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Sun Belt Selections: Bowl Race

With only three weeks remaining, the bowl picture is beginning to clear up.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Arkansas
Can Jason Huntley and the Aggies pick up a much needed road win?
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Last week was another successful week for our picks as we went 3-2 straight up, 4-1 against the spread, but only 1-4 on the total. For the season, we are now 48-21 straight up, 33-27-4 against the spread, and 38-26 on the total.

It’s been a good season and we’ll look to keep it rolling this weekend. With only four games on the slate, this will be a quiet weekend in the Fun Belt as three of the conference title contenders are on a bye.

Game of the Week: New Mexico State at UL-Lafayette (+4.5, Over/Under 65.5) 5:00 PM ET ESPN3

Both squads enter this contest with identical 4-5 records as they are both trying to qualify for bowl eligibility. New Mexico State hasn’t been to the postseason since 1960 while the Cajuns are looking for their sixth bowl appearance in seven seasons. We should be in for a tight one at Cajun Field.

The Aggies are fresh off a bye week and should be ready to go for the biggest three week stretch in program history. For the year this offense has carried the way as they are averaging 31.3 points per game. Tyler Rogers leads the way as the senior quarterback has 23 touchdown passes and is putting up 354.4 passing yards per game. This offense asks Rogers to do a lot as he attempts 47 passes per game and that has resulted in a high number of turnovers. The senior has tossed 15 interceptions on the season and 10 have occurred in Sun Belt play. It’ll be essential that Rogers takes care of the football moving forward.

In the passing game, Rogers has two top receivers in OJ Clark and Jaleel Scott. The duo has combined for 11 touchdowns and each has over 50 receptions. Both have been very efficient as Scott is the big, physical outside wideout while Clark is the small, shifty slot guy. Running backs Larry Rose III and Jason Huntley also contribute coming out of the backfield.

The ground game as struggled a bit as star running back Rose is only averaging 4.9 yards per carry. This is an offense that really doesn’t attempt to run it that much as their 27 rushing attempts are nearly doubled by the passing attempts. Jason Huntley is a unique option out of the backfield as he is an awesome third down back that can you hurt in all areas.

The defense, as usual, is the weak spot for this NMSU program. The Aggies are allowing 32.4 points per game as well as 5.6 yards per play. Opponents are having their way against the Aggies, but the offense’s turnover issue definitely hasn’t helped. Linebacker Dalton Herrington has been one of the best defensive players in the Sun Belt as he has 96 tackles, 14 tackles for loss, and 4.5 sacks.

After a slow start, the Cajuns have now won three of their last four conference games and are again in position to make it to the postseason. In Will Hall’s first season as an offensive coordinator, it’s been a bit weird as the Cajuns have dealt with a multitude of injuries. However, that hasn’t stopped this offense from putting up some pretty big numbers.

For the season, this group is averaging 28 points per game and they are led by their ground attack. The Cajuns are averaging 179.3 yards per contest on the ground and they have been led by redshirt freshman Trey Ragas. The New Orleans native leads the team 626 yards, seven touchdowns, and 5.9 yards per carry average. Add his effectiveness with a dual-threat quarterback and we’ve seen, at times, a dynamic rushing attack.

NCAA Football: UL Lafayette at Mississippi
Jordan Davis played well off the bench in the loss to Ole Miss.
Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

The quarterback position has been a revolving door for the Cajuns as three players have received starts. On Saturday, we should see junior Jordan Davis and freshman Levi Lewis behind center. Neither has been all that effective as the Cajuns are only completing 56.8% of their attempts with 11 touchdown passes and seven interceptions.

In the first month of the season, this was the worst defense in the FBS but this group has made some strides in Sun Belt play. In wins agains Idaho, Texas State, and South Alabama, the Cajuns did not allow more than 16 points. But in losses they are just getting lit up.

For the year, opponents are averaging 270 yards passing and 223 yards rushing against the Cajuns. If you take out the Sun Belt wins, the Cajuns have given up 45 points or more points in each contest. It’s a feast of famine unit.

New Mexico State is coming off of a bye week and should be very refreshed for the final push of the season. They have the offensive personnel to post a big number on a UL-Lafayette defense that has been wrecked by every good team they’ve played. Due to quarterback issues, the Cajuns will not have enough firepower to keep up.

Aggies cover and the over hits. New Mexico State 45, UL-Lafayette 30.

The rest of the Fun Belt...

ULM (+37, O/U 68) at Auburn Noon ET ESPN2

Auburn is fresh off their biggest victory since the Kick Six and all eyes on The Plains are on next week’s Iron Bowl. In comes ULM for a sleepy afternoon kick fresh off of a bye week. Auburn will score anytime they want to against the Warhawks, but a bruised up defense will give up points against a very good ULM offense. Matt Viator’s squad puts up a good fight.

Warhawks cover and the over hits. Auburn 51, ULM 27.

Texas State at Arkansas State (-26.5, O/U 57) 3:00 PM ET ESPN3

Arkansas State returns home to Jonesboro after the disappointing loss to South Alabama. They’ll be taking on a Texas State squad that is coming off a heartbreaking senior day loss to Georgia State. I think you’ll see a pissed off Red Wolves team drop the hammer on Saturday as Texas State is staring at another 2-10 campaign.

Red Wolves cover and the over hits. Arkansas State 52, Texas State 17.

South Alabama at Georgia Southern (+4.5, O/U 44) 3:00 PM ET ESPN3

The Jags are fresh off the big win over Arkansas State where there defense forced six turnovers. They’ll be heading to Statesboro on Saturday afternoon to take on a Georgia Southern squad still looking for their first victory. It’s an obvious letdown spot for South and I think Georgia Southern will finally get in the win column.

Eagles cover and the under hits. Georgia Southern 24, South Alabama 16.

Coastal Carolina at Idaho (-7, O/U 50.5) 5:00 PM ET ESPN3

Matt Linehan will not be in the lineup for the Vandals on Saturday and Mason Petrino will get the start behind center. It’s a big break for Coastal Carolina as this should be a one-dimensional attack from Idaho. The Chants have played their best games this season on the road and they pick up their first Sun Belt win in Moscow.

Chanticleers cover and the under hits. Coastal Carolina 24, Idaho 20.