Louisiana vs. Appalachian State Predictions
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (8-1 SU, 4-5 ATS) vs. Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-2 SU, 2-7 ATS)
When: Friday, December 4, 8:30 p.m.
Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, N.C.
Point Spread: ULL +2.5/APP -2.5 (Lay -105 Odds; Not -110!)
Total: O/U 53.5
For the first time, the Sun Belt championship game won’t feature Appalachian State, meaning the league will have a new champion for the first time since 2015. The league created the title game in 2018, and in each of the first two incarnations, the matchup has been Appalachian State against Louisiana, with the Mountaineers claiming the crown. Louisiana did its part to make a rematch happen by winning the West Division for the third year in a row, but the Mountaineers couldn’t handle Coastal Carolina, which remains undefeated and will be Louisiana’s opponent in the league title game.
But before the Cajuns can think about the Chanticleers, they’ve got a yellow-and-black mountain to scale. For all of Louisiana’s success in the Sun Belt, the Cajuns have never beaten Appalachian State. They’ve closed the gap over the past few seasons, as the past four meetings have all been decided by 11 points or less, but the closest they’ve come was last year’s seven-point loss in the Sun Belt title game. Regardless of what Coastal Carolina is doing, Appalachian State remains the gold standard of the Sun Belt Conference, and a win here would be a huge step forward for the Cajuns and their program. With nothing but pride and an eighth win to play for, can Appalachian State frustrate Louisiana again?
How the Public is Betting the Louisiana/Appalachian State Game
This appears to be a Pros vs. Joes situation, as the tickets are coming in on Appalachian State, but the money is coming in on the Cajuns. Despite the fact that 77 percent of all tickets have come in on the Mountaineers, the number has pushed in the opposite direction, dropping from -3 to -2.5. The total has increased, jumping to 53.5 from 53.
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Wide receiver Peter LeBlanc is questionable with an undisclosed issue. Quarterback Jai Ave Magalei (illness), running back T.J. Wisham (wrist), safety Brandon Bishop (shin), wide receiver Jamal Bell (knee), and wide receiver Brian Smith Jr. (hip) are all out.
Running back Dietrich Harrington is out indefinitely with an undisclosed issue. Wide receiver Jacoby Pinckney is ineligible.
When Louisiana Has the Ball
Levi Lewis has had a year to think about this game after the Cajuns gave away their shot at the Sun Belt title with costly turnovers. Louisiana spotted Appalachian State 14 points with a pick-six and a fumble, and the Cajuns left another three points on the field with a missed field goal. Louisiana proved it could move the ball on Appalachian State last year after years of frustration, and they’ll have to get a strong performance out of both Lewis and running back Elijah Mitchell.
Both are seniors and facing their last chance to beat Appalachian State, and in past seasons, they’ve really struggled to perform against the Mountaineers, who give up just 18 points per game. With leading receiver Peter LeBlanc possibly on the shelf, Mitchell will have to establish the run early and wear down the Mountaineer defense. The ground is where Louisiana wants to be anyway, as the Cajuns have run 338 plays as opposed to 263 pass attempts this year. However, Appalachian State was stopping the running game with ease last year until the Cajuns went to the air out of desperation, so this might be a case where Louisiana changes up what it’s doing in order to throw its opponent off guard.
When Appalachian State Has the Ball
It’s redemption time for Zac Thomas, who won’t be going to the Sun Belt title game because of his performance against Coastal Carolina. Thomas looked like anything but a senior in that contest, as he tossed three interceptions and gave the Chanticleers the window they needed to overcome their deficit and knock Appalachian State out of the race for the East Division crown. Assuming they’re played, Thomas will get a bowl game in which to end his collegiate career, but he’d like to close out the regular season with a strong performance in the Sun Belt against the West Division champions.
In practice, that means not turning the ball over and letting the ground game get the job done. Camerun Peoples nearly beat Coastal Carolina by himself with 178 rushing yards and probably would have led his team to victory if not for the costly interceptions. Louisiana has proven susceptible to the run throughout the season, as it’s conceded 179 yards on the ground per game against 175 passing yards, so Thomas would be well-advised not to try to put the Mountaineers on his back in this game. In past matchups with the Cajuns, the quarterback has had no trouble ceding the spotlight and letting the running backs take center stage, as he completed just nine passes in the 45-38 win a year ago.
Last year’s title game was an anomaly among these teams, who have proven to know each other so well that the defenses actually tend to dominate this matchup. In eight all-time meetings between them, the under has hit on six occasions. Last year, the total was set at 70 points in the regular season, but what happened instead was a 17-7 defensive struggle. Both of these teams can score, but the defenses are strong enough that they can keep the opponent in the 20s or less. Appalachian State has held everyone but Coastal under 30 points, while Louisiana has kept six of its nine opponents — including Big 12 leader Iowa State — to 20 points or less.
When it comes to the spread, Louisiana has history on its side. The road team has managed to cover in six of the eight overall meetings, including both times last season. Plus, App State really doesn’t tend to cover in the Sun Belt because of its reputation. The public regularly backs the Mountaineers, but they’ve covered the number in just two of their past ten games.
App State probably wishes this game had been played Tuesday, which brought 25-degree temperatures and snow to western North Carolina. But for Friday night, it’s going to be a much milder 35 degrees at kickoff, with the wind blowing six miles per hour going northwest. The question is the field condition, as 1/3 of an inch of rain is expected during the day. The rain is expected to stop by kickoff.
Dan’s Pick to Cover the Spread
This should be another tight game, but I can’t see Appalachian State throwing this one away the way the Mountaineers did against Coastal Carolina. This is still a proud team that has won four straight league titles, and they don’t want to go out with a loss on their home turf. Throw in that Louisiana still has that 0-8 mental block in this game, and there’s good reason to lean toward the Mountaineers here.
I’ll eat the small chalk here and take Appalachian State, and I’ll pair it with the under. Bet your pick LIVE in-game at the sportsbook with the BEST live wagering platform on the planet, who also gives you a 50% bonus up to $250 FREE, gives you rebates on all your action; win, lose or draw AND that offers FAST hassle-free payouts —-> Bovada Sportsbook!
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