Sun Belt Showdown: Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (5-6) vs Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-4)
The Mountaineers are at home with a share of the Sun Belt title on the line. But the Cajuns can’t be counted out.
Cajuns @ ‘Neers, Saturday December 2nd, 1:30 CST at Kid Brewer Stadium, broadcast on ESPN3
Louisiana is an original gangster of the conference, a 2001 founder of of Sun Belt football. Appalachian State is a Sun Belt newbie, arriving to the conference in 2014. The introduction of the Mountaineers seemed to signal the decline of the Cajuns, which last earned a championship in 2013. Since then, Mark Hudspeth team has teetered on mediocrity while Scott Satterfield’s squad has emerged as one of the Sun Belt’s elite, winning a share of the title in 2016.
But none of that matters on Saturday. Wait a second…actually, all of that matters on Saturday! Hudspeth and the Cajuns enter Boone itching to remind the Mountaineers who owns the Sun Belt. Oh yeah, and a coveted sixth win is at stake, too. Appalachian State may be playing for a share of the Sun Belt, bu the Cajuns still have plenty of skin in this game.
When last these titans met
Last year, the Mountaineers strolled into Lafayette and rudely denied the Cajuns a single point, trouncing Hudspeth 24-0 behind a 100-yard rushing performance from Jalin Moore. Appalachian State put up points its first four possessions and finished its scoring by halftime. The two teams then entertained the crowd with zero combined points during the second half.
Taylor Lamb is going to complete 60% of his passes.
How do I know this? Because Lamb might be the most consistent thrower in Sun Belt history, completing almost exactly 60% of his passes for four consecutive seasons. Lamb is enjoying a fine senior campaign, with 23 TDs on the year, connecting with senior wide receiver Ike Lewis six times in his last four games. Look for more connections between these two on Saturday afternoon.
Jalin Moore vs Trey Ragas
Two of the conference’s more exciting RBs face each other in Boone. The freshman Ragas has the look of a promising replacement for legendary Cajun Elijah McGuire. The 5’10” bruiser has 799 yards and 9 TDs in his freshman season. A good game could be in the works for Ragas – you can run just a little on the Mountaineer’s defense (UMASS put up 207 ground yards, and ULM followed that up with 213)
Moore, a junior, has 7 TDs on 802 yards for the Mountaineers and has battled injury this season. But he put up 239 yards against Georgia State’s pretty-good defense last week, and there’s no reason he can’t do the same on Louisiana’s super-soft defense.
Cajuns need to D-up
When humming, the Cajuns can put up some decent points – about 30 per game. Sadly, the Cajuns also surrender a ton of points – 38 per game, 121st in the nation. DE Joe Dillon and the front line need to find a few holes in a Mountaineers’ offensive line whose only surrendered 8 sacks all season. Otherwise, Taylor “Sixty Percent” Lamb will simply stand back and pick the Louisiana secondary apart.
Mark Hudspeth and Co. have endured a remarkably inconsistent season, looking very capable at times and miserable at others. A win would likely give Cajuns fans some comfort, but that’s a tall order on Saturday, with the Mountaineers looking to cement its status as a conference powerhouse.
Vegas says the Mountaineers are a 14.5 point favorite and ESPN gives them a 88% chance to win. That’s good enough for me.
A former notary public, Jeremy Harper is a professional writer and Chief Instigator for Storm the Castle Creative. He spends much of his free time staring blankly into space.