Start Time: 7:30 PM EST, Thursday, November 12
Location: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Records: Louisiana: 4-4. South Alabama: 4-4. Louisiana leads the overall series 2-1.
Live Stats: here.
Line: South Alabama -3. Over/Under: 31.
Louisiana Outlook: The Cajuns slipped by yet again versus an inferior opponent in Georgia State to get to four wins on the season.
The run game looks on paper to be one of the better in the nation, but has struggled throughout the season to get starting running back Elijah McGuire open space to break long runs. The run game is one of the better in the nation at consistently getting yards on every carry, as they have only been stuffed on only 14.3% of all rushing attempts. McGuire and backup Torrey Pierce have combined for 1,088 yards on the ground and nine touchdowns. Both have yards per carry averages over five. Despite their solid statistics, the Cajuns have been unable to run the ball on a regular basis in the first half.
After the failed experiment of Jalen Nixon getting the majority of the snaps at quarterback, the job seems to be there for the taking by Brooks Haack. The junior has provided more stability to the passing game with a completion rate of 60.6%, nearly 8% higher than that of Nixon. Al Riles has been the breakout receiver for the Cajuns with a team-leading 32 catches on the season. Jamal Robinson, Gabe Fuselier and McGuire have also been able to give some life to the passing attack. Many expect to see a more balanced attack this week versus South Alabama than in previous weeks.
The Cajuns defense has one common thread all season long. That is the inability to slow down good run games. Other than the Louisiana Tech game, good running backs have gouged the defense all season long. A 4.5 yards per carry allowed and rush defense IsoPPP of 84.4 have been tough to overcome. The secondary has been able to limit success on passing plays to only 34.2%, but when teams complete passes, they are big gains. The average yards per catch allowed by the Cajuns defense is 15.2 yards per catch.
Players to watch on the Louisiana defense include: Dominique Tovell, Tracy Walker, and Zachary DeGrange.
South Alabama Outlook: The Jaguars somehow found a way to pull out a season saving win versus Idaho that got them to 4-4 on the year.
The run game has been a bit of a mess this season in being very explosive, yet very inconsistent. The combination of Tyreis Thomas and Xavier Johnson have combined for 1,074 yards, with both sporting a yards per carry average over 4.7. The problems will continue for the run game until they find some consistency. They are all or nothing with a great rushing IsoPPP, but one of the 30 worst stuff rates in the nation.
Cody Clements is a true case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde at quarterback. When he is tossing the ball to former UAB teammates Gerald Everett, Josh Magee, and D.J. Vinson, he is completing 63.9% of his passes for 990 yards and 10 touchdowns. When he targets anyone else in the passing game, his numbers drop to a 45.9% completion rate for 717 yards and only two touchdowns. Marvin Shinn is the only other Jaguar receiver with more than ten catches on the season, but has a catch rate of only 37.5%. Overall, the Jaguars pass for 221 yards per game.
2015 is not the year of defense for the Sun Belt. Expected to at least be solid heading into the season, the Jaguars defense has been anything but solid. They give up 411.1 yards per game on the season to go along with 5.1 yards per catch. The pass defense is better than versus the run, but much of that is due to the face that teams throw the ball over 60% of the time versus the Jaguars.
Players to watch on the South Alabama defense include: Blake Dees, DeMarion Harper, and Kalen Jackson.
Prediction: An ugly football game. Neither team has been able to live up to expectations heading into the season and show no sign of changing. It will come down to which team can run the ball and stop the run. The Cajuns will find just enough offense to pull out this win and destroy the Jaguars bowl hopes. Louisiana 33, South Alabama 24.