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Louisiana Tech Bulldogs
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Louisiana Tech will be looking to rebound from a tough loss in the Conference USA championship game and it will have to do so against a Big Ten team.

The Bulldogs (8-5) return to the postseason for the first time since 2011 and have made a full turnaround from a 4-8 campaign last season. Tech will face Illinois on Dec. 26 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

"I am really proud of this football team," LTU coach Skip Holtz said after his team's loss to Marshall in the C-USA title game. "I am really proud of what they were able to accomplish this season and the things that they were able to do, the heart that they played with and the way that this team has come together through the course of the season."

Holtz's team will get to stay close to home and get a rematch with a Fighting Illini team that knocked off Northwestern 47-33 to end the year. Tech beat Illinois 52-24 in 2012.

The matchup is a chance for Conference USA to flex its muscles after the league went winless against Power 5 conferences this season. Tech is 2-4 all-time against current members of the Big Ten.

The Bulldogs completed an 8-5 season with a loss at Marshall in the waning moments. An up-and-down season included a five-game winning streak but also losses to Northwestern State and Old Dominion.

Junior running back Kenneth Dixon and senior quarterback Cody Sokol drive a balanced offense that's tallying 37.5 points and 403.8 yards per contest.

Defensively, LTU has become a tough matchup by switching fronts and bringing a host of blitzes. The Bulldogs have 40 takeaways this season.

Illinois squeaked into the postseason by winning its final two contests against Penn State and Northwestern. The Illini lost five of six between Sept. 27 and Nov. 15 while it dealt with poor quarterback play and an inconsistent offense.

Louisiana Tech has 26 players from the state of Texas, including senior linebacker Terrell Pinson and safety Thomas McDonald.


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