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Louisiana Tech Favored Despite Glaring Defensive Weakness

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Published on:
Sep/30/2009

With 16 starters returning from a bowl team in 2008, Louisiana Tech was considered a sleeper team that might challenge Boise State for the WAC title. The Bulldogs' (1-2, 0-2 ATS) loss to Auburn was hardly a shocker and they were underdogs at Navy, however it has been the margin and yardage differences that have brought a frown to fans. With the conference slate starting on Wednesday, Tech is a 4-1/2 point favorite against Hawaii, at Sportsbook.com.

The Bulldogs lost to Auburn 37-13 and were outgained 556-245 as 12-point underdogs. We have since learned the Tigers are about as good as anyone in the country offensively this season. Louisiana Tech took a 14-0 lead at Navy but never scored again in a 32-14 thumping, as the Middies' running game piled up 290 yards on the ground. The Bulldogs knocked off Nicholls State 48-13, but that did little to quell the uncertainty.

 After three games, the Bulldogs ranked 118th (out of 120) against the run in the country. Now comes the crazy part, after three games being road-grated, their rushing defense will undoubtedly improve against pass-happy Hawaii (2-1, 2-0 ATS).

"Everything we've been doing for three weeks, we just say, ‘Forget about it. It doesn't work anymore,'" Coach Derek Dooley said in the Monroe News Star. "Now we have to switch our personnel around, switch who is in the game, and change the whole scheme. ... It's not like they're having to learn a whole new defense, but everything's different. It's four-wide, it's throwing it every down."

If coach Dooley sounds a little exasperated, he probably is because he set high goals for this team. The Bulldogs will need to generate a consistent pass rush against Hawaii, but only have two sacks on the year. Last year's running game that averaged 187 yards per game on the ground, has stalled at 97.3 YPG (104th) and this team isn't good enough to win without a running game. They are also just 8-21 ATS vs. teams with winning records.

It's starting to look like business as usual as Hawaii opens WAC play, being the top team in the country in pass offense at 423.3 yards per game and sixth in total offense behind the arm of quarterback Greg Alexander. He has some outstanding targets to fire to in Kealoha Pilares and Rodney Bradley, for a squad that is 9-3 ATS in its last dozen lined contests.

This is the Warriors' third straight road game and they are playing with a defense that is being rebuilt with only two starters back. They squandered leads at UNLV and lost 34-33 as 7.5-point underdogs. Sportsbook.com has Hawaii as 4.5-point underdogs with total of 54.5 but they are 2-10 ATS as dogs with rest. Louisiana Tech is 6-1 ATS at Joe Aillet Stadium since 2006, but 1-4 in L5 against the number when favored by 3.5 to 10 points.

The former Rainbow Warriors are 18-6 OVER after two or more consecutive wins against the spread, while the Bulldogs are 5-1 OVER in recent WAC matchups.

This game is being telecast on ESPN2 at 8Eastern, with Louisiana Tech 1-6 SU and 2-5 ATS against Hawaii, which included a 45-44 OT loss two years ago at home as 28-point underdogs. The loser of this game has a long road to the postseason; the winner emerges as one of the top threats to Boise State.

 

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