A big shakeup in the national polls this past week saw both the Texas A&M Aggies and the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs jumping into the fray, and they will be out to prove that they have staying power as they square off in a non-conference clash in Shreveport on Saturday night.
The game was originally scheduled to be the season opener for both teams, but was delayed due to the effects of Hurricane Isaac, but now it holds much more intrigue than it did back on Aug. 30.
Since being introduced to the SEC with a tough loss to Florida (20-17), Texas A&M has bounced back with four straight wins, culminating in its first road win in its new conference last week in comeback fashion against Ole Miss, 30-27. The Aggies made their 2012 debut in the AP Poll at No. 22, marking the first time they've been ranked since falling from the poll after a loss to Missouri on Oct. 29 of last year.
"For our football team to respond the way they did on the road in an SEC game, it was a huge thing for our team," head coach Kevin Sumlin said following the Ole Miss win. "There was a lot of energy in (Ole Miss's) building and they came ready to play. For us to get out with a victory is huge. It's going to help us down the road in tight situations."
Louisiana Tech has gotten off to a perfect 5-0 start, one of only 15 teams in the nation still left unbeaten. As a member of the Western Athletic Conference, the Bulldogs have earned respect with the voters by playing a challenging non-league schedule, which included road victories against Houston (56-49), Illinois (52-24) and Virginia (44-38), They currently have the longest regular-season winning streak in the nation at 12 games, although this matchup with Texas A&M is arguably their most difficult to date.
"(The Aggies) obviously have a good team," head coach Sonny Dykes said. "The more you look at them on tape the better they look, which is not always the case. Their quarterback play has been really good, (and) they play really good defense."
The Aggies have an unblemished record against Louisiana Tech over the years, winning all 10 previous matchups.
This game features two of the nation's most prolific offenses. In fact, they are two of only seven teams in the FBS to average 225 yards passing and 225 yards rushing per game.
Leading the Texas A&M offense (44.6 ppg) is freshman sensation Johnny Manziel. There has been no slowing down the young signal caller, whether it be through the air (104-of-150, 1,285 yards) or on the ground (72 carries, 495 yards). He has accounted for 18 total touchdowns and has thrown just two interceptions.
Manziel's favorite target has been Mike Evans, who leads the team in receptions (32) and yards (412), but in the red zone the quarterback tends to favor Ryan Swope (19 receptions, 294 yards, three TDs) and Uzoma Nwachukwu (nine receptions, 122 yards, four TDs).
Although Manziel is the team's leading rusher, Ben Malena (346 yards, three TDs) has emerged as the go-to running back. He is coming off his first career 100-yard performance last week against Ole Miss (18 carries, 142 yards, TD).
The Aggies are more than just a flashy offense, as they allow just 14.8 ppg to their opponents. The defensive unit has also added to the scoring output with three touchdowns.
Damontre Moore has been one of best defensive linemen in the country with 12.5 tackles for loss, seven sacks, and four QB hurries. Steven Terrell (two interceptions) and Dustin Harris (seven passes defended) anchor a solid defensive backfield.
The Louisiana Tech offense has also been unstoppable as well, scoring 44 points or more in every game. Only Oklahoma State and Baylor average more points per game in the FBS than the Bulldogs (53.2).
Quarterback Colby Cameron has been practically flawless, completing more than 68 percent of his passes (123-of-180) for 1,456 yards with 13 touchdowns and no interceptions.
Quinton Patton is undoubtedly Cameron's favorite receiving target as he leads the team catches (34), yards (532), and touchdowns (five), although five other receivers have accounted for at least 12 catches.
The running game has also been firing on all cylinders for the Bulldogs. Kenneth Dixon (424 yards, eight TDs) garners most of the work in the backfield, but there are still plenty of touches to go around for Tevin King (369 yards, five TDs) and Ray Holley (234 yards, four TDs).
Unlike Texas A&M, Louisiana Tech's defense has been suspect, getting caught up in shootouts and allowing more than 35 ppg.
The unit has been productive in the turnover battle however, with 10 fumble recoveries and five interceptions. Antonio Mitchum (40 tackles, sack, FF) and IK Enemkpali (5.5 TFL, four sacks) have been the standouts.