The best 2014 turnaround you haven’t noticed: Louisiana Tech

7 Comments

A year ago at this time, Louisiana Tech was 3-5 en route to a 4-8 finish under first-year head coach Skip Holtz. The Bulldogs beat Lamar, UTEP, Florida International and Southern Miss (combined FBS wins: four) and closed the season by losing 52-14 to Rice, 24-14 to Tulsa and 30-10 to UTSA.

Fast forward to today, and Louisiana Tech is 6-3 and 5-0 in Conference USA play – two wins away from clinching the Conference USA West Division championship in their second year in the league. Take away payday losses to Oklahoma and Auburn and Holtz’s Bulldogs are 6-1 in games they have a realistic chances of winning, the one loss an utterly inexplicable one to FCS Northwestern State.

Manny Diaz has proven to be a smart hire as defensive coordinator, boosting Louisiana Tech from ninth to first in scoring defense in Conference USA games, dropping the average from 26.6 to 14.8 points per game. In conference play only, the Bulldogs lead the league in total defense, yards per play allowed and pass efficiency defense while ranking second in rushing defense.

On the opposite side of the ball, Cody Sokol has proven to be an upgrade over Ryan Higgins at quarterback, flipping his predecessor’s touchdown-to-interception ratio from 6-to-13 to 22-to-9. La Tech trails only Marshall in scoring at 42.8 points per game in conference outings, more than double from a dreadful 20.4 scoring average last season.

Finally, Louisiana Tech has flipped its fate in terms of turnovers, jumping from turnover neutral (21 takeaways, 20 giveaways) to leading the pack (18 takeaways, nine giveaways, a league-best plus-1.8 per game) in five conference games this year.

Add it all up and you get a four-game winning streak in which Louisiana Tech has out-scored the competition by a combined 172-53, punctuated by Saturday’s 59-10 thumping of Western Kentucky where the Bulldogs held WKU 29 points and 103 yards below their next-worst outputs this season. This was the same team that had dropped 66 points and 601 yards on Old Dominion just a week earlier.

Two more wins (remaining schedule: at UAB, at Old Dominion, vs. Rice) guarantees a spot in the Conference USA championship, though the folks in Ruston aren’t the only ones hopping Holtz’s bunch finishes 9-3. A win over undefeated-in-conference-play Louisiana Tech may be Marshall’s only hope at securing a spot in a College Football Playoff access bowl, but the Thundering Herd should be careful what it wishes for. A team playing this good on both sides of the ball and turning the ball over at this rate may just sneak up and win the whole thing.

ACC endorses free one-time transfer for all student-athletes

Photo by Ian Johnson/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The ACC is now on-board with the idea of allowing student-athletes in all sports a chance to have a free one-time transfer without having to sit out a season. The conference released a brief statement on Monday afternoon confirming the ACC supports a one-time transfer opportunity.

“During the league’s annual winter meetings (February 12-14), the ACC discussed the transfer environment and unanimously concluded that as a matter of principle we support a one-time transfer opportunity for all student-athletes, regardless of sport,” the statement from the ACC said. “As a conference, we look forward to continuing the discussion nationally.”

It is important to understand this does not mean players in the ACC will now be given a free transfer. This is merely a step in the direction toward allowing the free one-time transfer and shows the ACC would support any potential adjustment to the NCAA transfer rule. As the transfer rule currently stands, any player transferring from one school to another at the same level of competition (FBS to FBS, for example), is required to sit out one full season before being ruled eligible again. This takes away a year of eligibility or burns a redshirt season, barring any potential exemptions granted by way of a waiver. Graduate transfers are generally the only transferring players allowed to play immediately at a new school.

The Big Ten quietly proposed just such legislation last year, but no movement was made on the proposal. The NCAA instead opted to have a committee spend additional time reviewing the current policies regarding transfers with the intent of continuing the discussion this year as rule changes begin to be reviewed.

