Utah St.-Louisiana Tech Preview
Before worrying about possibly earning the school's first BCS appearance, Louisiana Tech must focus on claiming the final championship in Western Athletic Conference history.
The other two teams with a chance to win it stand in the way.
While the No. 19 Bulldogs could clinch at least a share of the conference title Saturday, Utah State can beat them to win it outright and record the first road victory over a ranked team in school history.
"Anytime the season starts, your first goal is to win a conference championship, and that is true with us," Bulldogs coach Sonny Dykes said. "... It is going to need to be one of our best efforts this year to have a chance to win."
Louisiana Tech (9-1, 4-0) and the Aggies (8-2, 4-0) share the conference lead. The only other WAC team with a winning record in league play is 4-1 San Jose State, which hosts the Bulldogs next week.
Utah State already has defeated the Spartans and will have beaten the only other title contender if it wins Saturday. That would clinch the outright WAC championship for the Aggies, who haven't claimed a conference title since sharing the Big West crown in 1997.
"It's fun to be in a game that has this much on the outcome, this late in the year," Utah State coach Gary Andersen said. "Late November games are what football teams play for and fans want to be around."
The Bulldogs are looking to win a second straight title in the WAC, in its final season of football because many members are leaving. Louisiana Tech is headed to Conference USA and Utah State is joining the Mountain West.
A BCS bid remains a possibility for the Bulldogs. They're 20th in those standings but must climb into at least the top 16 to have any shot of playing in a BCS game.
The reason they remain in that hunt is an explosive offense which leads the FBS at 576.5 yards per game and ranks second with an average of 53.4 points. Louisiana Tech scored on all but two offensive possessions in a 62-55 win at Texas State last Saturday.
Kenneth Dixon eclipsed the NCAA freshman record for rushing touchdowns with 24, scoring four last week as he ran for 144 yards. Colby Cameron also set an NCAA record by extending his streak of passes without an interception to 419, breaking Russell Wilson's mark of 379 set in 2008.
Cameron completed 31 of 45 passes for 337 yards and three TDs to raise his passer rating to 161.5, good for 11th in the FBS.
"He's done a great job of taking care of the ball," Dykes said. "When you do that, there's so many people involved - the protection up front, it's receivers catching the ball, it's running backs catching the ball and a lot of it is Colby being accurate."
While the Bulldogs have allowed only seven sacks, Utah State could disrupt Cameron with a defense which ranks sixth nationally with 35 sacks and 13.5 points allowed per game.
Andersen, though, said Louisiana Tech presents a different challenge because of an up-tempo style - its 87.0 plays per game are second-most nationally.
"The offense is designed to get rid of the ball quickly and they do a nice job with that," Andersen said. "I think (Cameron is) very in tune with the offense. He's obviously a very smart young man."
Utah State's offense also has surged of late, averaging 44.0 points and 529.0 yards over the last four games.
The trend might continue against a Louisiana Tech defense which ranks 119th in the FBS, allowing 505.7 yards per game after giving up 577 to Texas State. The Bulldogs have surrendered 31-plus points six times.
Louisiana Tech leads the series 6-3, including a 24-17 road win last season after outscoring the Aggies 10-0 in the fourth quarter.
Utah State is winless in 39 road games against Top 25 opponents and 1-50 all-time versus ranked teams, losing 29 straight since beating Fresno State on Nov. 2, 1991.
The Aggies are looking to reach nine wins for the first time since 1961.