HOUSTON — We are go for launch.
For a month now there’s been a hold in the count as LSU and Texas Tech, two programs from bordering states who have completely missed each other on the football field for nearly 60 years, got ready to light the candle in the Texas Bowl.
Candle? More like Roman candle.
The Christmas heat wave has given way to a pre-New Year’s Eve chill here in the Space City, so they’ve decided against peeling back the giant roof atop NRG Stadium on Tuesday night.
That may be a mistake. With the kind of offenses the Tigers and Red Raiders possess, they may just blow the roof off this giant barn, pardner.
Expect points and yards aplenty, though from polar opposite ends of the playbook.
Don’t believe me? I know. LSU failed to crack the 20-point sound barrier during a November in which its championship contender season blew up on the launch pad, littering pieces of debris all over the SEC West. Ultimately, no one was hurt, though. Les Miles punched the button on the escape tower and jetted off to job safety, just like he always seems to do when the odds start stacking up against him.
Speaking of odds, ask the wise guys in Vegas who set the odds on these sporting encounters what they think of the potency of this matchup.
Let’s just say they should play this one next door in the now vacant Astrodome, putting its old exploding scoreboard to good use.
The number to remember is 74. That’s the over/under on this bowl game for combined points. It’s the second-highest such number of the entire bowl season, only behind the 78½ for the Alamo Bowl between TCU and Oregon.
Texas Tech brings a space-age offense to the fray. The Red Raiders are No. 1 in the nation in passing offense, No. 2 in scoring offense, No. 2 in total offense. The way Tech quarterback Pat Mahomes gunslings the ball around the field is the kind of vision LSU fans only see in their dreams, though that’s not to say Tech can’t run it, either. Tailback DeAndre Washington is just a few carries shy of 1,500 yards for the season.
“I think what we’ve been able to do on offense is exciting,” Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury said. “I think it will be a fan-friendly game that will be fun to watch.
“Big-time national stage, inside in the dome. I expect us to play our best game.”
Like the space race between the U.S. and the Soviet Union, the Tigers’ zealous devotion to the power running game is a relic of the Cold War. LSU owns a state-of-the-art video recording system to analyze every second of its games and practices in full digital glory, though with the kind of plays the Tigers rely on, one of those rattling old movie projectors from “Rudy” or “North Dallas Forty” would do just as well.
Still, the Texas Bowl may be one small step for man, but one giant leap for the emperor of Buga Nation, Leonard Fournette. Texas Tech’s defense has stopped the run about as well as the French army stopped the Germans in 1940. The Tigers may not move the ball with modern day elan, but a locomotive can still be an awesome force.
LSU’s locomotive gave the proper due to his foe Monday.
“They’re active,” Fournette said. “People say they’re the worst in rushing, but it doesn’t matter. Some people use that against themselves to play harder and work harder. I know for sure they’ll come out with their ‘A’ game. We have to come out and fight back.”
For their part, the Tigers probably played their best game in demolishing Auburn way back in September. They need to get back some of that early-season swagger, that mojo, putting together a win that tells college football the Tigers have recovered from their November swoon and are ready to be a top-10 team going into next season. A win that says the pile of positive chips that Les Miles stacked up during his time his job was on the firing line won’t be frittered away on one bad hand.
For Miles, whose seat will still be warm in 2016 if no longer red hot, failure is not an … well, you know.
As bowls go, the Texas Bowl isn’t going to rival the Cotton and Orange for importance this season. But for sheer entertainment value, for contrasting styles, for juicy subplots, it’s all systems go.
Follow Scott Rabalais on Twitter, @RabalaisAdv.