The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the NCAA lists as still reclassifying to the Football Bowl Subdivision level.

Today at No. 69: Louisiana Tech

Coach: Sonny Dykes (13-12, entering third season)

2011 record: 8-5 (6-1 in Western Athletic Conference, first place in WAC)

Look back: Sonny Dykes earned 2011 Western Athletic Conference coach of the year honors after leading Louisiana Tech to its first conference championship since 2001. Sonny Dykes, son of legendary former Texas Tech coach Spike Dykes, earned his first head coaching opportunity at Louisiana Tech in 2010.

Louisiana Tech got off to a bumpy start in 2011, losing four of its first five games. Three of the losses were by an average deficit of three points. The Bulldogs lost 19-17 at Southern Miss, beat Central Arkansas 48-42 in overtime, lost 35-34 to Houston, lost 26-20 at Mississippi State and lost 44-26 against Hawai’i.

The Bulldogs bounced back, winning their final seven regular season games. The team claimed a 24-11 win at Idaho, a 24-17 win at Utah State, a 38-28 win against San Jose State and a 41-21 win at Fresno State. Reserve Colby Cameron took over the starting quarterback job and the Louisiana Tech’s offense found its footing. The Bulldogs then earned a big 27-7 upset at Ole Miss, clinching bowl eligibility. Louisiana Tech closed out the regular season with a 24-20 win at Nevada and a 44-0 win against New Mexico State.

Louisiana Tech faced No. 18 TCU in the Poinsettia Bowl. Louisiana Tech held a 24-17 lead midway through the fourth quarter, but TCU mounted an 18-play, 72-yard scoring drive capped by a one-yard touchdown run by running back Luke Shivers to tie the game 24-24. After Louisiana Tech’s offense went three-and-out on the next possession, TCU quickly scored on a 42-yard touchdown pass from Casey Pachall to Skye Dawson with 4:26 left in the game, claiming a 31-24 advantage. Louisiana Tech’s offense had one more shot at comeback, but TCU’s defense forced the Bulldogs to go three-and-out. The Horned Frogs ran out the clock and earned the bowl victory.

Offensive starters lost/returning: 3/8

Defensive starters lost/returning: 5/6

Key losses: OL Kris Cavitt, DL Matt Broha, LB Adrien Cole, DB Terry Carter, LB Jay Dudley.

Top returnees: QB Colby Cameron, WR Quinton Patton, WR Myles White, OL Kevin Saia, DL Justin Ellis, DB Chad Boyd, K Matt Nelson, P Ryan Allen.

Strengths: Louisiana Tech returns the majority of its offense, including starting quarterback Colby Cameron and four offensive linemen. Cameron has a variety of reliable weapons who should help him run Sonny Dykes’ high-powered offense, including receivers Quinton Patton and Myles White. Patton led Louisiana Tech in receiving last season with 79 catches for 1,202 yards and 11 touchdowns.

The Bulldogs also return six defensive starters, including key members of its defensive line and secondary. The units helped Louisiana Tech rank No. 26 nationally in pass efficiency defense (117.30 rating allowed per game) and No. 29 in rushing defense (127.38 yards allowed per game).

Louisiana Tech is one of the more fortunate teams in the embattled Western Athletic Conference. The university accepted an invitation to join Conference USA in 2013. The move provides the school with more stability and should help with recruiting.

Weaknesses: Louisiana Tech must replace its entire starting linebacker unit, including 2011 WAC defensive player of the year Adrien Cole. On the offensive side of the ball, the team has taken steps toward executing Dykes’ vision but it is far from putting high up the huge passing numbers he has been known for throughout his career as an offensive coordinator.

Outlook: Louisiana Tech has the potential repeat as WAC champions, but the team needs to continue its offensive development and adjust to the loss of key defensive players at the linebacker position.

2012 Schedule
Sept. 1 Idaho State
Sept. 8 At Michigan
Sept. 22 At UNLV
Sept. 29 Colorado State
Oct. 6 Navy
Oct. 13 At Wyoming
Oct. 20 New Mexico
Oct. 27 Nevada
Nov. 3 At Army
Nov. 10 At San Diego State
Nov. 17 Hawai’i
Nov. 24 At Fresno State

Rest of the countdown:

No. 70 Kentucky