Time and Date: Saturday, September 12 at 12 p.m. ET
Radio: Louisiana- ESPN 1420AM / Iowa St- KCCQ FM 105.1
Location: Jack Trice Stadium- Ames, Iowa
Spread: Iowa State (-11.5)
ESPN FPI: Iowa State has 79.1% chance to win
All-time series: 1st ever meeting
The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns will kick off the weirdest football season ever known this Saturday as they travel to Ames, Iowa to take on the #23 Iowa State Cyclones. Kickoff is scheduled for 11 a.m. on ESPN as the Cajuns look for the first P5 win in the Billy Napier era. Let’s break down the Cajuns, the Cyclones, and the matchup in general.
Louisiana Ragin Cajuns
Billy Napier enters his third season in charge at Louisiana. After a 18-10 record in his first two years and fresh off a bowl win, the Cajuns looked primed and ready for greatness. Quarterback Levi Lewis is the clear-cut leader after throwing for 3,050 yards, 26 touchdowns and only four interceptions, only one of two quarterbacks in the country to hit those numbers last year (Justin Fields, Ohio St). Not to mention, the most successful running back tandem in all of college football. Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell both walk into their senior season after combining for 1,967 yards and 27 touchdowns in 2019. Replacing Raymond Calais (886 yds, 6 TDs) is no easy task, but sophomore Chris Smith Jr seems poised for the role.
A question mark for the Cajuns is the receiver position, as they're replacing Ja’Marcus Bradley (NFL) and Jarrod “Bam” Jackson (graduation). Bradley led the team in receiving yards last season with 906 yards and 10 touchdowns on 60 receptions. Jackson had 405 yards on the year, with catches in huge moments. Now in 2020, the injury bug has bitten the receiver room. Calif Gossett (torn Achillies), Jamal Bell (PCL injury), Cassius Allen (unknown), and Brian Smith Jr (broken hip) are all lost for the year. Luckily, Napier has Peter Leblanc and Jalen Williams returning with “significant experience”. Also, freshman stars Kyren Lacy and Dontae Fleming seem like players that can take off immediately and contribute. The offensive lines looks to replace Robert Hunt and Kevin Dotson (drafted to the NFL). They do get Cole Prudhomme backed after he missed 2019 with an ACL tear, as well as Max Mitchell, O’Cyrus Torrence, and Shane Vallot looking to fill the gaps and tie up the strong line for the dominant rushing attack.
Defensively, the Cajuns return big names in Joe Dillon, Zi’Yon Hill, and Chauncey Manac in the front, Lorenzo McCaskill and Kris Moncrief in the linebacker group, and Percy Butler and Eric Garror in the secondary for new defensive coordinator Patrick Toney. Manac and Dillon battled injuries throughout the year last year but come back healthy in 2020. Dillon has battled injuries since his freshman season where he was named a Freshman All-American with seven sacks in 2016. AJ Washington and Cam Solomon look to be key contributors to the secondary and Tayland Humphrey (FIU transfer) will line up on side of Hill on the defensive line.
Iowa State Cyclones
Matt Campbell returns for his fifth season in Ames. With a record of 26-25 in his time at Iowa State, Campbell looks to continue building the program into a Big 12 powerhouse after three consecutive winning seasons.
Offensively, it’s the Brock Purdy show. Purdy enters his junior season as arguably the best Cyclone quarterback in history. Throwing for 3,982 yards to go along with 27 touchdowns and nine interceptions, Purdy broke or tied 18 school records last season and looks to grow even further into his role as leader of the offense. Weapons around him include RB Breece Hall (897 yards, 9 touchdowns) and receiver Tarique Milton (722 yds on 35 catches with 3 touchdowns), Purdy looks to lead a loaded offense. Also, Charlie Kolar (697 yds, 7 tds) looks to be one of the best tight ends in the nation.
Defensively, the Cyclones are stacked. JaQuan Bailey returns from injury after missing most of last season, Orien Vance returns to the linebacking core after a big year last year (66 tackles, 6.5 sacks), and Greg Eisworth is regarded as the best safety in the Big 12 conference. Iowa State is known for running unique defenses and keeping their opponents guessing, which will benefit them in this upcoming matchup.
This game, on paper, looks to be an incredible contest to kick off the season for both teams. If you’re Louisiana, stick to your strengths, control time of possession, and pressure Brock Purdy and his skill players. For Iowa State, control the run game and stay disciplined. Louisiana is a team that will take advantage of mistakes.
Louisiana sticks to their guns and finds a way to leave Ames with a monumental win for the program.
Final Score: Cajuns 42, Cyclones 35
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