Start Time: 7:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 26
Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
Records: Louisiana 1-1, Akron 1-2. Louisiana leads the overall series 1-0.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Louisiana -8.5, Over/Under: 52.5.
Louisiana Outlook: The Louisiana Ragin Cajuns are heading into this game at 1-1 after a dominant win over Northwestern State and a bye week.
It is no surprise that Louisiana wants to run the ball as much as possible on offense. Their offensive success rate (staying on schedule) of 55.0% ranks eighth nationally. What this means is that the offense rarely loses yards. A big reason for the lack of lost yards is running back Elijah McGuire. The junior is rushing for 6.0 yards per carry, even though opponents know he is getting the football. Backup Torrey Pierce has been excellent as a change of pace with 162 yards on the ground in two games. The return of backup quarterback Jalen Nixon should give the offense a chance to get creative in the backfield.
Starting quarterback Brooks Haack has been able to give the Ragin’ Cajuns a more explosive passing game with nearly 200 yards in the air per game. Nixon should also see some time at quarterback after missing the previous game with a shoulder injury. Four of the top five receivers for Louisiana have a catch rate of 80% or higher.
The Louisiana defense has been a bit of a surprise; good and bad. The bad is a rush defense that is giving up 5.1 yards per carry and 206 yards per game. Opponents are running the ball on 66.7% of standard downs and 34.3% of all passing downs. The good is a pass defense that is playing a bend but don’t break style of football. They are excelling in holding the first two opponents to a 50% catch rate. All of those incompletions are getting the defense off the field. The linebackers and secondary have caused the most havoc on defense with 14 tackles for loss and five sacks coming from those position groups.
Akron Outlook: The Zips head into this game at 1-2 on the year. Only a 52-9 win over FCS gutter dweller Savannah State had kept Akron from starting 0-3.
The Zips have been one of the least efficient and worst finishing offenses in the nation. The offense has a success rate of 33.6%, meaning that only one of three plays is keeping the drive on schedule to get another first down. When inside the opponent 40 yard line, Akron is only scoring 4.43 points per trip, good for #91 overall. Akron has not been terrible running the football with a 4.1 yards per carry average. Conor Hundley has been the reason why with a 7.2 yards per carry average on 31 carries.
Passing the ball is not so easy with Akron playing Tra’Von Chapman, Kyle Phol, and Thomas Woodson behind center. Between the three, Akron is completing only 38.2% of their pass attempts on the season. Jerome Lane and Imani Davis are the top two receiving targets, but have only caught 13 of a possible 35 attempts in their direction.
Arkon’s run defense will give Louisiana fits in this matchup. Opponents are only rushing for 100.3 yard per game so far this season. Linebacking trio Dylan Evans, Jatavis Brown, and Darryl Monroe have been the heart and soul of the defense this season in making 37.6% of the team’s overall tackles. 6.5 of those tackles were for loss.
Many of Akron’s pass defense woes come from giving up 439 yards in the air to Oklahoma. Taking that outlier out of the equation, the Zips have given up just over 150 yards per game in the air. Expect the Zips rush defense to attempt to force Louisiana into throwing the football as many times as possible.
Prediction: The last meeting between these two programs was a classic that Louisiana won 35-30. While many names have change for both teams, there are several players and coaches that remember the 2013 game in Akron. On paper, Louisiana looks to be the heavy favorite with one of the better rushing attacks in the nation. An improved passing attack under Brooks Haack gives the Ragin’ Cajuns another dimension that was missing last fall. Akron is one of the better rush defenses in the nation in giving up only 100 yards per game on the ground. Strength versus strength of each team should be a fun matchup to watch in this game. In the end, Louisiana has too many offensive options to be held down completely by Akron. Ragin’ Cajuns win 34-17.