RUSSELL HEDGES
rhedges@bossierpress.com

A matchup pitting two North Louisiana teams highlights the opening of the college football season Saturday.
Louisiana Tech hosts Northwestern State at 6 p.m. Saturday at Aillet
Stadium in Ruston.
The Bulldogs and Demons were longtime rivals at one time, meeting each year in the State Fair Classic at what was then called State Fair Stadium (now Independence) Stadium.
In other Saturday openers of interest, LSU plays Brigham Young in the Advocare Texas Kickoff at 8:30 and Grambling State visits Tulane.
The LSU-BYU game was originally scheduled for Houston’s NRG Stadium. But flooding caused by the remnants of forced it to be moved to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
The Louisiana-Monroe Warhawks open their season Thursday at Memphis at 8.
As an FBS school facing an FCS school, Louisiana Tech is a heavy favorite to beat NSU.
But the last time the teams faced off in Ruston in 2014, the Demons pulled off the upset, winning 30-27 on a last-second field goal.
NSU is looking to rebound from a 1-10 season. Tech will try to continue its success under Skip Holtz. The Bulldogs have won nine games three straight years, including last season’s 9-5 campaign.
Tech is also the defending Conference USA West Division champion and was predicted to win it again by media in July.
Two former Haughton Bucs will be on opposite sides of the ball.
J.D. Almond, a fifth-year senior, will start at quarterback for NSU. Tech running back Jarred Craft returns for his senior season.
Almond started the final three games last season and has six starts in his career. Craft rushed for 1,074 yards and nine touchdowns last season. He was also the team’s third-leading receiver with 340 yards.
Tech has some big holes to fill on offense. Gone are quarterback Ryan Higgins and receivers Carlos Henderson and Trent Taylor. All three ranked high nationally last season.
Redshirt sophomore J’Mar Smith takes over at quarterback. Smith started last season’s opener at Arkansas after Higgins was suspended for one game following at DUI arrest.
He completed 19 of 31 passes for 212 yards with one interception. Arkansas rallied in the fourth quarter for a 21-20 victory.
“I have a lot of confidence in J’Mar,” Holtz said.
Alfred Smith started 11 games at receiver last season. Kam McKnight and Marcus Gaines could also be major contributors.
Holtz is also high on Tulane transfer Teddy Veal.
LSU begins its first full season under head coach Ed Orgeron. Orgeron was named interim head coach last season after Les Miles was fired following the fourth game of the season.
The Tigers went 6-2 after that, including a 29-9 victory over Louisville in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. LSU finished 8-4 overall and 5-3 in the SEC.
Senior Danny Etling, who replaced former Parkway star Brandon Harris in the second game last season, won a close battle with true freshman Myles Brennan for the starting quarterback job in the preseason.
Junior Derrius Grice, a preseason first-team AP All-America selection, rushed for 1,387 yards and 15 touchdowns last season.
Junior linebacker Arden Key was also a first-team All-America selection, but he is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery and is not expected to play.
Guice and Key were both named to the coaches’ All-SEC first team. Offensive linemen Will Clapp and K.J. Malone were named to the second team along with defensive back Donte Jackson.
Defensive lineman Christian LaCouture was a third-team selection.
BYU, which opened its season last week with a 20-6 victory over FCS school Portland State, is coming off a 9-4 season. The Cougars defeated Wyoming 24-21 in the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl.