Premature Preview 2011: Louisiana Tech

Previously: Memphis, Auburn, LSU

Time to take a look at Mississippi State’s Week 4 opponent. Last time these teams met – Aug. 30, 2008 – was a dark night for MSU football. What was supposed to be a routine trip to Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston turned into a 22-14 loss that set the tone for Sylvester Croom‘s final season in Starkville. The Bulldogs are in a different place now, though.

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Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (Sept. 24, in Starkville)

Conference: WAC

2010 record: 5-7 (4-4, 5th in WAC)

Final ranking: Not ranked

Coach: Sonny Dykes (5-7, one year)

Returning starters: 15 (6 offense, 7 defense, 2 specialists)

Last meeting: Louisiana Tech, 22-14 (Aug. 30, 2008, in Ruston)

On the web: latechsports.com

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Starkville is the second stop on Louisiana Tech’s tour of Mississippi. Those Bulldogs open the 2011 season at Southern Miss on Sept. 3, then visit Ole Miss on Nov. 12.

Under Dykes last season, Tech improved offensively, as it ran the spread schemes he employed as Arizona’s offensive coordinator. Dykes’ offensive coordinator is familiar with the style – that’d be Tony Franklin, formerly of Middle Tennessee State, Auburn and Troy. The Bulldogs ranked 49th in the country in total offense with 389.8 yards per game, including 40th in rushing offense (170.9 ypg). Leading that rushing attack again this season will be senior Lennon Creer, who had 1,181 yards and 10 touchdowns last fall.

Tech must replace quarterback Ross Jenkins (1,760 yards, 12 TDs, 6 INTs), and it’s also dealing with the recent dismissal of receivers Tim Molton and Ahmad Paige. Both players were SEC transfers (Molton from LSU, Paige from Tennessee) and had their 2010 season cut short by injuries.

The QB race is led by junior Colby Cameron, who started three games last year before giving way to Jenkins. In 10 games, Cameron was 54 of 91 for 461 yards, one TD and five interceptions.

Defensively, Tech struggled quite a bit last year. It allowed 30.7 points per game – which actually ranked sixth in the WAC – 462.1 total yards per game (eighth in WAC, 116th nationally) and 290.2 passing yards per game (ninth in WAC, 117th nationally). A big returnee up front is senior left end Matt Broha, who was third in the league in sacks (9.0) and fourth in tackles-for-loss (14.0).

Another key returnee is senior linebacker Jay Dudley, who led the team in tackles last year with 94.

Up next: Georgia