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Louisiana vs. New Mexico State: Game Preview & Prediction

If the Cajuns are to go to a bowl game this is a must-win.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Arkansas Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Matchup: The University of Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns vs. The New Mexico State Aggies

Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana

Date: Saturday, October 13th

Time: 4:00 PM Local Time (CDT)

Coverage: ESPN+

Outlook: Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (Clinton)

Louisiana looks to even out their record against the Aggies this week. According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, they have a 73.7% chance to do just that. Despite being favored by that metric, the Cajuns are who they are and they seem to never truly dominate any opponent. New Mexico State is no slouch, so they are looking to outperform their 26.3% chance to win.

You can’t always rely on stats to predict how teams will perform week-in and week-out. Trust me, I would be a millionaire living in some remote location and NOT writing about college football if you could. That being said, here’s a stat that gets me excited about this matchup: if both teams gave up their average total defensive yards, there will be 937.4 yards of combined offense. Who doesn’t love a shootout? Here’s to hoping that stats don’t betray us this week and deliver.

Something to watch for the Ragin’ Cajuns is the timeshare in the backfield. The three-headed beast of Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell, and Raymond Calais can be dangerous if they really get going. It’s hard to imagine the Cajuns losing if these three can produce on the ground. Last week Mitchell finally broke out, scoring 3 TD’s and almost for 200 yards. He’ll be looking to do it again against the Aggies.

The rest of the offense is just hoping that Andre Nunez can manage the game and avoid mistakes. It’s clear at this point in the season that Billy Napier doesn’t believe that the key to winning games is to utilize Nunez extensively. Nunez has actually been subbed out a few times for Jordan Davis and Levi Lewis to take some snaps. Not exactly a vote of confidence.

Here’s the part that the Cajuns desperately need to figure out: their defense. I don’t care what division a team plays in, if they are averaging close to 500 yards given up per game, something is wrong. They can’t seem to slow anyone down and they aren’t efficient enough on offense to give the defense any help. The Cajuns D is thanking their lucky stars that Napier digs the run game, because it gives them extra time to rest in between drives.

How Louisiana Wins

The Cajuns will win if they stick to their hard-nosed run game. That is the strongest part of their whole team, and they need to continue to lean on it. If a few big plays by the immensely talented receiving corps can build on the foundation laid by the running game, they can literally run away with this one... pun intended. Oh, and hey, maybe the defense can try slowing some people down.

Outlook: New Mexico State Aggies (Kyle)

Doug Martin’s march through the Sun Belt will begin Saturday with an away game against the Ragin’ Cajuns. The Aggies will be looking for revenge against Louisiana—and their conference.

After being a member of the conference for two different stints (2000-2005 and 2014-2018) the Aggies’ membership was not renewed and they were left to fend for themselves in the wasteland that is FBS Independence.

They have not forgotten and have been using it as motivation for this week’s game, in conjunction with their “Us Against Everybody” mentality.

“I hope that our guys do have an edge about playing a Sun Belt team. I know I do.” -Doug Martin on playing former SBC foe UL this week.

NCAA Football: New Mexico State at Arkansas
“You wanna play football at New Mexico State!?” Doug Martin has put a chip on his player’s shoulders and has them ready to dish out some revenge!
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports

Not only do the Aggies have a bone to pick with the Sun Belt, they also have a 47-34 loss against Louisiana to avenge from last year.

NM State hopes to do that by throwing it around to their talented receivers, something they were successful at last week in a 49-41 win against Liberty.

QB Josh Adkins completed 34 passes for 402 yards and four touchdowns (all to different receivers) last week in the win, making him 2-0 as the starter. So far, he has thrown for 558 yards, 5 TDs and no interceptions.

His performance helped two receivers make new career highs; OJ Clark set a new high with 10 receptions and Drew Dan set a new high in receiving yards (75).

Fortunately for Adkins, he has a good chance at continuing his hot streak against UL’s secondary. They currently rank 99th in the country, surrendering 252.4 yards per game and 14.67 yards per completion.

If Adkins struggles, NM State might be able to rely on RB Chrisitan Gibson. Gibson had a career day last week, rushing for 127 yards and two touchdowns. He has gone over 100 yards rushing two straight weeks and has cemented his status as the starter.

Gibson should be able to keep his streak going, as the Ragin’ Cajuns struggle to stop the run as well (5.5 yards per carry, 236.2 yards per game, 13 tds). That doesn’t bode well, as the Aggie offense seems to have found their mojo and are confident.

The only downside about this match-up is UL’s running attack versus the Aggies’ rushing defense. NM State has the 5th worst rushing defense in the country, giving up 4.6 yards a carry, 245.5 yards a game and 19 tds. That’s not good when your opponent has three good running backs in Trey Ragas, Elijah Mitchell, and Raymond Calais.

NCAA Football: Arizona Bowl-New Mexico State vs Utah State
DeShawnte Lloyd looks to keep the Ragin’ Cajun running game contained on Saturday
Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports

While I don’t think the Aggies’ D is as bad as the stats suggest (the offense struggled mightily in the first four games leaving them on the field a lot), I still expect them to give up at least one 100 yard rusher Saturday.

Despite this, I give the edge to the Aggie defense, who should hold up enough for the Aggie win!