Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
Date: Saturday, September 2nd
Time: 6 PM CDT
Records: Lafayette 0-0, Southeastern 0-0
Betting Line: N/A (ESPN Power Index 87.1% to Cajuns)
All-Time Series: Ragin’ Cajuns lead 19-17-3
Last Meeting: September 12, 1981
This season marks the first time that the Cypress Mug rivalry game will be played since 1981, when the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns were named the Southwestern Louisiana University Bulldogs. The game is named for the turned, polished mahogany mug that was awarded to the annual winner. The current leaders of the rivalry are the Ragin’ Cajuns, with a two game edge over the Southeastern University Lions.
The Cajuns were in the FCS’ Southland conference during the last meeting, whereas the Lions were an FCS independent. The Lions have since moved into the Southland conference, and the Cajuns have been a member of the Sun Belt since 2001. Despite a nearly even split in wins throughout the rivalry’s history, the Cajuns are a heavy favorite as they are being given an 87.1% chance of victory according to ESPN’s power index.
What to Expect from the Ragin’ Cajuns
This game is the Cajuns’ to lose. Matching up against an FCS opponent early is a commonplace occurrence in FBS football, because it gives teams a “warm up” game in most situations. Fun fact: the Sun Belt has two more teams than the SEC without an FCS opponent scheduled for this season (mostly because every member of the SEC has at least one FCS game scheduled; credit to UL-Monroe and New Mexico State for staying in the FBS this season). So it’s apparent that the scheduling of FCS opponents is a widely accepted practice for FBS teams.
That being said, the Cajuns will look to their junior starting quarterback Jordan Davis to start hot and stay that way throughout the game. If he can do so, the Cajuns will cruise to a victory. His offensive line is a group that is mostly veterans, and they will provide him with ample opportunities to make plays and carry the team. With a new offensive system courtesy of coordinator Will Hall, it is vital that Davis and the offensive line are on the same page early.
The other skill positions are ripe with talent, albeit with somewhat new faces looking to lead the way. Expect to see a running back by committe as the team feels out a new starter following Darius Hoggins’ broken jaw. The potential for a running back by committee is heightened by the fact that there is no running back featured on the Ragin’ Cajun football homepage. That is not the case for wide receiver, as Keenan Barnes and Ja’Marcus Bradley are expected to be key contributors. The Cajuns will look to get them involved early and often.
The defense for the Cajuns raises less questions than the offensive side of the ball, as they return many key parts. Joe Dillon, Taboris Lee, and Tracy Walker have emerged in recent years at the three levels on the defensive side of the ball. The defense will need to be stout for this game to set the tone for the season, and they have the parts to be successful. Don’t be surprised if you see some big plays early from the defensive side of the ball against the Lions.
How Can the Lions Provide an Upset?
The Lions come in with little or no expectation of victory from the outside, being labeled as the lesser team due to their FCS status. The value of underdog is clearly understood on this website, as it damn-well better be. So what can the underdog Lions do to possibly provide an upset for the first game of the season?
- Force turnovers. The Lions face a Cajun team that features a new offensive scheme with new starters at quarterback, running back, wide receiver, and tight end. Forcing the new faces into tough decisions could easily lead to turnovers and provide an edge for the Lions.
- Put up early points. Yes, this is the most obvious statement ever written about football, or sports in general. Scoring more points is the key to victory. But, scoring early can shake off some of the first-game jitters and turn the tide in the Lions’ favor.
- Take risks. Many might not realize this, but Southeastern Louisiana is in fact not the where the Waterboy played linebacker and won the Bourbon Bowl. That was South Central Louisiana University. It seems that on the national level that Southeastern Louisiana is known even less than SCLSU, so what should their answer be? Take some risks! Make a big play, use some trickery, do whatever works. They are already slated to have little chance at winning, so they might as well have fun with it.
Prediction: Ragin’ Cajuns 34, Lions 17
Why hedge and have a vague prediction that may or may not come true? I’m going to throw my exact score prediction out there every week this season as I cover the Ragin’ Cajuns, however far off it may end up being. I believe that the talent on the Ragin’ Cajuns roster may start slow, but will prevail. The Cypress Mug will return to Lafeyette!