Football in the Western Athletic Conference hasn’t been this interesting since the days of undefeated Boise State and Hawaii teams.
Louisiana Tech, with its number 20 ranking in the latest BCS standings, has a legitimate shot at a BCS bowl berth thanks to Louisville’s lopsided loss to Syracuse last weekend.
The Bulldogs, whose only loss this season came to the same Texas A&M team that defeated previously top-ranked Alabama last Saturday, have one of the most exciting offenses in the nation, averaging 53.4 points per game.
However, everything could turn sour for Sonny Dykes’ team and arguably the entire Western Athletic Conference in general thanks to a different Aggies squad.
The Utah State Aggies are relishing the chance to play spoiler.
The Aggies, who are 8-2 and tied atop the WAC standings with Louisiana Tech at 4-0, are actually a couple of bad breaks away from being ranked themselves. A missed field goal in the closing seconds against Wisconsin resulted in a heartbreaking two-point loss and a 6-3 defeat at the hands of in-state rival BYU three weeks later are the only blemishes on Utah State’s record.
Five points separate the Aggies from perfection.
On the bright side, Utah State brings to the table this weekend something that Louisiana Tech has not seen much of this season; a defense capable of shutting down its potent offense.
The Bulldogs have yet to face the WAC’s two best defenses this season (Utah State and San Jose State), but have had considerable trouble this season against less than stellar competition because of their own defensive struggles.
Louisiana Tech is ranked last in the WAC in yards allowed, averaging over 505 yards per game given up.
The advantage on defense, coupled with a formidable offense, makes Utah State an extremely dangerous team to face.
Sophomore quarterback Chuckie Keeton presents the most obvious danger to the Bulldogs’ BCS hopes.
The dual-threat quarterback has thrown for 23 touchdowns, while also rushing for over 400 yards and an additional four scores.
In the past Keeton has failed to come up with big plays when it matters most, but has clearly been playing his best football the past few games.
In addition to Keeton, running back Kerywnn Williams brings additional ground support to the offense. The senior has already eclipsed the 1,000 yard rushing mark for the season and should be well rested for this game.
If Louisiana Tech wants to avoid the upset, it will have to play a complete game, something that hasn’t truly happened yet this season.
The Bulldogs haven’t had to rely on the defense much at all this season thanks to the stellar play of the offense, particularly quarterback Colby Cameron. The senior has thrown for 27 touchdowns, while managing to avoid throwing any interceptions.
However, another college quarterback can serve as a cautionary tale.
Alabama’s A.J. McCarron had thrown for 18 touchdowns and no interceptions through his team’s first eight games of the season and was being pegged as a potential Heisman trophy candidate.
Since then, McCarron has thrown just two touchdowns to go along with two interceptions.
The two teams Alabama played during that two game span? LSU and Texas A&M, which featured the two best defenses McCarron had seen all season.
That isn’t to say that Cameron will be completely humbled by the Utah State defense. Louisiana Tech does have an advantage due to its up-tempo pace that few teams in the nation can keep up with.
Still, the Bulldogs cannot simply count on Cameron to be a machine and hide the defensive weaknesses.
This is the WAC’s marquee matchup of the season. Weaknesses will be exploited.
It would be nice to see a non-AQ conference team make play in a BCS bowl this season.
The WAC would love to see it too, as the conference has been devastated by the loss of key programs in the past few years.
But Louisiana Tech cannot play like it did last weekend and expect to win on Saturday.
Otherwise, the underdog will take the Bulldogs out before they even have a chance to be underdogs themselves.
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