Tigers prepare for bowl matchup with Texas Tech
The smoke has cleared in the wake of the Les Miles coaching drama. With questions pertaining to his future in Baton Rouge being answered, it’s now time to play some football.
For the 16th straight year, the Tigers made it to a bowl game. On Dec. 29, they’ll face off against Texas Tech in the AdvoCare Texas Bowl in Houston’s NRG Stadium.
The clash with the Red Raiders will be the first for LSU since 1954. It’s the first time they have played a team from the Big 12 Conference since the 2011 Cotton Bowl when they beat Texas A&M, 41-24. The Aggies joined the SEC in the fall of 2012.
It isn’t hard to figure out what LSU’s biggest concern will be heading into the contest. They’ll have their hands full stopping Texas Tech’s second-ranked passing attack.
The Red Raiders are averaging 47 points and 596 yards per game. Both of those marks are second to Baylor.
Quarterback Patrick Mahomes is the nation’s third-leading passer with 4,283 passing yards. He’s completing 65 percent of his passes and has thrown 32 touchdowns, but he has been picked off 14 times.
Mahomes has also proven do be a dangerous runner—rushing for 484 yards and 10 scores this season.
The Red Raiders have a bevy of dangerous receivers. They have three wideouts that finished with at least 551 yards.
Their leader is Jakeem Grant. He only stands at 5-foot-7, but he is one of the most explosive players in the country. For the season, he has 80 catches for 1,143 yards and seven touchdowns.
This top-notch passing attack will certainly test an LSU secondary that has struggled throughout the year. They uncharacteristically finished the regular season ranked No. 47 in passing yards allowed with 211 per game.
However, they did have an encouraging effort in the regular-season finale against Texas A&M when they held Kyle Allen to just 161 yards.
Because of how potent Texas Tech’s passing attack has been, their running game is often overlooked, but it has been extremely productive. Running back DeAndre Washington has rushed for 1,455 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Fortunately for LSU, the strength of their defense has been against the run. They rank 24th and only yield 132 yards per contest.
The Tigers will be hoping their ground game can help them control the clock and keep Texas Tech off of the field.
The Red Raiders are ranked just 124th in scoring defense—giving up a whopping 43 points per game. They have surrendered at least 31 points eight times this year.
Their run defense is ranked 125th as they yield 272 rushing yard per contest. That bolds well for Leonard Fournette—who is fresh off of setting the new school record for most rushing yards in a single season with 1,741.
But if LSU wants to keep up with the Red Raider scoring, they’ll have to get something out of Brandon Harris and the Tiger passing attack. This will be a prime opportunity for them to shine as Texas Tech only ranks 113th in passing yards allowed.
After a promising start to the season, Harris has been shaky. In the 1-3 stretch to end the year, he threw just three touchdowns opposed to five interceptions.
In the finale against Texas A&M, he was off the mark all night—consistently missing open receivers. He finished just 7-21 for 83 yards with one pick.
Once again, he’ll be without one of his top targets in Travin Dural—who was lost for the year when he tore his hamstring in the defeat at Ole Miss.
Miles said that he expects Harris to play much better in the bowl game.
“We throw the ball during practice all the time, but we want specifically to have an efficient passing game,” Miles said. “We need more completions and more yards. I think we got a nice start to the game plan. Coach Cam (Cameron) has us heading in the right direction.
“I think Brandon has had a great attitude heading into the bowl practice. In other words, his personal necessity to throw better and be more accurate is what he is working on. It looks pretty good from here. He has the right attitude and is certainly heading in the right direction.”
Texas Tech and LSU have played one common opponent this season. Back in September, the Red Raiders beat Arkansas by 11 in Fayetteville. The Tigers lost, 31-14, to the Razorbacks in Baton Rouge on Nov. 14.
LSU is desperate for a bowl win. They are just 1-3 in their last three postseason games. This includes a 31-28 loss to Notre Dame in last year’s Music City Bowl.