Louisiana Tech Bulldogs at Auburn Tigers
College Football: Saturday, Sept. 5, 2009, 7 PM EST
The Line: Auburn -13
The Gene Chizik era begins in Auburn under the lights at Jordan-Hare Stadium as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs roll into town, coached by Derek Dooley, the son of former Georgia head coach and legend Vince Dooley.
This game is an interesting matchup, as Louisiana Tech is a team on its way up and a bowl winner from a year ago, while Auburn is a program trying to rebound from a miserable season that sent Tommy Tuberville packing.
Auburn is just loaded with top-tier talent. Tuberville was a master recruiter, and he definitely didn't leave the cupboard bare. Ben Tate returns to lead the running game, and former Texas Tech transfer Chris Todd gets his second chance to be the Tigers' starter at QB. Tommy Trott is one of the better tight ends in the country.
Last season was a disaster for Todd. He was benched for Kodi Burns and never got the offense in gear. It's safe to say Auburn as a team never got in gear.
While the Tigers lost NFL-quality talent on defense, they also return some very good players from a defense that was 18th in the country in scoring defense and 29th in yards against. It is tough to even think about where they could have ranked if their offense had had the ability to move the ball at all.
Auburn returns its leading tackler, linebacker Zac Etheridge, and standout defensive end Antonio Coleman, who is on every postseason award watch list.
Chizik has a lot to work with, and the Tigers have never lost to a WAC team. The pressure is going to be on in more ways than one, as Tiger fans hope last year was just an aberration and not what they should be expecting for years to come. Chizik is hoping to put his past few years as head coach of Iowa State behind him as well.
Dooley will try to get his Louisiana Tech Bulldogs one rung or more higher on the pecking order as they continued to climb the ladder in the WAC last season. The Bulldogs return 17 starters from a team that went 8-5 and was a bowl winner.
La. Tech doesn't just return starters; they return key players from last season's squad. Senior running back Daniel Porter ran for over 1,100 yards last season and looks to only improve on that mark.
The Bulldogs had one of the top rushing defenses in the country and were No. 1 in the country on special teams.
Even though Auburn was down last year, this would be a huge step forward and up for Louisiana Tech, and they are treating it as such. Practices have been long and hard, but this has the Bulldogs prepped and ready to go.
Trouble against the spread didn't just start last season for Auburn. AU is 5-12 against the spread in its last 17 at home and 2-12 against the spread in its last 14 as a double-digit favorite.
Louisiana Tech is just 1-6 in its last seven against the spread when playing SEC teams and 9-23 in its last 32 as a double-digit underdog.
While none of these trends are encouraging, I think Louisiana Tech is just in a better position to break its trends. While I think Auburn clearly has the better talent and players, the Bulldogs have a far better coach, and that goes a long way.
I think the Bulldogs have a shot at the upset here, but even if they fall short, the 13 points or even more at game time will be enough.
I do not like the thought of Chris Todd against this defense.
Mitch's Pick: Louisiana Tech +13