Ragin' Cajuns and Bobcats face off on Halloween night
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns and Texas State Bobcats are set to meet on Halloween night for a clash between a pair of Sun Belt teams heading in opposite directions. Saturday night's matchup will mark the eighth meeting between the two schools. The Ragin' Cajuns have won the seven previous games in the series by an average margin of 24 points.
Louisiana (4-1, 2-1 Sun Belt) bounced back from its heartbreaking 30-27 loss to Coastal Carolina with a hard-fought 24-20 road victory over UAB last Friday night, snapping the Blazers' 21-game home winning streak in the process. The Ragin' Cajuns will carry that momentum into the Lone Star State in search of their third conference win of the season and their eighth victory in a row against the Bobcats.
Texas State (1-6, 1-2) finally returns home for the first time since Sept. 12 after playing five consecutive games on the road. The Bobcats concluded their lengthy road swing last week in Provo with a 52-14 beatdown at the hands of No. 12 BYU. They will look to snap a four-game losing skid by securing their first-ever win against division foe Louisiana in upset fashion on Saturday night.
Louisiana at Texas State
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 31 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Louisiana -16.5
When Louisiana Has the Ball
Second-year starting quarterback Levi Lewis will lead the way for the Louisiana passing attack on Saturday night. Lewis hasn't been able to match last season's success so far in 2020, but he has been serviceable, completing 59 percent of his passes for 1,052 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions. While no one has really emerged as a consistent go-to target for Lewis, wide receivers Peter LeBlanc (14 receptions, 202 yards, TD), Kyren Lacy (11, 191, TD), and Jalen Williams (11, 192, 2) have all taken turns playing the role of favorite. The good news is that success shouldn't be too difficult to come by through the air against a Texas State defense that is giving up a generous 295.1 passing yards per game (90th in the FBS). The Bobcats also have allowed 15 touchdown passes in seven games.
A Louisiana run game that is averaging 175 yards per game and 5.1 yards per carry also has the potential to shine on Saturday night. The Ragin' Cajuns feature a potent four-pronged rushing attack comprised of running backs Elijah Mitchell (54 attempts, 316 yards, 4 TDs), Trey Ragas (53, 238, 3), and Chris Smith (32, 163) to go along with Lewis (27,137, TD). They should find ample running room against a Texas State defense allowing 167 yards per game on the ground.
The Ragin' Cajuns are particularly dangerous in the return game, where they have already found pay dirt on three occasions this season. Smith scored his second touchdown of the season by way of kick return in last week's win against UAB, while cornerback Eric Garror took an 83-yard punt return to the house in Louisiana's upset victory over Iowa State.
When Texas State Has the Ball
COVID-19 issues forced the Bobcats to alternate between quarterbacks Brady McBride and Tyler Vitt early in the season. However, McBride has gotten the starting nod in each of the last four games, a trend that will likely continue on Saturday. McBride's time under center has yielded mixed results so far. He's completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 959 yards with eight touchdowns and four interceptions, but his 5.8 yards per pass attempt have left plenty to be desired. He does have a solid cast of receivers at his disposal in Jeremiah Haydel (24 receptions, 296 yards, 3 TDs), Marcell Barbee (19, 266, 6), and Jah'Marae Sheread (20, 233, TD). But it's going to be a tall order for the Texas State passing game to find success against a stingy Louisiana pass defense on Saturday night. The Ragin' Cajuns have allowed just 181.6 passing yards per game, which ranks second in the Sun Belt and 21st nationally.
While running the football isn't exactly what the Bobcats do best (135.4 ypg), they may be able to gain some traction on the ground game against a Louisiana defense that is surrendering 192.0 rushing yards per contest. Texas State running backs Calvin Hill (72 attempts, 376 yards, 3 TDs) and Brock Sturges (77, 339, 3) will lead that effort. It's a favorable matchup that the Bobcats must capitalize on.
The Bobcats aren't quite as bad as their record suggests, while the Ragin' Cajuns have shown a tendency to play down to lesser competition. Texas State will likely find inspiration in playing its first game at home since early September as well. That should be enough to keep this game from reaching blowout status in favor of the Ragin' Cajuns. However, Louisiana is clearly the superior football team in this matchup.
Prediction: Louisiana 35, Texas State 23
Podcast: Week 9 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.