Early Analysis: Utah State vs. Louisiana Tech

Utah State at No. 20 Louisiana Tech
Saturday, 4:00 PM
Line: Utah State -3.5

It has been a long time since a Division I conference ceased football operations, but that is the case with the Western Athletic Conference thanks to the realignment of other leagues that has taken place over the last couple of seasons.

The final WAC title will be played for Saturday afternoon in Ruston, La. Louisiana Tech is seeking its second straight WAC title before the Bulldogs head off to Conference USA in 2013. The Aggies of Utah State are seeking their first conference title since winning the Big West in 1997. Utah State agreed to join the Mountain West Conference in 2013.

Will the Aggies pull of their first road victory over a ranked opponent? Or will the Bulldogs continue their march towards a potential BCS at-large bid?

For Utah State to win: Control the ball. The Aggies are actually a relatively stout defense, only allowing 13.5 points per game to be scored against them. That is good for sixth in the country. Controlling the ball doesn't only mean having the defense keep the Bulldogs out of the end zone, though. It means that the offense needs to shoulder some of the burden by playing keepaway. The Bulldogs are second in the country in plays per game at 87, and that is a critical part of their success. When playing a hurry up offense, if you can keep them off the field and keep them from running plays, it can psychologically force them to play a bit tighter. Keep on schedule, keep the chains moving and put points on the board if you're the Aggies. That's a formula for winning.

For Louisiana Tech to win: Play some defense. As good as the Bulldogs have been at scoring points, they've been nearly as proficient in giving some of them back up. Louisiana Tech ranks 111 out of 124 teams in points allowed per game, giving up 36.2 points per game. The Bulldogs have only allowed fewer than 24 points once this season. Oddly enough, it was also the only game where they scored below 40 points (a 28-14 victory over New Mexico State in Las Cruces). Louisiana Tech can win a shootout against almost anybody, but they have to make sure they get a couple of stops.

Key Player, Utah State: Chuckie Keaton, quarterback. Most of the attention in the lead up to this game has been and wil be focused on Louisiana Tech's quarterback Colby Cameron, and for good reason. Keaton, a sophomore, has played pretty well this season, and has been better than that lately. During the recent four game winning streak for the Aggies, Keaton has completed over 70 percent of his passes for 1,186 yards and 12 touchdowns. He has also rushed for 177 yards and four touchdowns in that time frame as well. Being a dual threat is a big deal, especially if this game becomes a shootout.

Key Player, Louisiana Tech: Quinton Patton, wide receiver. The senior is a stud. He has had five games where he has gone over 100 yards receiving (including one where he went for 233), and has had three multiple touchdown games this year. Patton is just one weapon, but the passing game will have to play a huge role against a team that shuts down the run like the Aggies do. Utah State allows 94.6 yards per game on the ground, good for fifth in the country. That means more work for the wide receivers.

Key Stat: Zero. Zilch. Nada. Nothing. That is the number of interceptions that the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs have thrown this season. After A.J. McCarron was picked off by Texas A&M last week, the Bulldogs became the only team in the country to not throw a pick all season. Colby Cameron, the Louisiana Tech quarterback, has attempted 403 passes and counting without throwing a pick, shattering the record for most consecutive pass attempts without an INT set by Russell Wilson while at N.C. State in 2008.