Appalachian State Mountaineers (3-2 SU, 3-2 ATS) vs. Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (2-3 SU, 3-2 ATS)
College Football Week 7
Date/Time: Wednesday, October 12, 2016 at 8PM EST
Where: Cajun Field, Lafayette, Louisiana
by Scott, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: APP -10.5/ULL +10.5
Over/Under Total: Off
The Appalachian State Mountaineers come to face the Louisiana Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns in a Sun Belt mid-week special this Wednesday. The Mountaineers and Ragin’ Cajuns were both off last week with the Wednesday game this week. In their last game, the Mountaineers beat Georgia State, 17-3, to win their second straight. Their losses were to big-time programs Tennessee and Miami and they took the Volunteers to overtime in that loss. Meanwhile, the Ragin’ Cajuns return home after losing consecutive road overtime games and look for their second Sun Belt win of the season.
In their meeting last season, the Mountaineers were able to dominate en route to a 28-7 win. The Ragin’ Cajuns were held to nothing until the final minute of the game when they added a meaningless touchdown to avoid the shutout. A lot of the same players on the Appalachian State team that had good games in this matchup last season are still in the fold, including QB Taylor Lamb and running backs Jalin Moore and Marcus Cox. Can the Ragin’ Cajuns turn the tables this week and what kind of shape can they be in mentally and physically after back-to-back draining overtime losses on the road? At least they got a little extra break heading into this matchup. Will it be enough?
Lousisiana-Lafayette was on the heels of four straight 9-win seasons and four straight New Orleans Bowl wins before falling to 4 wins last season. This season, head coach Mark Hudspeth was hoping for a surge with a lot of returning starters. The year started off with a 45-10 loss to a good Boise State team, before posting wins over McNeese State and South Alabama. But then on the road against Tulane, the Ragin’ Cajuns came out on the wrong end in triple overtime when a 2-point conversion failed. Then in double-overtime the following week, the Cajuns fell to New Mexico State. That’s a draining back-to-back run for the Cajuns and we’ll see what they can come up with on Wednesday at home.
The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by former LSU starter Anthony Jennings at quarterback. He is over 60% completions with 8 TDs through the air and two more on the ground. You’d think a guy who dealt with SEC defenses would sail in the Sun Belt, but that hasn’t really been the case. The same things that made Jennings a problematic starter with the Tigers continue here at ULL. He has thrown a pair of picks in each of his last three games. And against Tulane and New Mexico State, he was distinctly off his best form. Senior back Elijah McGuire, a two-time 1000-yard rusher, is on track for a third and does a lot of the heavy lifting for this offense, with 517 yards on the ground and some useful catches along the way. Darius Hoggins also adds production on the ground. The aerial attack is led by Al Riles and Ja’Marcus Bradley. Big-body receiver Keenan Barnes has only 13 catches, but four have gone for scores and he has become a favorite red-zone threat for Jennings.
The Louisiana-Lafayette defense has been hard to figure out. Last season, they reached new depths and were hoping for an upswing this season with seven returning starters. There was optimism in the pass-defense category, but injuries and inconsistent play have turned a potential asset into a hindrance, with opposing quarterbacks having their way with this group. They have some leadership in the middle and up-front and after a rough season against the run last year, they’ve been pretty good. But maybe that’s because opponents are having so much success through the air.
Appalachian State won 12 games last season. But their 3-2 record shouldn’t suggest they’ve slipped, as those losses came against teams out of their reach in Tennessee and the Miami Hurricanes. To be competitive in even one of those games is a good sign, as they pushed the Vols to OT in a 20-13 loss. A dominant conference win over Old Dominion followed the Tennessee loss, before they got lit up by Miami. A nice win over MAC team Akron, followed by an October 1 win over Georgia State leads to this matchup.
The Mountaineers have done well for a young program in the FBS. They have a good defense, as illustrated by Tennessee needing overtime to hit the 20-point mark. They gave up points to the powerful Miami and Akron offenses, but against Old Dominion and Georgia State, they gave up 10 combined points. Last season, they had the Sun Belt’s best defense and with almost everyone returning, they should again be the best. We’ll see as they get deeper into their conference schedule.
Mountaineers QB Taylor Lamb has been getting better after a tough start. They run the ball to great affect with Jalin Moore and Marcus Cox (questionable) carrying the load and combining for 6 scores on the ground and one in the air. Lamb has also run in a few scores and the run-game actually has a lot of life. Aerially, the Appalachian State approach is to rely on a wide bevy of different ball catchers, as different receivers have caught all of Lamb’s TD passes. It’s a part of the game that lags well behind the run-game, but it’s a lot of the same pieces that had this team posting big point-totals against Sun Belt teams last season.
Only in their third season in the FBS, the Mountaineers may have the most talented team in the Sun Belt. They’ve won 20 of their last 25 games, with most of those losses against teams out of their depth. And on the road, they’re usually pretty solid without a ton of drop-off. This is a tough road spot against a Louisiana-Lafayette bunch that can really fortify their season with a win over a top team from their own conference. The Ragin’ Cajuns haven’t seen a ton of things go right since winning the New Orleans Bowl after the 2014 season and this would go a long way. I see a game that could be close in Lafayette and I’ll take the points and the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Scott's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I’m betting on the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns plus 10.5 points.
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