That gives us two power conferences that appear to be ready to embrace the one-time transfer rule. Don’t be shocked if more join the party, and expect the transfer rule to be altered soon enough. Maybe even as early as this upcoming year.

The NCAA modified the redshirt rule two years ago. The transfer rule appears the next most likely rule to be altered regarding a player’s eligibility.

Indiana completes coaching staff with Tulane DL coach Kevin Peoples

Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

After being left at the altar by a Michigan State assistant coach, Indiana had found a way to plug its hole at defensive line coach. Kevin Peoples is reportedly leaving Tulane to join the Hoosiers, multiple reports said on Monday. News of the coaching hire in Bloomington was first shared by Football Scoop.

Peoples will be taking on the job on the Indiana coaching staff previously set to be filled by Michigan State assistant Ron Burton. Burton decided to remain in East Lansing with the Spartans and new head coach Mel Tucker over the weekend before officially making his way from one Big Ten school to another. With the addition of Peoples to the coaching staff, the Hoosiers will now have a full coaching staff barring any potential adjustments before spring football begins.

With Peoples in charge of the defensive line, Tulane was not among the conference leaders in sacks and tackles for loss in the American Athletic Conference in 2019, but Tulane did have the conference’s fourth-best rushing defense; Tulane allowed 156.31 rushing yards per game in 2019, an averages that is inflated slightly from playing Navy in conference play (allowed 385 yards to the triple-option Midshipmen) and Army in non-conference play as well as a road game against Auburn. Tulane allowed just 58 rushing yards in its bowl victory over Southern Mississippi.

Peoples is filling the role previously held by Mark Hagen. Hagen left Indiana to accept a coaching position with Texas this offs

Utah, LSU to play home-and-home in early ’30s

Getty Images
1 Comment

The SEC and Pac-12 are in a bit of a love affair right now. Actually, scratch that. They’re full-on obsessed with one another.

More than 30 SEC v. Pac-12 games are on the docket for future years, and two more were added to the ledger on Monday when LSU and Utah inked a home-and-home.

Utah will host LSU on Sept. 6, 2031, and LSU will return the favor on Sept. 11, 2032.

“Our aspirations to continue to grow and elevate our football program make opportunities like this especially important,” Utah AD Mark Harlan said. “For our student-athletes it is an incredible opportunity to play a high-profile opponent in two fantastic environments. It also is incredibly attractive to our fans to host a team like LSU at Rice-Eccles Stadium and to go on the road to Baton Rouge and cheer on their Utes.”

Utah has two more home-and-homes against SEC schools coming, against Florida in 2022-23 and Arkansas in 2026 and ’28. LSU has home-and-homes with UCLA (2021, ’24) and Arizona State (2029-30) on its docket.

The schools have met twice previously, with LSU winning in Baton Rouge both time, 35-10 in 1974 and 35-7 in ’76.

Bret Bielema reportedly interviewing for Colorado job

Getty Images
1 Comment

Bret Bielema is interviewing for the Colorado head coaching position, according to reports Monday from NFL Network and ESPN.

Bielema tried to get in on the Michigan State job that, obviously, went to Mel Tucker, so now he’s in the running for the job Tucker left.

The former Wisconsin and Arkansas head coach joined Bill Belichick‘s witness protection program after his 2017 Arkansas firing, working for a year as “consultant to the head coach” in New England. He was promoted to defensive line coach and reportedly told friends he was in the running to become the defensive coordinator after Greg Schiano stepped down, but Belichick wound up giving that job to himself.

He wound up following Joe Judge from Foxboro to the New York Giants, but now has apparently decided he’d rather be back in college than work as a position coach at the NFL level.

Bielema went 68-24 at Wisconsin before his 29-34 flameout at Arkansas. His teams famously stuck to a ground-and-pound philosophy that worked like peanut butter and jelly in Madison but peanut butter and salsa in Fayetteville. So, should Colorado be as interested in Bielema as he apparently is in them, his offensive philosophy would figure to be question one in the interview.