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
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
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