Tuesday, October 9, 2012
Texas A&M-Louisiana Tech Preview
The season opener between Texas A&M and Louisiana Tech was postponed, but it was definitely worth the wait as these surging teams will meet for the first time when both are in the Top 25.
The 22nd-ranked Aggies look to improve to 11-0 in this series Saturday night in Shreveport, where the 23rd-ranked Bulldogs will try to extend the nation's longest regular-season winning streak to 13 and improve to 6-0 for the first time.
Looking to open its inaugural SEC season and first under coach Kevin Sumlin on a positive note, Texas A&M (4-1) never made the trip for the Aug. 30 matchup against Louisiana Tech due to Hurricane Isaac.
Since losing 20-17 to then-No. 24 Florida in their season opener Sept. 8, the Aggies have rolled off four straight victories -- the team's best run since a six-game win streak Oct. 23-Nov. 25, 2010.
Despite a season-high six turnovers, Texas A&M won its first SEC road game last Saturday, 30-27 over Mississippi. Redshirt freshman Johnny Manziel led two late fourth-quarter touchdown drives, running for a 29-yard score and throwing a 20-yard TD pass to senior Ryan Swope.
Manziel's passing efficiency of 162.8 is 12th in the FBS, and he leads the Aggies with 495 rushing yards and seven scores on the ground.
"Their quarterback play has been really good. He is kind of a unique player with talent," Louisiana Tech coach Sonny Dykes said. "He is very, very difficult to contain. He is somebody that if you rush him he makes more plays, but if you let him sit back there and have all day then he will pick you apart throwing the football. So, it is kind of a unique challenge."
Sumlin also realizes his squad faces a tough test. The Bulldogs are third in the nation with 53.2 points per game and are averaging 523.4 yards, 11th-most in the FBS. They defeated UNLV 58-31 last Saturday.
"I'm not surprised by them being ranked," Sumlin said. "... They're not going to be intimated by us one bit, and they shouldn't be. This is a game that doesn't surprise me where they are. As a matter of fact, I think they're probably a little low being ranked."
The Bulldogs are in the Top 25 for the second time and first since 1999, and they're trying to surpass the 1975 team that also opened with five wins.
"(Being ranked) is just a distraction," senior cornerback Quinn Giles said. "We do not really look at that. We are not worried about being ranked right now. We are just trying to win games."
Louisiana Tech, though, is winless in 13 straight against ranked opponents since a 40-28 victory at then-No. 23 Fresno State on Dec. 2, 2005.
However, the Bulldogs could change that if they remain among the best in turnover margin, as they are tied for second in the FBS at plus-2.2.
Senior Colby Cameron can take plenty of credit for that with 13 TDs and no interceptions, while the defense has recovered 10 fumbles and recorded five INTs -- all in the last three games.
Louisiana Tech's secondary could have its hands full with Mike Evans, Thomas Johnson, Uzoma Nwachukwu and Swope, who is one shy of 200 receptions, but Dykes' team cannot ignore a rushing attack that's totaled 218 yards or more during each of the last four games.
The Bulldogs' running game is 16th in the FBS with 232.2 yards per game. Senior Ray Holley and freshman Kenneth Dixon, who was named the Western Athletic Conference offensive player of the week after running for 102 yards and four TDs last Saturday, should get plenty of touches against the Aggies with Tevin King out for the year with a torn ACL.
Texas A&M, which is holding opponents to 3.2 yards per carry, is 14th in the FBS in scoring defense at 14.8.
The Aggies, a 48-16 winner the last time these teams met Sept. 11, 2010, posted a 37-17 victory in their only road game versus Louisiana Tech on Sept. 4, 1999.