The LSU Tigers are preparing for Tuesday night's Texas Bowl against the high-flying Texas Tech Red Raiders.
Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. in the NRG Stadium as the game will be nationally televised by ESPN.
LSU's Les Miles and Texas Tech's Kliff Kingsbury met with media for the final time before the big game. The two coaches had plenty of good things to say about the other and the team they will be facing.
"Just getting to know him, being around him, I've known him a long time since playing against him at Oklahoma State and have always been a big fan with the way he carries himself," said Kingsbury. "A lot of coaches speak highly of him and the way he does things, probably more similarities than you might think."
"I think I'd enjoy getting coached by him. He represents coaching like he did as a player, and except for being taller and a lot more hair, I think there's a lot more similarities," said Miles.
LSU is looking to exploit Texas Tech's defense. The Red Raiders rank near the bottom of the country in almost every major defensive category. They give up over 270 yards per game rushing.
LSU sophomore running back Leonard Fournette is looking to have a big night against Texas Tech, and said he was not happy about being left out as a Heisman Trophy finalist.
"It pretty much bummed everybody out. You know what I mean? Everybody was mad, I was mad myself just a little bit," said Fournette. "Like I say, everything happens for a reason. I don't question God's work at all."
"I've said the whole year, and I'll say it right now. He's the best running back in college football," said LSU senior offensive tackle Vadal Alexander. No doubt in my mind. The things he can do. The vision he has. It's really a crime that he wasn't on there."
"He's as good a back as I've seen in the last ten years," said Kingsbury. "He's Sunday ready already. I know he's got to wait another year, but he's that type of talent."
When asked if he still would never consider sitting out a year right, Fournette said "Nah. Never."
"We've had our struggles against the run so we'll have to play our best game," said Kingsbury. "He's going to get his yards. He's done that against everybody. We just have to slow him down enough to give ourselves a chance."
"It doesn't matter. It doesn't matter that they're the worst defense in the country," said Fournette. "They're men just like we're men and they're going to come out and play."
And has Fournette thought about hitting 2,000 yards?
"Nah, I didn't to be honest. I never did the calculations, so," he said.
Alongside Fournette, former Catholic High star Derrius Guice could also get busy against Texas Tech. Guice was an All-SEC Freshman selection and Miles had plenty of great things to say about him.
"An old time football player in a very, very talented body," said Miles. "He runs a 4.3 40 and he's 220. He's one of the strongest kids on our team and he's not going to run away from contact. He wants to hit everybody on the field. If he scores, his ideal score is after he tags eleven guys and then goes into the endzone."
But what about some of the challenges the LSU defense faces against Texas Tech?
It was an up and down year for the LSU defense. Busts in the defensive secondary were a major problem.
However, LSU did clean up their act in the regular season finale against Texas A&M, which gives them some good feelings entering this Texas Bowl match up against Texas Tech.
Stopping Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes will be a major challenge. Mahomes has 4,200 yards passing this year and 32 touchdowns.
"Can't say enough about him. I mean the guy's made plays for his team. He's a guy that knows the whole entire offense so we're going to have to try to cover the whole field," said LSU cornerback Tre'Davious White. "I think he's in a league of his own. He can pass the ball and he can run the ball too, so we're going to have to be ready."
Eight Texas Tech Raiders have caught 22 passes or more this season, led by little Jakeem Grant who leads the team with 80 receptions for over 1,100 yards.
"They want to get the defensive line tired, because they throw a lot of passes on the perimeter, which means they're trying to get yards after the catch," said LSU defensive lineman Lewis Neal. "So the more yards after the catch they get, the faster their tempo will go. So the object is to not let them get yards after the catch."
"We watched film and we saw where they tried to wear the d-line out and make them run to ball more, throw a lot of outside routes, but I mean that's our job," said LSU linebacker Deion Jones. "We have to stop them on first and second down, get them on third and long and go rush the passer."
"I think they average mid 80's as far as plays per game. So they want to go up tempo and we want to make sure we slow them down," said LSU defensive lineman Christian LaCouture. "It's gonna be tough doing that, and the key the quarterback, he can run or throw, but at the same time when we get them on third down and long, we've got to make sure we get off the field."
And while LSU hasn't faced an offense like Texas Tech this season, Kingsbury said his team hasn't seen a defense like the Tigers.
"I don't think we've seen one this athletic. If you look from their front, linebackers are as good as I've coached against since I've been in coaching," said Kingsbury. "They can leave them on the field on passing situations and in run situations. The secondary has some younger guys, but they fly around. And then up front, their up field can get after you, so it will be the best defense we've seen and the biggest challenge offensively."
So after all the fun team events in Houston, including the rodeo thing and playing with the kids, it's time for the LSU Tigers to focus on the business at hand, the bowl game itself.
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