It’s the ground-and-pound and the fun and gun.
Run-heavy LSU meets pass-crazed Texas Tech on Dec. 29 at the Texas Bowl in Houston.
The game will feature the nation’s leading rusher, Leonard Fournette, against the third-worst rushing defense in the nation. It’ll include LSU’s inconsistent secondary battling the second-best passing team in the land.
It’s 36-year-old Kliff Kingsbury against 62-year-old Les Miles, the spread vs. the I-formation, four wide receivers vs. two tight ends.
One fan base doesn’t have to leave its own state, and another is within a four-hour drive.
“It’ll be rocking,” said Kingsbury, the third-year Texas Tech coach.
The No. 22 Tigers (8-3) and Red Raiders (7-5) meet for just the third time in history and for the first since 1957 — the season before the Tigers won the national championship.
There was no real surprise in Sunday’s bowl announcement — not like last year’s Music City Bowl against Notre Dame.
It had been building for a few days now, that the Big 12’s fifth-place team and the Southeastern Conference’s seventh-place squad would square off in the nation’s fourth-largest city.
For LSU, it’s a first trip to the Texas Bowl, a 10th-year game added to the SEC tie-ins just last year. The surroundings are familiar, though.
LSU will be playing in Houston for the second time in 16 months after going more than 30 years without doing so. The Tigers beat Wisconsin 28-24 in the AdvoCare Texas Kickoff to open last season. They’ll play in that season-opening event against BYU in 2017, too.
It’s all by design. Houston has the largest LSU alumni base of any city outside of Louisiana. Texas in general is a fertile ground for LSU’s recruiting exploits. The Tigers have 14 players from Texas on the roster, and they signed 10 in the past two classes.
“Our recruiting efforts there are certainly significant,” Miles said in a news conference Sunday night. “We recruit our student population from that area. A major city, and it’s a great place for us.”
The matchup might have the scoreboard rocking.
Fournette and LSU’s rushing attack meet a defense that allows a whopping 271 rushing yards per game. That’s worse than all but two other FBS defenses. Fournette leads the nation averaging 158 rushing yards. He has run for at least 100 yards in nine of LSU’s 11 games, hitting a November snag against Alabama and Arkansas that might cost him a trip to New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony.
Finalists for the award are scheduled to be announced Monday, and many projections don’t have the early-season frontrunner among the group.
Miles on Sunday passively made a pitch for his sophomore. LSU played just 11 games this season after the season opener against McNeese State was canceled because of lightning.
“I’m not here to tell you that I know who the best Heisman candidate is. I’m not. But I would have to say that one of the candidates didn’t get an opportunity to play in that game that was in the middle of the night,” Miles said. “Lightning robbed him. I would have to say he would have had a good night that night. It would certainly have been more noteworthy and put himself in position to have an invitation.”
He shouldn’t have much trouble against the Red Raiders. Six teams this year have rolled up at least 300 rushing yards against them, and two of them — Oklahoma and Texas — hit the 400-yard mark.
Tech fired three defensive assistants last week. Co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Mike Smith, cornerbacks coach Kevin Curtis and outside linebackers coach Trey Haverty were let go.
“We’ll have to move some bodies around and do our best,” Kingsbury said Sunday when asked on a teleconference about the absence of three coaches. “It’s part of the business; comes with the territory. We’ll be able to slide some guys around.”
Kingsbury hasn’t seen game tape of Fournette — just highlights.
“Phenomenal athlete,” he said. “Once-in-a-generation-type back. Going to have our hands full slowing him down.”
For LSU’s sometimes-beleaguered secondary, it’s maybe the biggest test of the season. Defensive backs have struggled at times with coverages and have allowed six touchdowns this season because of busts.
Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes has thrown for 4,283 yards and 32 touchdowns with a completion rate of 65 percent.
“Our secondary will be looking forward to that challenge,” Miles said.
And how about that contrasting style of play between these squads? Kingsbury shook off that question. His offense ranks second nationally and includes running back DeAndre Washington’s 1,455 rushing yards.
“We’ve run the ball pretty well — not to the extent they have,” he said. “We’re proud of our running back as well.”
Follow Ross Dellenger on Twitter: @DellengerAdv.