One of the nation’s most prolific offenses meets this season’s previous Heisman Trophy favorite when the No. 20 LSU Tigers (8-3) battle the Texas Tech Red Raiders (7-5) in Tuesday night’s Texas Bowl at NRG Stadium in Houston.
The Tigers, and the rest of the nation, believed running back Leonard Fournette would coast to the Heisman ceremony and easily snatch up the most coveted individual award in college football. But once LSU entered the heart of its SEC schedule it dropped three straight games and the sophomore rusher was held to 230 total yards after gaining more than 150 in each of the previous seven contests.
The slid nearly cost LSU head coach Les Miles his job, before Fournette pounded Texas A&M for 159 yards and a touchdown for a 19-7 win in the regular season finale. Fournette finished the season with 1,741 yards and 18 touchdowns, leading the country’s ninth-best rushing attack.
But Miles and the Tigers are in danger of losing consecutive bowl games for the first time since his tenure began in 2005, largely due to the fact that no one in the country has managed to keep the Red Raiders and quarterback Patrick Mahomes out of the end zone.
The sophomore Mahomes blew away the Big 12 with 4,283 passing yards and 32 touchdowns compared to 14 interceptions, and while Texas Tech’s defense couldn’t withstand the competition, the Red Raiders offense ranked second in the country with 46.6 points and 389.7 passing yards per game. Mahomes was just as lethal on the ground, gaining 484 yards and 10 scores off 118 attempts.
Unfortunately for the Red Raiders and head coach Kliff Kingsbury, they too ran into trouble when playing their conference’s elite squads. After a three-point loss to then No. 3 TCU, Texas Tech was endured a crippling 28-point letdown to Baylor and later dropped three straight at Oklahoma, vs. Oklahoma State, and at West Virginia.
Putting Mahomes and Fournette on the field has Las Vegas predicting a major shootout between the two programs, but the presence of the weapons around the two stars almost guarantees it.
The Tigers relied on Fournette and the ground game to do the heavy lifting, but receivers Malachi Dupre and Travin Dural combined for 1,135 yards and nine touchdowns while quarterback Brandon Harris made the most of his limited pass attempts for 1,904 yards and 12 touchdowns for a 127.8 passer rating.
Mahomes would hit leading receiver Jakeem Grant 80 times for 1,143 yards and seven scores, while junior receiver Reginal Davis also collected seven touchdown receptions, which helped senior running back DeAndre Washington to rip off 1,455 yards and 14 touchdowns.
Betting Odds: LSU -7
Over/Under: 74 points
Kickoff: 9 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN
Live Online: Watch ESPN