Louisiana Tech (0-0) at NC State (0-0)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, August 31, 12:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Carter-Finley Stadium (57,583) -- Raleigh, North Carolina. Television: ACC Network. Home Record: Lousiana Tech 0-0, NC State 0-0. Away Record: Lousiana Tech 0-0, NC State 0-0. Neutral Record: Lousiana Tech 0-0, NC State 0-0. Conference Record: Lousiana Tech 0-0, NC State 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: A pair of head coaches will make their debut with their new schools as the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs kick off their season on the road at Carter-Finley Stadium against the NC State Wolfpack.
Coach Sonny Dykes left Louisiana Tech to take on the same position at California after leading the Bulldogs to a 9-3 finish in 2012. The Bulldogs were left out of the postseason after declining an invitation to the Independence Bowl and being passed on by the Liberty Bowl, which they had not expected. Louisiana Tech hired former East Carolina and South Florida head coach Skip Holtz to guide the rising program into the Conference USA.
NC State elected to make a coaching change even though it went 7-6 and went to a bowl game for the third straight season. Tom O'Brien was fired before the team suffered its 38-24 loss to Vanderbilt in the Music City Bowl and former NIU head coach Dave Doeren was hired shortly after he collected his second consecutive MAC Championship. Doeren compiled a 23-4 record in his two years at NIU and led the mid-major school to a BCS bowl game for the first time in school history.
Louisiana Tech led the FBS in both total offense (577.9 yards per game) and scoring offense (51.5 points per game) in 2012 with Colby Cameron under center. It collected its second straight WAC Championship and Tech set a new single-season program record for total offensive yards with 6,935. The previous record was 6,504 total offensive yards recorded in 1998.
Texas Tech transfer Scotty Young has the potential to be an excellent replacement as he was one of the top quarterback prospects in the nation prior to college. The Bulldogs have to find new leaders at wide receiver also after graduating Quinton Patton and Myles White, who combined for over 2,000 yards in 2012. Senior D.J. Banks (5-9, 185) made 33 catches for 434 yards last season, but other wideouts like Hunter Lee, Andrew Guillot and Paul Turner will need to emerge as playmakers to keep the ball rolling.
The offense has a reliable piece at tailback in sophomore Kenneth Dixon. He was the 35th leading rusher in the FBS as a rookie with 1,194 yards and led the nation with 27 touchdowns, which also established a new WAC record. Dixon gained 6.0 yards per carry despite registering just under 200 attempts.
Only three starters from 2012 are back on the defensive side of the ball for Louisiana Tech, but change in personnel may be a good thing considering the team finished 120th in total defense (526.1 ypg) and 116th in scoring defense (38.5 ppg).
The front line is the most secure point of the defense thanks to Shakell Lucas (6-2, 285), Justin Ellis (6-2, 330) and IK Ememkpali (6-2, 250), who led the team with 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks a season ago. Junior cornerback Le'Vander Liggins is the only returning starter to the five-man secondary.
NC State also has a big-time passer to replace after Mike Glennon was selected in the third-round of the NFL Draft this past April. Glennon was outstanding as he accounted for 297.5 of the team's 421.2 yards per game (70.6 percent).
Matt Canada has an experienced quarterback in his first year as the team's offensive coordinator with Pete Thomas (6-6, 236) becoming eligible. Thomas sat out 2012, but he was a two-year starter at Colorado State. The pocket passer comes in with 4,269 passing yards, 18 touchdowns and 21 interceptions.
Thomas will benefit from having a couple of veteran receivers back in the fold in senior Quinton Payton and junior Bryan Underwood. Payton has prototypical size which helped he make 51 grabs for 798 yards and two touchdowns in 2012. Underwood relies more on his speed, which he used on his way to 44 catches, 620 yards and a team-best 10 touchdowns.
Doeren's NIU team surprised the nation last season behind a stellar performance from his duel-threat signal caller. Thomas is not a threat to take off and run, but the Wolfpack have back their top two rushers from a year ago, in sophomore Shadrach Thornton (694 yards, three TDs) and junior Tony Creecy (476 yards, five TDs).
Defensively, NC State was just the eighth best in the ACC in terms of total yards allowed per game (404.7), but placed fourth in points allowed (25.6 ppg) thanks to its aggressive nature. Dave Huxtable took on his second defensive coordinator job in 2012 at Pittsburgh and will begin his third with the Wolfpack this year.
Doeren and Huxtable have to replace six defensive starters, including former first-team All-ACC pick Earl Wolff. The defensive front has some capable pass rushers in Darryl Cato-Bishop (36 tackles, 6.5 sacks) and Art Norman (33 tackles, 5.5 sacks), who should provide constant pressure off the edges.
Thomas didn't post astounding numbers during his first two years at CSU, but he has never had as reliable of an offensive line or as talented receivers as he does now. It is hard to see Louisiana Tech maintaining its potency offensively due to the loss of its key weapons. The Bulldogs are very weak defensively, but have a chance if Thomas plays with confidence and the defense makes some big plays.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: NC State 30, Louisiana Tech 21
08/28 10:41:38 ET