Louisiana Tech (6-6) vs. SMU (7-5)
Dec. 20, 8 p.m. ET, Frisco, Texas (ESPN)
SMU -5, O/U: 70
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE
SMU: Chad Morris really turned the SMU program around in his three seasons, inheriting a team that went 1-11 and increasing its win total every year, culminating with this year’s 7-5 campaign. But Morris built that success, especially the Mustangs No. 13-ranked offense, into an offer to coach Arkansas. In Morris’ place, new hire Sonny Dykes will coach the team in its first bowl game since 2012.
Louisiana Tech: The Bulldogs turned a three-year bowl streak into four years by winning their final two games of the season to reach six wins. Tech was able to hang close with some of the better teams in Conference USA and only lost by one on the road at South Carolina. The team’s best win probably came on the road over Western Kentucky in Week 3. Aside from that, the Bulldogs reached a bowl game by beating C-USA bottom feeders like Rice and UTEP.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Trey Quinn and Courtland Sutton, WR, SMU: Quinn, a transfer from LSU in his first season suiting up for the Mustangs, leads the nation in receptions with 106. Quinn is more of a possession guy, totaling 1,192 yards at an 11.2-yard average while Sutton has 1,017 receiving yards on 62 catches and matches Quinn with 12 touchdowns. Sutton, with 189 career catches, was sort of a one-man show for the Mustangs in his previous two seasons.
Jaylon Ferguson, DE, Louisiana Tech: The 6-foot-5, 269-pound Ferguson was voted a first-team All-Conference USA selection for the second straight season. In 11 games, he totaled 38 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss and a team-high six sacks. It was a bit of a drop-off from his 2016 totals — 49 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks — but he still had a big impact on the Bulldogs defense. He’ll be a big focus for the SMU offense.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: SMU has a really unusual dynamic at play with Dykes coming in to coach the team for the bowl game. He said at his introductory press conference that quarterback Ben Hicks would be teaching him the offense leading into the game. With that said, not much will change for the Mustangs on offense (aside from a GA calling plays), but it’s still an unusual circumstance that has only happened a few times in the past 20 years.
WHAT’S ON THE LINE: Louisiana Tech has won all three bowl games it has played in under Skip Holtz over the last three seasons and can make it four in a row against SMU. For the Mustangs, a win would be its first in a bowl since 2012. SMU would also reach the 8-win mark for the first time since 2011.
Nick: SMU 48, Louisiana Tech 38
Sam: SMU 37, Louisiana Tech 31
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