuns have also made appearances in the NCAA Tournament an annual occurrence, reaching the Women’s College World Series six times, most recently in 2014.

The Louisiana baseball team has also been a regular fixture at the NCAA Tournament, having clinched its most recent appearance by winning the Sun Belt Tournament last year. The Cajuns also played host to the 2014 Super Regionals as well.

Being in a position to make it to a seventh WCWS this season clearly didn’t make much of a difference to Carter while drafting House Bill 971, however.

The bill would also lay waste to the programs at stalwart SWAC schools Southern and Grambling State, which have already had issues attracting top athletes and whose reputation for being buy-game doormats for both football and basketball are well-documented. Beyond that, Southern’s baseball team has won more regular season conference titles than any other school in the SWAC. And, count among its native sons Hall of Famer Lou Brock.

However, it seems that tradition on the diamond, much as it was for the UL schools, was vastly overlooked when crafting this legislation.

But probably the most devastated athletic program that would come from House Bill 971’s approval is one that already was virtually wiped out in recent memory. But it wasn’t faulty legislation that brought the University of New Orleans to its knees previously. It was Hurricane Katrina.

The destruction and evacuation of New Orleans after Katrina resulted in UNO cutting back on athletics, along with everything else, since the school struggled to retain its student body in the storm’s aftermath. In fact, the struggle was so bad that it was even proposed that UNO merge with Southern University, at one point.

But the school preserved, and after dropping down to Division III, the athletic program returned to Division I status in 2013-14, gaining entrance into the Southland Conference alongside fellow state schools McNeese State, Nicholls State, Northwestern State and Southeastern Louisiana. The proposed bill would also put the programs of these schools in peril, right along with UNO, not to mention the entire conference.

What will likely kill this bill from the outset, aside from the ill-advised broad strokes approach it takes, are the issues that these institutions will run into as it relates to Title IX. Neither the NCAA nor the federal government will have much of a problem questioning why LSU’s entire athletic program and revenue sports at the other schools deserve preferential treatment over the scores of women’s sports that would suffer.

Again, there’s very little chance that House Bill 971 would ever become the law of the land, as it would be highly unlikely for Bel Edwards to sign it into law even if it ever came up for a vote.

But Carter should have known better. You can be sure that if he had been the tennis coach at UL-Monroe instead of LSU, he wouldn’t have even thought about putting together such a short-sighted piece of legislation.

And while money is at the heart of the matter in Louisiana, perhaps Carter and the rest of the legislature should be reminded that collegiate athletics isn’t just about generating revenue. It’s also about athletes in those unheralded sports using their talent to get an education and compete at the highest level as well.

Email Bob at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @bobmcdonald.

Image via RaginCajuns.com

Vegas 16 Tournament Recap

While the NCAA Tournament is the goal for every college basketball team heading into the season, not every program is fortunate enough to qualify for the Big Dance. Traditionally, teams that did not earn a spot in the NCAA Tournament only had the NIT as a possible way of gaining postseason experience. However in recent years, other tournaments such as the CBI and CIT have been organized, allowing for more programs to experience postseason play. Postseason tournament play can be a useful way to end the season for any team, giving their respective university national exposure.

This season, the inaugural “Vegas 16” was added to the postseason schedule. While the original goal for the selection committee was to have sixteen teams participate in the tournament, they were only able to receive accepted invitations from eight. One reason why this might be the case is the tournament’s location, the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada. Taking a group of Division I college basketball players could be seen as a risk for a program given the distractions Las Vegas, more specifically the famous Las Vegas “Strip” of mammoth hotels, casinos, and nightclubs, has to offer. Nonetheless, the tournament would continue despite the large number of declined invitations.

The teams featured in the tournament’s bracket were Old Dominion, Tennessee Tech, UC Santa Barbara, Northern Illinois, Oakland, Towson, Louisiana Tech, and East Tennessee State. The first round games were sparsely attended, as a majority of Las Vegas patrons were interested in gambling on sporting events occurring that night.

