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Should Louisiana Be Worried About Their Run Defense?

Normally one of the better run defenses among G5 programs, Louisiana has been terrible versus the run in the 2015 season. Is the worst behind them, or should they be worried about their run defense with conference play on the horizon?

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Heading into a non-conference game versus Louisiana Tech, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns are #107 in the nation defensively versus the run game.

Opposing offenses are rushing for 210.7 yards per game on the ground versus the Ragin’ Cajun defense, while averaging 5.1 yards per carry on the season. 104 of a possible 128 teams are holding opponents to a lower yards per carry average this season.

The biggest worry about that gaudy number is just how good Louisiana was versus the run in 2014. The run defense was in the top 45 nationally, while giving up only 146.7 yards per game.

In the three games played this season, all three teams have been able to dominate the line of scrimmage and rush for high averages. In the season opener, Kentucky only rushed for 178 yards on the ground. The problem for Louisiana is that the Wildcats were running for 6.8 yards per carry. FCS program Northwestern State gouged the Rajun’ Cajuns for 4.3 yards per carry in route to 234 yards on the ground. Akron also had their way with 5.2 yards per carry and 220 for the game. These are not normal Ragin’ Cajuns rush defense numbers.

Now that we have talked about the bad this season, let’s take a look at the rest of the schedule and how their running games stack up.

First, we will look at the heavy running teams left on the schedule. Those three teams are Louisiana Tech, Texas State, and Appalachian State.

Saturday’s opponent, Louisiana Tech, is rushing the football for 203.3 yards per game, 5.7 yards per carry. Led by running back Kenneth Dixon (73/524/5TD), the Bulldogs are the #45 ranked rushing team in the country. Dixon is a load to bring down at 5-10, 213 pounds.

Appalachian State boasts the #8 rushing attack in the nation. Marcus Cox (59/311/1TD) is the top running back for the Mountaineers, with Terrence Upshaw (28/158/1TD) and Jalin Moore (17/139/2TD) also getting carries. This will be the toughest text for the Ragin’ Cajuns rush defense all season. Appalachian State was one of very few teams to dominate Louisiana on the ground with 232 yards rushing in the 2014 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns.

Texas State is the only other team on the slate that can seriously rush the football. The Bobcats are #42 in the nation with 207.0 yards per game, 5.4 yards per carry. The two-headed combination of quarterback Tyler Jones (47/282/4TD) and running back Robert Lowe (43/243/3TD) is one of the toughest to stop among G5 programs. The Bobcats were held to only 94 total yards on the ground by Louisiana in 2014.

The only other team that has the ability to push the Ragin’ Cajuns in the run game is Arkansas State, 157.8 yards per game, 3.8 yards per carry. The Red Wolves have been hit hard by the injury bug and do not seem to be the type of team they were last fall.

Luckily for Louisiana, ULM (85.3 ypg), Georgia State (138.7 ypg), South Alabama (132.3 ypg), New Mexico State (134.7 ypg), and Troy (109.0 ypg) are not very good at running the football so far this season. South Alabama is the only team among this group that has a chance to put a scare into the Ragin’ Cajuns rush defense.

Louisiana does luck out that many of the teams they are facing in Sun Belt play are geared more towards the passing game. Unless changes are made defensively, I cannot see Louisiana beating a team with a good rushing attack, making Texas State, Louisiana Tech, and Appalachian State projected losses.