#24 Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (7-1, 5-0 SBC) vs Georgia State Panthers (4-4, 3-1 SBC)
Date/Time: Thursday, November 4 6:30p.m. CST
TV: ESPN (PxP: Matt Barrie/Analyst: Roddy Jones/Sideline: Alex Chappell)
Radio: ESPN Lafayette 103.3FM, 1420AM (PxP: Jay Walker/Color: Gerald Broussard/Sideline: Cody Junot)
Location: Cajun Field at Our Lady of Lourdes Stadium, Lafayette, LA
Betting Line: O/U 53.5, Louisiana -12
All-Time Series Record: Louisiana leads 4-0 (Cajuns won last meeting 35-34 OT in 2020)
It’s a good problem to have when you have a new impact player every week. Whether its Levi Lewis, Montrell Johnson Jr, Chris Smith, or Kyren Lacy, this Louisiana (7-1, 5-0 SBC) offense is loaded with talent. That firepower will be on display for the entire nation to see Thursday night as the Cajuns host Georgia State (4-4, 3-1) in their annual Military Appreciation night.
Levi Lewis is coming off a game where he became Louisiana’s all time passing touchdowns leader. He will look to attack a defense that currently ranks 101st in total defense, giving up nearly 425 total yards per game to opponents. The Panthers also rank 94th in scoring defense, allowing 30 points per game.
Chris Smith has been dominant for Billy Napier the last couple of weeks, averaging nearly 80 yards per game in a backfield that is referred to as a three headed monster (RUN EMC is the name Cajun Nation has given them). Smith will once again look to dominate a weaker defense between a stout offensive line.
Defensively for Louisiana, Ferrod Gardner and Percy Butler have been leaders for this veteran and talented group. The Cajuns come into this game ranked 53rd nationally in total defense under young defensive coordinator Patrick Toney.
Injury wise for the Cajuns, Emani Bailey is still out with the knee injury suffered against Arkansas St. However, Sonny Hazard returns to the lineup for the Cajuns defense.
Georgia State Preview
If Louisiana will use its Thursday night game as an exhibition of the Ragin’ Cajuns flurry of offensive weapons, the Panthers will use it as an exposé for their sneaky good rushing attack and formidable defense. The Panthers come in on a short week after beating rival Georgia Southern 21-14 and having won their last three games by a combined score of 104-51.
Like Louisiana, Georgia State lacks a consistent top dog offensively. Over the past four weeks the Panthers have had four different leading rushers and four different leading receivers. Tucker Gregg is the depth chart starter in the backfield (552 yards on 96 rushes) but is followed not terribly far behind by Jamyest Williams (413 rushes on 63 carries). Gregg and Williams have combined for nine touchdowns on the ground this season.
QB Darren Grainger, while still shaky through the air, is finally the out-and-out starter under center. Questionable passing performances have made his status in game subject of some mild speculation, but former starer turned will-he, won’t-he backup Cornelius Brown IV recently entered the transfer portal. Grainger is second on the team in rushing attempts and has thrown for 924 yards with a mere 60.2 completion percentage.
Grainger has chosen Jamari Thrash as his weapon of choice— Thrash is the only player to record more than 17 receptions— but other options see the ball fairly often. Five players other than Thrash have at least 10 receptions and five different receivers have caught a touchdown.
While perhaps overlooked after allowing high scoring affairs to the likes of Army, North Carolina, and App State the Panthers defense is very good at playing the bend, don’t break style of offense head coach Shawn Elliott has been vocally supportive of this season. Excluding the three games, the Panthers have allowed as many touchdowns as field goals.
Matt: This game between the Cajuns and the Panthers is always an entertaining matchup that goes down to the wire. Thursday night in Acadiana will be no different. Louisiana will have a solid night offensively and force a couple of big turnovers. Louisiana gets the win, 34-21.
Zeke: It’s a cliché, but this game ride entirely on which GSU teams shows up on Thursday. The Panthers are riding the high of a three-game win streak and has given far better ranked opponents (i.e. Auburn) a run for their money; but they also only barely beat Georgia Southern. Louisiana wins, but doesn’t cover 29-18.