2012 Record: 9-3 (4-2 in WAC)
Head Coach: Skip Holtz (First Year at La Tech, 88-71 All-Time)
Last Bowl Game: 2011 Poinsettia Bowl: lost to TCU 31-24
Stadium: "The Joe" in Ruston, LA (capacity = 30,600)
Home Field Advantage: ranked 11th out of 55 mid-major teams
Conference Affiliation: Will Join Conference USA for 2013 season
Key Conference Home Games: 11/9 vs Southern Miss, 11/23 vs Tulsa
Key Conference Road Game: 10/5 at UTEP, 11/16 at Rice
Out of conference: 8/31 at NC State, 9/7 vs Lamar, 9/21 at Kansas, 9/28 vs Army
Stat to Fear: gave up 215 plays of over 10 yards in 2012 (last in WAC, 115th in Nation)
Stat to Cheer: scored TDs on 75% of trips to red zone in 2012 (1st in WAC, 7th in Nation)
Advanced Stats (Football Outsiders 2012 FEI Ranking): 46th out of 124 teams
Phil Steele's Returning Starters: Offense: 2, Defense 4, Specialists 0
Key Defensive Returnees: DL IK Enemkpali (7.5 TFL, 6 sacks), DB Le'Vander Liggins (50 tackles), LB Mike Schrang (46 tackles)
Key Offensive Returnees: RB Kenneth Dixon (1194 yds rush, 27 TD), RB Tevin King (369 yds rush and 5 TD in 3 games), WR D.J. Banks (33 rec), RB Hunter Lee (31 rec)
CFBZ: Louisiana Tech moves from the WAC to Conference USA this season. How big of a change do you think this will be for the Bulldogs and who do you see as their primary competition in their first year in the conference?
Jimmy Watson: The competition level will definitely step up week in and week out in C-USA over last season’s WAC lineup. Tech is near the bottom of C-USA schools in athletic department funding, so the football team will be at a disadvantage from the outset. Former WAC foe Tulsa and regional foe Southern Miss are two tough outs on the 2013 slate, but the Bulldogs get both teams in Ruston.
CFBZ: Colby Cameron, and over 4,000 yards of passing, is currently in camp with the Carolina Panthers. Who will replace him and what do they bring to the table?
Jimmy Watson: Due to inherit Cameron’s spot is Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young, the 2010 Texas Gatorade Player of the Year. A 4-star recruit out of high school, Young passed for 4,467 yards in high school. He sat out last season as a transfer, but won the starting job in the spring game.
CFBZ: What are the biggest areas of concern for the Bulldogs heading into fall camp?
Jimmy Watson: There are a lot after Tech graduated 32 seniors off last year’s 9-3 club. Only one starting offensive lineman returns, untested quarterback, lack of depth at linebacker and a young secondary. There’s a new head coach, Skip Holtz, along with new offensive and defensive coordinators. How all that comes together remains to be seen.
CFBZ: What will make the 2013 season a success in your eyes?
Jimmy Watson: Tech opens at North Carolina State, but then gets two winnable games in Ruston against Lamar and Tulane. After that, the schedule toughens. A 6-6 season would be good in a rebuilding campaign under Holtz.
Louisiana Tech is one of the most intriguing teams coming into this season. Last year they won nine games but didn't go to a bowl. This off-season they lost their head coach and their offensive coordinator to Cal. They replaced Dykes with a once promising coach, Skip Holtz, who fizzled at his last job. They return only six starters (the least amount in the FBS according to Phil Steele). Sounds like a lot of bad news, right? Not so fast, because their schedule could be among the easiest in the Nation.
The biggest question-mark on this team is the coaching staff and what that will mean to a high octane offense that was the reason for their success last season. Last year, the Bulldogs averaged 577 yards per game and 51.5 points per game (both led the Nation). Holtz must install a new offense, a new QB, replace star WR Quinton Patton and their four top offensive linemen. The offense could be ugly to start this season
On defense, the Bulldogs top seven tacklers were seniors. But that could be a good thing because the senior laden defense gave up 38 points per game last season. The strength of the defense will be the line and if they can get pressure it will help out a young back seven.
Outside of the game at NC State (and they are replacing their QB) most FBS teams would be salivating to get a schedule like this. Their opponents combined to win 35% of their games last season and six of those teams won three or less. The toughest conference games they look to have are both at home (Southern Miss, Tulsa). If the Bulldogs don't go at least 6-6 with this schedule, re-building or not, there are going to be some serious red flags. This team should go bowling based on their schedule alone. I will conservatively say 7-5 and hopefully the AD gets them into a bowl game this season.
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