The semifinals saw Old Dominion topping UC Santa Barbara, 64-49 behind a stellar 26 point performance from senior guard Aaron Bacote. In the second semifinal game, senior guard Kay Felder propelled Oakland past East Tennessee State by recording a triple-double. Felder scored 29 points, grabbed 10 rebounds, and dished out an equal amount of assists. The Golden Grizzlies also received a terrific shooting effort from senior Max Hooper, who poured in 28 points and shot 8-11 from behind the arc. Ge’Lawn Guyn led the Buccaneers with 18.

This set the stage for a championship game of Old Dominion vs. Oakland, which took place Wednesday night. The championship game of the inaugural “Vegas 16” was without a doubt the most enthralling game of the tournament. Old Dominion was able to withstand a second half surge by the Golden Grizzlies, en route to a 68-67 nailbiter of a win. Senior guard Trey Freeman led the way for the Monarchs, racking up 24 points in his final game in a Monarchs’ uniform. Freeman ranked thirteenth in the country in points per game this season, with 22. Once again, Kay Felder led Oakland with 24 points. However, fellow senior Percy Gibson, who added 13 points, was the only other Golden Grizzly to score in double figures.

Old Dominion brings home the first ever “Vegas 16” tournament title to a newly realigned Conference USA that thoroughly enjoyed conference champion Middle Tennessee’s historic first round upset of Michigan State. Old Dominion finished in fourth place in Conference USA play, posting a 12-6 record, while sporting an overall mark of 25-13. While the “Vegas 16” is far from the NCAA Tournament, seeing two senior-led teams like Oakland and Old Dominion battle for a championship was an exciting way to end each teams’ respective seasons.

Email Alec at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @alec_kwait.

R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl: Arkansas State vs. Louisiana Tech

Question mark: How well does the Louisiana Tech fan base travel?

This game is in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, which is about a five-hour drive from campus in Ruston.  That’s not far for parents and girlfriends to travel, but will there be enough fans in the stands to turn this into the pseudo-home game it should be?

Game inside the game: Arkansas State defensive backs vs. Jeff Driskel, Louisiana Tech QB

The Red Wolves lead the nation in interceptions (26) and pick six’s (6).  Defensive backs Rocky Hayes and Money Hunter lead the charge.  Hayes has six picks to his name this fall and Hunter has returned two of his three to the house.  I’m glad I got a chance to bring these guys up because what a great pair of names.  Rocky Hayes sounds like he should be coaching the Chicago Bears during the sixties and Money Hunter (Torii’s son) sounds like the latest flavor-of-the-month rapper’s stage name.  I’m looking forward to seeing how the two of them try to prevent Driskel from throwing the ball all over.

Player to watch: Louisiana Tech quarterback, Jeff Driskel

Driskel has thrown for more yards this season (3,573) than he had in his four years at Florida combined (3,411).  Now, the Bulldogs obviously air it out far more often than the Gators ever will.  Even so, that’s a mind-blowing fun fact.  Louisiana Tech has to be thrilled with Driskel’s performance this year.  We knew he was a solid quarterback but he’s taken his game to the next level, accounting for 29 total touchdowns and just eight interceptions.  Driskel is another dual-threat guy.  Clearly, he can chuck it pretty well and he’s finished with negative rushing yards just twice this season.  Considering sack yardage counts against quarterbacks’ rushing stats in college, that’s a commendable accomplishment.  Keep your eye on Driskel as he keys the Louisiana Tech offense.

X-factor: Penalties and turnovers

Louisiana Tech is the far more disciplined team in this matchup but Arkansas State wins the turnover battle.  The Bulldogs are penalized fewer than five times per game for less than 42 yards.  The Red Wolves are on the opposite end of the spectrum, committing eight penalties for almost 78 yards, on average.  On the other hand, Arkansas State does have a much better turnover margin (+11) than Louisiana Tech does (-2).  This game could very well be determined by Arkansas State’s ability to play within the rules and Louisiana Tech’s ball security.

Prediction: Arkansas State over Louisiana Tech, 38-34

The Red Wolves’ only losses this fall came against teams that simply had more depth of talent.  These two being evenly matched, I like Arkansas State to take an early lead, intercept Driskel at least once and hold on for a close win.