Start Time: 5:00 PM EST, Saturday, October 31
Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
Records: Louisiana: 2-4. ULM: 1-6. Louisiana leads the overall series 26-24.
Live Stats: here.
Line: Louisiana -11.5. Over/Under: 57.
Louisiana Outlook: The 2015 season has been a bit of a disappointment for the Ragin' Cajuns so far.
When you think about the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, you think about running the football. The run game is in the top 20 in S&P+, success rate, and have the lowest stuff rate in the nation at 11.6%. They have one of the best in running backs in Elijah McGuire. He is one of the best all purpose backs in the nation with over 600 yards rushing and 24 receptions on the season. He is the glue to the offense. Backup Torrey Pierce and quarterback Jalen Nixon have been able to give McGuire some help in the running game, trying desperately to keep opponents from focusing solely on McGuire.
For all of the hope that they could create a solid passing game that would take pressure off of the run game, passing the ball has been nothing short of disaster this season. That was encapsulated in the loss to Arkansas State when Nixon started the game missing on 15 of his first 17 pass attempts. While they came back and made a game of it, they damage was already done. Gabe Fuselier, Al Riles, Jamal Robinson, and McGuire are the top targets in the Ragin' Cajuns passing game.
I was among the many that thought the Louisiana defense turned a corner heading into the Arkansas State game. I was wrong. The Ragin' Cajuns defense looked terrible in the first half, giving up such a big lead that there was little hope of a comeback. The rush defense, a strength last season, has been gouged repeatedly and is in the bottom 25 in S&P+, success rate allowed, and IsoPPP allowed. Not good. Pass defense looks better, but similar to the ULM defense, why would teams pass when they can run the ball so easily?
Players to watch on the Ragin' Cajuns defense include: Tracy Walker, Dominique Tovell, and Zachary DeGrange.
ULM Outlook: The 2015 season has not gone the way ULM hoped it would go with injuries decimating the receiver corps.
The nicest thing to do when talking about the Warhawks rushing attack is to gloss right over it. They average only 98.9 yards per game on the ground, good for 3.3 yards per carry. Kaylon Watson is the only player with more than 200 yards rushing on the season. Ben Luckett and DeVontae McNeal have shown signs of contributing, but have only seen a combined 60 carries on the season.
The ULM Warhawks passing game came into this season as one of the biggest strengths due to an experienced and talented starting group. That group (Holley, Ceaser, Cain, and Osborne) have all missed portions of the season, a group that accounted for nearly 200 catches in 2014. While the others are lost for the season, or in Ceasers' case indefinitely, Holley may get back for this game. If not, expect Marcus Green, Jared Mapps, and Kaylon Watson to see the majority of the targets in the passing game.
While no one thought ULM would be all that good on defense this fall, it is a surprise just how bad they have been. They are one of the worst run stopping teams in the nation, giving up 252.7 yards per game on the ground, good for 5.1 yards per carry. The Ragin' Cajuns should have no problem running the football. Pass defense statistics look better at first glance, but much of that is due to the fact that teams are running the ball on 66.5% of all plays. Why pass when you can run successfully?
Players to watch on the ULM defense include: Hunter Kissinger, Gerrand Johnson, and Ben Banogu.
Prediction: The game will not be the prettiest to watch. Expect the Ragin' Cajuns to stick with the ground game as much as possible while trying to build Nixon's confidence in the passing game. I do not see ULM providing very much resistance. Louisiana 42, ULM 14.