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CHRIS DUFRESNE / ON COLLEGE FOOTBALL

It's Louisiana Tech's turn to try to crack BCS elitism

Off to a 5-0 start, the Bulldogs are the latest among the so-called 'little guys' to make a run at crashing the big boys' party.

October 10, 2012|Chris Dufresne
  • Louisiana Tech Coach Sonny Dykes high-fives linebacker Rufus Porter after a defensive stop in a 56-49 victory over Houston earlier this season.
Louisiana Tech Coach Sonny Dykes high-fives linebacker Rufus Porter after… (Bob Levey / Getty Images )

Time is running out to champion a worthwhile cause. "Death to the BCS" is settled law and "Save the WAC" didn't seem worth gumming up a car bumper.

The "West Virginia Defense Fund" closed shop after the Mountaineers' offense showed that it didn't need a defense.

A glimmering, flickering, ray of hope revealed itself this week, however, when something called "Louisiana Tech" washed ashore.

Louisiana Tech is off to its hottest start since the year before "Rocky" was released.

The Bulldogs, at No. 24, are ranked for the first time in the history of the USA Today coaches' poll.

After Boise State lost its opener at Michigan State, we had written off any chance of some subterranean-division life form making a run at a BCS bowl berth.

There was nothing left to do but leaf through old photo albums of Boise State, Utah, Hawaii and Texas Christian.

Ah, here's Ian Johnson proposing to his girlfriend after that wild Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma.

College football is always better when it can raise an underdog from the underbelly. Utah broke through in 2004, followed by Boise State in 2006. They were trailblazers.

There are less than two seasons left in a BCS system that was arm-twisted into granting the highest-ranked top-12 champion from a "non-AQ" conference a golden ticket to a major bowl.

It worked out fantastically in 2010 when the purple masses of Texas Christian crashed the Rose Bowl and had the glorious gall to defeat Wisconsin.

Those days are going way. Utah and Texas Christian already upgraded to major conferences and Boise State is headed to the Big East.

In two years, the system will be diluted with so many "major" bowls — seven at last count — everyone will think they're playing for something important. So it's not likely that forces will ever again organically create Boise State versus Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl.

This weekend could well be "Underdog's Last Stand."

Louisiana Tech is 5-0 and playing Texas A&M in Shreveport, La. It was supposed to be a season opener but the game was postponed because of a hurricane.

Since then, the ruffians from Ruston, La., have ripped off wins with point totals of 56, 56, 52, 44 and 58.

Louisiana Tech defeated Illinois and Virginia on the road, yet barely registered a blip. Everyone was looking ahead to a Western Athletic Conference slate that would drag Louisiana Tech's schedule strength down to the depths of Davy Jones' Locker.

Louisiana Tech's BCS chances, even with a victory against Texas A&M, are still not good.

"I mean, I do not even know how to spell BCS," Louisiana Tech Coach Sonny Dykes said at his weekly news conference. "If you start worrying about that stuff, it just kind of clutters your mind."

Hawaii, the weakest "non-AQ" to play in a BCS game, debuted at No. 18 in the first BCS standings of 2007 and clawed its way to No. 10 over the din of doubters by closing with impressive regular-season wins against Nevada, Boise State and Washington.

Louisiana Tech closes with Texas State, Utah State and San Jose State.

Louisiana Tech is hovering around a No. 23 average in the BCS computers. One simulated run of the BCS standings this week has the Bulldogs at No. 27.

A win over Texas A&M would help, but rising to No. 12 will take some breaks and some convincing. But wait: Louisiana Tech could also earn an automatic BCS bid were it to finish in the top 16 and ahead of a major conference champion.

Louisville, No. 16 in the USA Today poll, is the highest-ranked team from the Big East. The Big Ten and Atlantic Coast Conference may also not pull rank in this charade of champions.

Louisiana Tech might have been better off getting Texas A&M when the game was originally scheduled. The Aggies have found their groove after a home loss to Florida and freshman Johnny Manziel has emerged as a top young quarterback.

"I think the negative is we are not catching them early," Dykes said.

The positive is Louisiana Tech gets to bring 5-0 to the game.

The Bulldogs seem to be the kind of team you could wrap your arms around. They average 523 yards and 53 points per game. The defense stinks — rated next to last nationally — but so does West Virginia's.

Louisiana Tech's offensive coordinator, Tony Franklin, was fired at Auburn in 2008 for failing to make the spread offense work in the rugged Southeastern Conference.

Louisiana Tech also leads the zany meter as the only team we know that uses its starting center to call plays.

You read that right: Stephen Warner, a three-year starter, receives the play from the sideline and barks out the signals. It's a trick Franklin learned to combat crowd noise while coaching Arena Ball in basketball gyms.

Louisiana Tech, if nothing else, warrants a look up from your morning coffee and Android tablet.

Defeating Texas A&M would only begin the journey up Jacob's Ladder. It still might not be enough.

Just know the new system in two years skews heavily toward the power conferences.

So, for the so-called "little guys," Louisiana Tech might be gutty-little-glory's last chance.

chris.dufresne@latimes.com

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