Four straight seasons with a 9-4 record have the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns feeling excited for the first ten win season in school history. The road to double digit wins starts with a trip to SEC foe Kentucky.
Start Time: 6:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: Commonwealth Stadium, Lexington, Kentucky
Streaming: Watch ESPN/UK Sports Network
Radio: Louisiana: Ragin' Cajuns Radio Network/Here. Kentucky: WKYM FM 101.7.
Records: First meeting between the two programs.
Live Stats: Here.
Betting Line: Kentucky -17, Over/Under of 59
Kentucky Outlook: The Wildcats, projected to finish at the bottom of the SEC East along with Vanderbilt, have been able to increase the talent pool in Lexington under head coach Mark Stoops. The Wildcats want an "Air Raid" offense and recently named Patrick Towles as their starting quarterback for the upcoming season. The Wildcats have a pair of good running backs in Stanley "Boom" Williams and Jojo Kemp, a pair that could break for 100+ yards versus any team in the country. Ryan Timmons leads a group of wide receivers that is young and inexperienced but very talented with as many as four sophomores expected to be significant contributors to the offense. Kentucky returns four starters on the offensive line and should be able to control the line of scrimmage versus the Ragin' Cajuns.
The Wildcats have several players on defense that are stepping into full time roles with mammoth 6-4, 340+ pound nose tackle Melvin Lewis right in the middle. Linebackers Ryan Flannigan and Jason Hatcher have the ability but not the experience on the FBS level with the Wildcats coaching staff expecting great things from both. The Wildcats are experienced in the secondary with A.J. Stamps, Blake McClain, Marcus McWilson, Cody Quinn, Fred Tille, and Kendall Randolph seeing significant playing time last fall.
Louisiana Outlook: The Ragin' Cajuns coaching staff has been very quiet heading into the season about the quarterback battle with Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon in the running. Both should see quite a bit of playing time this fall and it wouldn't be a stunner to see a two quarterback system all season long. One position of no worry is running back with Elijah McGuire (166/1,264/14 TD rushing, 45/468/2TD receiving) back for his junior season. The reigning Sun Belt player of the year is one of the most versatile players in the nation and will be tough for any defense to stop. Wide receivers Al Riles (34/354/1TD) and Gabe Fuselier (30/264/2TD) will give some help to the passing game as the only returning receivers with 30+ catches. Mykhael Quave leads a line that must replace two positions but has three returning starters that made all 13 starts in 2014.
Defense was a bit of an issue for the Ragin' Cajuns but with defensive linemen Jacoby Briscoe (19 tkl, 2.5 tfl), Taboris Lee (16 tkl, 3 tfl, 1 sack), and Marquis White (16 tkl, 2 tfl, 2 sacks) holding up in the trenches, the rush defense should be solid. Linebackers Dominique Tovell (76 tkl, 9.5 tfl, 3 sacks), T.J. Worthy (41 tkl, 1 INT), and Kevin Fouquier (37 tkl, 1 tfl, 1 sack) are all one year older and experienced in the Louisiana defense. Sophomores Tracy Walker (43 tkl, 2 INT) and Travis Crawford (28 tkl) should be able to at least help slow down the passing attacks the Ragin' Cajuns face this fall.
Prediction: Kentucky has the overall talent edge over Louisiana but the Ragin' Cajuns have the most talented player on the field in McGuire. The Wildcats will throw the ball all over and should be able to move the ball versus the Louisiana secondary but it should not be as easy as teams did last fall. Louisiana will give them a solid half before depth becomes an issue and the Wildcats pull away for the win.
Can Louisiana pull of the upset over Kentucky to start the season or is that hill too high?