Boise State 2009 opponent preview: Louisiana Tech

Projected Record: 6-6 overall, 4-4 conference
At-a-glance: The Bulldogs are the bee's knees as far as WAC hype goes. But will they live up to it? The defense has some players, the offense returns some studs. All that's left is for Ross Jenkins to complete some passes.

As I am writing this LaTech preview, I have the OBNUG Intern standing guard at my office door, testing all my foods and beverages for poison, filing my application for the Witness Protection Program, and packing heat. I'm about to rub the shine off of Derek Dooley and the Bulldogs. If I'm not dead in three hours, it'll be a miracle.

These are the facts: Louisiana Tech finished with eight wins last year, won the school's first bowl game since 1977, and defeated an SEC team during the regular season. Derek Dooley is their coach. Daniel Porter is their running back. Antonio Baker is their safety. Ross Jenkins is their quarterback.

This is the hyperbole: Louisiana Tech is one of the hottest non-BCS football teams in the country and a darkhorse for that BCS thing. Derek Dooley is the greatest coach/AD since Eric Taylor, and every male child born in America should want to grow up to be like him. Daniel Porter is Herschel Walker, Antonio Baker is Ronnie Lott, and Ross Jenkins isn't the dealbreaker some people think he is.

I credit Derek Dooley for a lot of things, not the least of which are the facts and the hyperbole. But for all Dooley has done to get his Bulldogs to the cusp of Graham Watson's infatuated wordsmithing, he has yet to win a single game in 2009 ... much less nine games ... much less any games against the Broncos.

That is the reality. Please don't hurt me.

 

Wins in 2008: 8
Pythagorean Wins in 2008: 6.1
Translation: LT should have had about six wins, the largest diff. in the conference
Returning starters: Offense: 9, Defense:7
Strength of Schedule: 93
Recruiting ranking 2005-2009: 97, 97, 99, 96, 80 (nat'l ranking from Scout.com)
WAC recruiting ranking 2005-2009: 6, 6, 5, 5, 4

Five Questions

Why are you so afraid of Derek Dooley?

Dooley is an intense, motivated, possibly-supernatural human being. Have you looked into his eyes? I have, and I felt cold. He is the rare breed of coach and athletic director, and he is determined to turn Louisiana Tech into a contender.

I agree with all that. I'm just not yet convinced that he is a good coach. Against the Broncos last year, he was outcoached badly by Coach Pete; it wasn't even close (much like the scoreboard). He thought that starting Taylor Bennett at quarterback and Patrick Jackson at running back were good ideas, and neither of them finished the season as the starters. He is enthusiastic, yes, but he might be kind of bumbling. Intern, the door!  THE DOOR!

Daniel Porter is my favorite WAC running back not currently on the Broncos' roster.

Mine, too. I vividly remember Porter bouncing over and through the Bronco defense last season, and I can only imagine the damage he can inflict with a starting job this fall. Also, there's this: The Bulldogs return every single offensive lineman from a season ago, including second-team WAC OT Rob McGill. If it wasn't for Ross Jenkins personally inviting nine men into the box on every single play, then Porter might be in line for a record-breaking season.

How important are cornerbacks, really?

For LaTech, the cornerback position will be extremely important. One of the few roster spots that needs filling, cornerback is either going to make or break the Bulldogs in 2009. LT was not particularly good against the pass last season (275ypg), and you can't think they will be much better having to break in two new players on both corners.

Their one saving grace might be FS Antonio Baker, a first-team WACer last season. Baker will need to be at his playmaking best in order to make up for any insufficiencies on the edge.

Do the Bulldogs have a chance to beat any SEC teams this season?

If you are asking if there are any SEC teams on the schedule, then yes, there are. As far as if LaTech has any chance at beating them, well, probably not.

For sure, the Bulldog's trip to Death Valley to face LSU would be a tall task to expect a win. However, an opening week date at Auburn is a little more reasonable. Will the Fighting Chizik's be ripe for a loss? Maybe. The game does have shades of LT's Mississippi State upset last season.

Phillip Livas: Devin Hester or Dante Hall?

Livas fits the mold of a Devin Hester-type player, one who is solid at both receiving and returning. But then again, you'll have to take hyperbole's word for it. Livas led the team last season with only 607 yards and two scores, and it took the Bulldogs until Week 11 versus NMSU to complete a TD to a wide receiver. Still, people consider Livas to be a game-changer. Then again, people still consider Hester to be a game-changer, so I guess the comparison is apt.

Schedule around the Boise State game

  • 10/24 @ Utah State
  • 10/31 @ Idaho
  • 11/6 Boise State
  • 11/14 @ LSU
  • 11/21 @ Fresno State

By the numbers

  • 5 - sacks by first-team all-WAC DT D'Anthony Smith, the team leader in that category
  • 1 - conference win for LaTech in 2006. In 2008, they had five.

Louisiana Tech's banner 2008 does not necessarily mean that a stupendous 2009 is in store. There are a lot of things that could go wrong: Ross Jenkins, injuries, Ross Jenkins.

But let me share some practical advice for those dropping everything to jump behind the Bulldogs' bandwagon. Last year, Louisiana Tech played in six one-score games, going 4-2 in those contests. This shows that the Bulldogs weren't all that far apart from most of their opponents last year.

Then factor in a much tougher schedule in 2009, and you're almost asking for trouble. The Bulldogs may be living under the guise of increased expectations despite not really deserving all the credit. To live up to the hype, they are going to have to be noticeably better than last year against a tangibly tougher schedule.

Will it be too much for the Bulldogs to handle? I'm not saying ... because I think I just saw Derek Dooley shove something in my car tailpipe.


Perfect situation
LaTech beats Auburn to start the season, Ross Jenkins gets confidence, Bulldogs beat Nevada and head undefeated for a date with the Broncos, that doesn't go so well, neither does the LSU game, LT still finishes 10-2 and goes big-time bowling

Reality
The schedule proves way more difficult than previously thought, Jenkins proves way more inept, and Dooley wills the team to a .500-ish record

Final record
6-6 overall, 4-4 conference

Previous previews of 2009 opponents: Oregon. Miami (Ohio). Bowling Green. UC Davis. Tulsa. San Jose State. Utah State. Fresno State. NMSU. Hawaii. Last ones left: Nevada, Idaho.

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