An absurdly premature assessment of the 2010 Bulldogs.
Why They Might Look Familiar: The Bulldogs are frequently celebrated in this space for the sideline facial contortions of their coach, but as he's recently decamped to the SEC, you'll have to content yourselves with knowing Louisiana Tech also produced Terry Bradshaw. (Try not to hold that against them.) Tech is also one half of the most far-flung conference rivalry in the history of college sports, residing a mere 4,030 miles from WAC-mate Hawaii.
Other morsels of knowledge to impress the WAC ladies include the most excellently-named rivalry with Fresno State, the annual "Battle for the Bone." (Because they both have dog mascots, geddit?) And speaking of Bulldogs, take a moment to appreciate the kind of literal mind that names a cuddly bulldog "Tech." The current canine spokescritter, Tech XX, is indeed a dog and not a brand of extreme deodorant or trick bicycle.
Previously on: Two bad non-conference losses to Auburn and Navy, four victories over lesser-matched nonentities, and five close losses powered the Bulldogs to a 4-8 finish, good for sixth place in the WAC. None of those wins was remotely close: Tech dispatched Nicholls State, Hawaii, New Mexico State and San Jose State by a combined margin of 175-46.
The hair-raisers, on the other hand, all ended in defeat, including two-point losses at Utah State and Fresno State and a 35-34 disappointment at Idaho, a game the Bulldogs led by two touchdowns with six minutes to play. And in one of the more morbidly fascinating games of the entire season, Tech actually led LSU at the half and in all major statistical categories throughout a 24-16 loss in Baton Rouge. A might-have-been season was capped with the loss of head coach/athletic director Derek Dooley to Tennessee.
Encounters in the wild: The team travels to Texas A&M in Week 2 and to Navy in Week 3. An Oct. 26 date with Boise State will get the Tuesday night primetime slot on ESPN2. Other non-conference opponents include the Doc's Southern Miss in Week 4 and an opener with Grambling State. (Given the rest of this schedule, we suppose they've earned an early tune-up.)
Stock characters: Dooley's departure opened the door for one Sonny Dykes, late of Arizona and (more importantly) of Texas Tech, where he was immersed in the finer points of Mike Leach's prolific "Air Raid." Between his hiring and the poaching of spread guru Tony Franklin from Middle Tennessee State, next year should see a smoking scoreboard in Ruston.
Chief among their tasks will be adjusting incumbent quarterback Ross Jenkins to the spread; if he doesn't take, there happens to be one of Franklin's fellow Auburn refugees, Steve Ensminger, waiting in the wings. A couple more SEC transfers, once-touted Tennessee refugees Lennon Creer and Ahmad Paige, line up at running back and wide receiver, respectively – though the highest-profile target should still be Phillip Livas (right), a double-duty receiver who led the conference in kickoff returns last season. Defensively, the team will be led by '09 tackling leader and all-conference linebacker Justin Cole. And you didn't think we'd wrap this up without an All-Name entrant, did you? Meet strong safety Tank Calais, who's got quite the football lineage – his trio of football-playing uncles includes former Florida receiver Ike Hilliard and LSU/New Orleans Saints great Dalton Hilliard – and whose name should properly be transcribed TANK CALAIS!
Prognosis: We are positively giddy with anticipation at the full-throttle expansion of the Air Raid. (In honor of Louisiana, we will perhaps christen it "the Airboat.") Delight aside, a major coaching change plus a complete offensive reimagining could get nasty, and the schedule's not easy. But this is still the WAC, and there are three "State" schools below the Bulldogs (Utah, New Mexico and San Jose) who should again be most obliging in the pursuit of bowl-eligibility. SEC transfers notwithstanding, this looks like business as usual in the form of another 4-8 season, but the potential for a rapid rise in the WAC is high if either of the quarterbacks hits the ground running – er, passing – in the Dykes/Franklin assault.
- - - Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.
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Holly welcomes your adulation and veiled threats at nastinchka-at-yahoo, etc.