The Texas Bowl could be decided by the team that can limit its opponent’s biggest strength.
Tuesday’s matchup between LSU and Texas Tech features a stark contrast in styles. The Red Raiders are built on a potent passing attack that lights up the scoreboard while surrendering just as many points to opponents. The Tigers utilize a conservative, run-oriented barrage led by an explosive tailback in Leonard Fournette.
LSU will look to end a tumultuous season on a positive note after starting the season 7-0 then dropping three-consecutive games to SEC West opponents. A Texas Bowl victory would give coach Les Miles a leg up after he was scrutinized and dealt with plenty of speculation regarding his job security.
Here’s everything you need to know about the Texas Bowl:
Texas Bowl: LSU Tigers (8-3) vs. Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) (NRG Stadium in Houston)
Kickoff: Tuesday, Dec. 29 at 9 p.m. ET
Weather: Game will be played inside a dome
Line: LSU -7
By the numbers
46.6 – Texas Tech ranks second in the nation with an average of 46.6 points per game. The Red Raiders scored at least 44 points in five games this season.
389.7 – The Red Raiders have the best aerial attack in the nation with an average of 389.7 passing yards per game. They are also tied for ninth in the country with 35 touchdown passes. Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury utilizes an Air Raid spread offense that was second in the nation with an average of 47 pass attempts per game. LSU’s defense ranks 50th in the nation with an average of 211 passing yards allowed per game.
271.8 – Texas Tech has one of the worst run defenses in the country. The Red Raiders rank 126th out of 128 FBS teams with an average of 271.8 rushing yards allowed per game. Opponents ran for 42 touchdowns against the Red Raiders in 2015.
158.3 – LSU tailback Leonard Fournette should feast against Texas Tech’s putrid run defense. The sophomore led the nation with an average of 158.3 rushing yards per game and is tied for seventh with 18 touchdowns. LSU will try to get Fournette going early and often on Tuesday.
Storylines to watch
What to expect from Brandon Harris?
Much will be made about Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes and the pass-happy Red Raiders, but Brandon Harris will be an important player to watch on Tuesday night. Harris had a mercurial sophomore campaign with flashes of potential along the way. He threw for 1,904 yards, 12 touchdowns and five interceptions while Fournette carried the offense for most of the season.
Harris was unable to pick up the offense when Fournette was stymied during LSU’s skid. A strong performance in his first bowl start would be an encouraging indicator of growth for the quarterback heading into next season.
Which strength will prevail?
LSU will look to pound the rock and drain the clock, while Texas Tech will air it out and prepare for a shootout. LSU likely cannot win a shootout given Harris’ inconsistent play this season. Tech cannot win if its defense is on the field for the majority of the game.
To steal a basketball expression, the team that can set the tempo of the game will likely win. The Red Raiders can score at a rapid pace and a two-possession lead won’t be safe. LSU will be sure to establish the running game right away and keep Mahomes and the Red Raiders on the sideline.
Who wins the turnover battle?
Turnovers could be the difference between these two teams. LSU did a good job of protecting the football, but did not generate many takeaways this season. The Tigers have a plus-7 turnover margin with just 16 takeaways and nine giveaways. The Red Raiders gave the ball away with more regularity, but also made up for it by taking the ball away at a good rate. Texas Tech finished tied for 27th with 24 takeaways, but gave the ball away 22 times.