SOC – Louisiana Tech September 21, 2012
I’ve been on a little roll predicting our score. Not the other team’s score, mind you, but ours. Started with the bowl game – I said 20-13, it was 20-14. For Western Michigan I said 30-17; we won 24-7. ASU I had us losing 27-17; we scored 14, but, oh yeah, we gave up 44. For Charleston Southern I said 48-6; the score was 44-0.
There’s a reason I’m saying this. Because I’m pretty sure I’m predicting a loss tomorrow when I get to the end of this post. And it will likely be because I don’t think we can outscore Louisiana Tech. So I’ll put our score a little low. And then, since my streak of getting really close to the number of points that our offense will score is bound to end this week, we’ll end up scoring much MORE, and we’ll win because of my double inverted reverse jinx. Be thankful I thought ahead.
Because yes, I’m pretty sure we lose this one. Five reasons:
1) I started the season predicting 6-6. And in that prediction I said 2-2 start to the season. I said we’d split with WMU/LaTech, lose at Arizona State, and beat our FCS opponent. At the end of that post I predicted a win over WMU. Which means I pretty much predicted a loss to Louisiana Tech.
2) We might still have eight starters out. Yes, Tim Beckman said that Nathan is “close to 100%”, but I’m still not convinced he plays. If an ankle injury is bad enough to keep you out of the next game, it’s likely bad enough to keep you out of three games. Nathan is a tough kid, so maybe he plays, but I’m still not convinced our “he’ll play this week” isn’t a smokescreen.
But it’s not just Nathan. Will Graham Pocic return? Ouch if he doesn’t. What about Nick Immekus? Will we get our starting kicker back? Houston Bates? Hull has to be out. Sanni again too. Darius Millines was in a sling on the sideline last week. Josh Ferguson was wearing shorts and dealing with a concussion. That’s eight pivotal players who still might be out. If they’re out, against this opponent, we’re in trouble.
3) Remember the Arizona State game? You know, the one where we lost by 30 for the first time since Ohio State in 2009? That still happened. Everything that ASU exposed is still there. Our struggles with tempo on defense, our struggles in the passing game, our depth issues – all of that is still there. Just because we destroyed a high school team last week doesn’t mean those issues are gone.
The good news is, Louisiana Tech’s defense is awful. So we might be able to score at will. The bad news is, their offense is significantly better than Arizona State. This is a team that nearly beat TCU in a bowl game last year, returned everyone on offense, and is averaging 56 points per game coming in. If we didn’t fix our Arizona State defensive issues, they’re going to score 50 again.
4) We’re still new at this. I said in August that the Indiana game is when I expect us to start to click in our new schemes. Everything is still foreign right now (including, apparently, our defensive signals). In most cases, it just takes time to settle into a scheme change from a pro-set, under center offense to a shotgun spread.
You know how Purdue is fairly good this year? It’s not really because of talent – they’ve had some of the worst recruiting classes in the Big Ten. The main reason I think Purdue is decent this year is because it’s year four of their offense. Caleb TerBush isn’t some extremely talented blue chip QB. But he’s pretty good in this offense because he’s been doing it for 48+ months. Same plays, same formations, same signals, over and over and over for four years. After a while, you get it down.
We don’t have anything down. Nathan Scheelhaase was recruited for the Locksley offense, ran the Schultz offense as a redshirt, then had Petrino for two years, and now a switch back to the spread under Gonzales/Beatty. He’s starting over nearly every year. That’s no way to build a program.
5) Louisiana Tech is really good. There’s a reason we’re only a 2 point favorite. As I said before, they nearly beat TCU last year, won their first two games handily, and, if they beat us and Virginia, can start to think “beat Texas A&M and we’re headed to a BCS bowl”.
OK, so they’re probably not BCS good – they’ll probably lose two of those three games – but they might be our toughest home opponent. I KNOW they’re the toughest offense we’ll face at home. The Big Ten defenses are better, but seriously, tell me you wouldn’t pick LaTech over Penn State if they were playing in Happy Valley tomorrow. Or pick LaTech to blow out Indiana. Minnesota, too. The only team remaining on our home schedule that wouldn’t be an underdog to LaTech is Purdue. And Purdue is the weakest Leaders Division favorite of the next 133 years.
Given all of that, and with the Arizona State disaster, I just can’t pick us to win tomorrow. I fear that more than half of those players listed above won’t play, and we just don’t have the depth to cover for that. Especially against a team that is going to try to run 100 offensive plays tomorrow. Heart says yes, head says no.
Louisiana Tech 37, Illinois 34