Tuesday's AdvoCare V100 Texas Bowl between No. 20 LSU (8-3) and Texas Tech (7-5) features one of the more intriguing clashes of styles in all of bowl season: The pounding, physical attack of LSU matching up against the Red Raiders' high-flying offense.
As we approach kickoff, here's how two ESPN conference reporters -- the Big 12's Max Olson and the SEC's David Ching -- view the matchup, starting with their perceptions on the teams' offenses:
Max Olson: Texas Tech's offense didn't receive all that much national acclaim over the course of the season, but it still feels a little funny to say Kliff Kingsbury quietly had the No. 1 passing offense and No. 2 scoring offense in all of college football this season. There's nothing fluky about that production, either, because they found a killer run-pass balance.
Patrick Mahomes is one of the most exciting quarterbacks in college football. DeAndre Washington is the best running back Tech has had in 20 years. Jakeem Grant, Tech's all-time leading receiver, could give LSU nightmares if the Tigers don't account for him in open space. Texas Tech's line was a little beat up late in the season but should be in better shape for this bowl.
As long as Mahomes can avoid turnovers, I like Tech's chances of putting up big points. Do you think LSU's offense can do the same?
David Ching: I doubt LSU wants to get into a shootout with Texas Tech, as that would not suit the Tigers particularly well. My assumption is that Les Miles and Cam Cameron want to ride Leonard Fournette and control the clock as much as they can, playing keep-away with long drives that keep Mahomes and his bunch on the sidelines.
LSU's offense had a rocky November. Quarterback Brandon Harris took a step backward after it appeared at midseason he was starting to peak. Fournette's production also slipped a bit, although he still enjoyed success against everyone except Alabama. With receiver Travin Dural sidelined by a hamstring injury, the Tigers are without one of their top weapons in the passing game, only adding to the likelihood that they once again lean heavily on the running game.
The question is whether Texas Tech's defense can force LSU to try something else. Their defensive statistics indicate the Red Raiders won't be able to dictate the terms to LSU. Are they really that bad?
Olson: Yeah, the defense is as bad as it looks on paper. I know Fournette's season high is only 244 rushing yards, but I won't be shocked if he hits 250 against Tech. Texas freshman Chris Warren rushed for 276 yards in Texas Tech's regular-season finale, and that was his first career start. Three other Big 12 backs surpassed 200 against Tech. We know exactly how LSU will try to set the tone.
Another issue for this game: Tech recently fired three defensive assistants, so defensive coordinator David Gibbs and one assistant are left for this game. That is ... not ideal. But I'm curious, where do you find weaknesses in LSU's D?
Ching: I expect all of LSU's secondary starters to play in the NFL, which is why the number of coverage breakdowns they've had in Year 1 under defensive coordinator Kevin Steele has been odd to watch.
Another issue for LSU will be depth in the front seven. Against offenses that can ramp up the tempo, it appeared the Tigers sometimes wore down in the second half. Texas Tech is capable of wearing the Tigers out if they can't get off the field.
Olson: There are a few reasons why I have this crazy suspicion Texas Tech might actually win this game. Kingsbury will have this group playing like they have nothing to lose -- expect lots of trick plays and big shots -- and I'm wondering if LSU will be overlooking this one a little. Easy to see a 7-5 team with no run D on paper and expect an easy win. Might be hard to muster the same kind of passion, too, that we saw in the Texas A&M win.
So, to me, the difference will be how LSU shows up and whether Fournette can take over this game right away. Can't let Texas Tech hang around and make this a four-quarter ballgame.
Ching: I agree that it's in LSU's best interests to put this one away early if it can. Texas Tech beat an Arkansas club that whipped LSU late in the season, and the Red Raiders are fully capable of beating the Tigers if their offense is clicking.
They'll have to slow down Fournette to win, though, and I don't see that happening. It likely won't be pretty -- a trademark of the Miles era -- but I expect the Tigers to grind out a win by keeping the chains moving and by generating a couple of turnovers.