Game Week Preview: Louisiana Tech

We take a look at the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, Auburn's opening opponent in the 2009 season.

The Gene Chizik era at Auburn gets underway this Saturday night at 6 p.m. when the Tigers take on Louisiana Tech in a game that will be televised nationally on ESPNU. Coming off a tough 5-7 season, Auburn will be looking to get off to a good start against a Bulldog squad that finished 8-5 last year with a 17-10 win over Northern Illinois at home in the Independence Bowl.

With 17 starters returning, including nine from an offense that averaged 343 yards and 24 points per game in 2008. All five offensive linemen return in what should be a team strength for Louisiana Tech, the running game. Running back Daniel Porter (5-9, 190, Sr.) is back after rushing for 1,164 yards and nine touchdowns last season. As a team the Bulldogs ran for 2,432 yards and 23 touchdowns in 13 games.

Starting 11 games at quarterback 6-3, 212 Ross Jenkins returns as the leader on offense. Last season he was more of a field general, completing 92-174 passes for seven touchdowns with three interceptions. This time around expect Jenkins to become more of a threat in the passing game with one of the nation's most dangerous players to throw to.

One of the smallest players on the field Saturday night, 5-8, 175 Phillip Livas will also be perhaps the most dangerous for the Auburn Tigers. Last season he led the team with 43 receptions for 607 yards and two touchdowns but that's just the beginning of what he brings to the table. He also rushed for 337 yards and two touchdowns on just 30 carries.

The return game is perhaps Livas' biggest contribution to the Bulldogs as he's a threat to take it distance every time he touches it. He returned 16 punts for 245 yards and two touchdowns in 2008 and also added 32 kickoff returns for 826 yards and a touchdown.

Up front tight end Dennis Morris (6-2, 266, Sr.), tackles Rob McGill (6-6, 305, Jr.) and Cudahy Harmon (6-6, 327, Jr.) are back along with guards Ben Harris (6-4, 295, Sr.) and Kris Cavett (6-2, 285, So.) and center Lon Roberts (6-3, 277, Jr.)

Defensively seven starters are back for the Bulldogs on a unit that allowed 376 yards and 23.7 points per game in 2008. The leader of the unit is free safety Antonio Baker (5-11, 200, Sr.) after he accumulated 115 tackles and picked off three passes last season. Returning strong safety Deon Young (5-11, 197, Sr.) also returns after making 59 tackles with three interceptions. As a team Louisiana Tech had 17 interceptions last year.

The strength of the defense is up front where all four starters return. Ends Matt Broha (6-4, 228, So.) and and Jared Barron (6-2, 230, So.) combined for 60 tackles and four sacks in 2008 while tackles Mason Hitt (6-1, 268, Jr.) and D'Anthony Smith (6-2, 300, Sr.) made 99 tackles with seven and a half sacks.

A player to watch for on defense in the opener will be sophomore middle linebacker Adrien Cole. From Mobile and a standout at McGill-Toolen, Cole had 30 tackles in limited action last season but is expected to be a big contributor for the Bulldogs this time around. The 5-11, 240-pounder is a load on the interior and also has the ability to run from sideline to sideline.

While Louisiana Tech returns a lot of experience and Auburn will have plenty of questions surrounding a new offense and defense, this is a game the Tigers should win as long as they take care of business. Louisiana Tech defeated Mississippi State at home to start the 2008 season but struggled on the road, losing 29-0 at Kansas, 38-3 at Boise State, 14-7 at Army and 24-14 at Hawaii. Their only road wins came at San Jose State and New Mexico State. With that in mind look for Auburn to get the Chizik era off to a good start despite an early challenge from the Bulldogs.

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