Next level: Running backs have a wow factor

It’ll be a battle between two of college football’s best running backs.

Louisiana Tech’s Kenneth Dixon is one of the most productive running backs in the nation. His 68 career touchdowns trail only Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds (73) among active players.

The Cajuns will counter with McGuire, who has stepped into the lead back role for the first time in his career and is averaging a career-high 22 touches per game.

The backs are unique in their own way, yet remarkably similar in other ways.

Both are sturdily built, with Dixon measuring in at 5-foot-10, 216 pounds and McGuire checking in at 5-11, 208 pounds.

Both are what you want in a home-run hitter. McGuire’s season long is 88 yards, while Dixon holds the Cajun Field record for longest touchdown run, which he set last year in taking one 99 yards to the house.

Both are accomplished pass-catchers. McGuire led the team in receptions with 45 a year ago, and Dixon is on pace for more than 50 grabs this year.

They will be, in all likelihood, the two best players on the field Saturday and will be the focal point for each defense. Whoever turns in the better game will likely wind up on the winning team.

Asked about the matchup this week, McGuire said he’s more focused on the challenge presented by Louisiana Tech’s defense than answering what Dixon does when the Bulldogs have the ball. But that won’t stop others from focusing on them.

“If I was a fan, that’d be a great game to watch to see which back has the best day,” Cajuns coach Mark Hudspeth said.

Four Downs

1. Rivalry: extended

Not only does this game mean a ton to the players on both sides, there is plenty on the line for fans from both schools. Louisiana Tech has won seven straight games in this series dating to 1996 — a fact its fans love to hang over the head of Cajuns fans. Bragging rights, either continued or anew, are at stake this Saturday in Ruston.

2. Seeking: playmaker

What’s been missing in the first three games for the Cajuns? Playmakers, on both sides of the ball. Outside of a few big plays here and there, the offense hasn’t connected for many home runs. The defense has simply given up too many big plays. It needs to start making some plays for the Cajuns to have a chance.

3. Hangover: Avoided?

Last week’s loss to Akron looked eerily similar to the last year’s loss to Tech. The Cajuns hope the difference is in how they respond. Mark Hudspeth said the Tech loss hung with his team for a couple weeks last season, but he hasn’t seen the same type of attitude this year. The Cajuns hope their solid week of practice translates on the field.

4. Scirpt: flipped

Last year, the Cajuns were the heavily favored home team figuring to make a run at its best season in years. This year, the Bulldogs are the heavily favored home team figuring to make a run at its best season in years. Last year, the Cajuns were guilty of hubris. It cost them. Will the Bulldogs avoid the same fate? Worth tuning in for an answer.