LSU TIGERS (8-3) vs. TEXAS TECH RED RAIDERS (7-5)
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET/6 p.m. PT
Las Vegas: LSU -7.5
Last year’s Texas Bowl inspired Bret Bielema’s “borderline erotic” comment over the summer, one of many BERTisms that drew ire. Among the irked: Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who didn’t hold back after his Red Raiders beat Bielema’s Arkansas Razorbacks in September.
Given Arkansas’ reversal of fortune in the second half of the season, the win over Arkansas stands up as one of the two marquee wins on Kingsbury’s resume. The other came in the postseason when Tech drubbed Arizona State in the 2013 Holiday Bowl.
Another SEC opponent that plays an old-school style. Another bowl game. Another big win for Kingsbury?
It certainly would be big in the sense LSU is a relatively hefty favorite, and the prevailing narrative among national media is Tech’s No. 126-rushing defense will get abused by Leonard Fournette and a talented LSU offensive line.
At nearly 272 rushing yards allowed per game, it’s unrealistic to project the Texas Tech front seven morphing into Alabama’s, even with a month to game-plan for the Tigers. Fournette is going to get yards, but the Red Raiders can get advantages in two ways.
Forcing LSU to put the ball in the air as much as possible has been a proven model for success against this team. Tuesday is the perfect time for David Gibbs to get loose with his play-calling, stacking eight and sometimes nine defenders in the box to essentially beg Brandon Harris to throw.
And, if a shootout unfolds, Patrick Mahomes has proven adept at going Guns Up. Mahomes is the nation’s third-leading passer, piling up 4,283 yards, with another 484 on the ground.
For as vaunted as LSU is defensively, the Tigers gave up 30-plus points against less explosive offenses than Tech’s three times in November. The Tiger defense suffered other head-scratching lapses, like allowing 24 to Syracuse and South Carolina, 22 to Eastern Michigan and 35 to Florida.
Tech’s ability to score isn’t in doubt. Its ability to do so while keeping pace with the points LSU is sure to drop on the Red Raider defense is much less of a certainty.