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Louisiana Has the Infrastructure to Dominate the Sun Belt

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The Ragin' Cajuns have gone from a football backwater to a Sun Belt power in a very short time.

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After the seemingly endless Terrance Broadway reign of terror, the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns are at a bit of a crossroads. Their death grip on the conference has been challenged significantly by the rise of the eastern powers as well as Arkansas State's resurgence.

But there's plenty of reason to believe they'll be back. So long as the human conduit of 50 trillion electronvolts of white hot Cajun rage known as Mark Hudspeth is still head coach and human death star running back Elijah McGuire lines up in the backfield, UL will always have a chance on the field.

But even without those two, there are plenty of reasons to believe that Ragin' Cajun football will be a mainstay within the Sun Belt's halls of power for years to come. In addition to a winning infrastructure already in place, there's the reality that Louisiana football has turned into an extremely attractive G5 head coaching position.

PROS:

  • Louisiana recruiting base + reliable Texas pipeline = A recruiting situation that's as good as any in the SBC.
  • Crawfish, friendly fans, boudin, cracklins, fried alligator, more alcohol than you can ever imagine. BEST. TAILGATE. EVER.
  • An indoor practice facility and a highly upgraded Cajun Field put UL among the Sun Belt's elite in the facilities arms race.
  • Ragin' Cajun fans show up in better numbers than most (so long as they're winning)
  • A well organized athletic department that facilitates a culture of winning across all sports

CONS:

  • Recent NCAA troubles combined with an uncharacteristic 4-8 season gives off an air of uncertainty about the future.
  • UL has the private donors to weather the state's budget crisis, but the political situation certainly won't help.
  • Pre-Hudspeth UL football in the Sun Belt was, to put it lightly, not great. Can they win post-Hudspeth?

Making the case for why Louisiana should be ranked higher than 3rd: Chris Kay, Louisiana Beat Writer

UL Lafayette is one of the top Sun Belt jobs to coach at and here's why. Louisiana is a hot bed of talent and there is only one Power 5 school in the state. While LSU is an elite team, they can't take all of the recruits. Add Texas as a true recruiting pipeline and there might not be a better situation in the conference. The Ragin' Cajuns routinely recruit plenty of three-star talent, which allows them to consistently compete. As for the fan base, the Ragin' Cajun faithful love their football. During the 2015 season, they averaged the second most fans per game in the conference (21,596).

On the field, the team has very winnable rivalry games. Programs like UL Monroe and Tulane have struggled to consistently play well in recent years and McNeese State is a very winnable FCS rivalry from back in the day. On the other hand, ULL has consistently been able to put big names on the schedule and even see them visiting Cajun Field, like Boise State in 2016. At the end of the day, ULL has to be considered one of the top jobs in the Sun Belt Conference.

If you were playing NCAA football in an (extremely drunk) online dynasty...

"Alright awesome I just scored my 8th touchdown with Elijah McGuire, I love his spin-deke-juke-ropeadope move that always happens whenever I smash my controller like I'm playing Tekken. Wait."

"Good heavens, is that a mildly perturbed cayenne pepper with bad hair doing a headstand in the end zone? Did Brad Nessler start speaking Cajun? Because I can't understand a word he's saying. Did Mark Hudspeth just tear off his shirt to reveal perfectly chiseled abs? DID AN ALLIGATOR JUST CRUISE BY ON AN ATV?!"

If you choose this job in real life:

You'd better be able to understand the Cajun accent, culture, and perhaps even the language. Lafayette and Acadiana are very unique locations, and you'd better embrace it with a fiery passion. Being able to recruit Louisiana is an absolute must, and having Texas recruiting ties is a major plus. You're looking for an athletic department that's more than willing to support a winning program. You ultimately want to use this job as a slingshot to a big time SEC job if one comes open.

Verdict:

During the height of Hudspeth's Reign of Terror, Louisiana had a strong case for the #1 job in the Sun Belt. Perhaps they still do. But a brief down spell, recent NCAA troubles, and a state budget crisis that's a threat to every school not named LSU make this job slightly less attractive than it once was. There are also questions about whether UL can succeed after Mark Hudspeth is no longer head coach, as nobody else has done so within the Sun Belt.

Those questions keep UL from being in the top 2 of this countdown for now, but make no mistake: It's an elite Sun Belt job. Louisiana has far too many things going for it to be down for long, and don't be surprised when they're back in the conversation for Sun Belt titles every season.

And even if they do fall off the map, they'll still have one hell of a tailgate.

Best jobs in the Sun Belt countdown:

12. NMSU

11. Idaho

10. ULM

9. Georgia State

8. South Alabama

7. Coastal Carolina

6. Texas State

5. Troy

4. Appalachian State

3. Louisiana