This season hasn’t exactly gone the way Texas State (1-5, 0-2) had envisioned. The Bobcats haven’t earned a win since Sept. 2, and even after posting 27 points in their most recent loss to ULM, Texas State checks in at No. 124 nationally in scoring offense (14.5 ppg). Additionally, Saturday’s loss was Texas State’s 12th consecutive in Sun Belt Conference play.
Louisiana snapped a three-game losing streak last week with its 21-16 win at Idaho. The Ragin' Cajun defense held the Vandals to just 279 yards of offense and 13 first downs. Louisiana’s offense, however, didn’t fare much better than Idaho's, as it tallied 297 yards and just 84 rushing yards. While those numbers were good enough to eke out a win against Idaho, they’re hardly enough to make the Ragin Cajuns (2-3, 1-1) contenders for the Sun Belt crown, especially given their struggles on defense.
The series history between both teams is fairly new, as both squads first met in 2013. Louisiana earned a 48-24 victory that year, but it was later vacated. Since then, the Ragin’ Cajuns have won three in a row against the Bobcats.
Texas State at Louisiana
Kickoff: Thursday, Oct. 12 at 6:30 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPNU
Spread: Louisiana -14
Three Things to Watch
1. Can Texas State take advantage of Louisiana's defense?
It’s no secret that many of Texas State’s woes this season have been attributed to its lack of offense. The Bobcats’ 27 points against ULM last time out were a season high, but even with the offensive surge, the Bobcats currently rank last in the Sun Belt in scoring offense (14.5 points per game).
Through six games, the Bobcats have managed to score just 87 points. Most of Texas State’s offensive production comes from its ground game, which averages 131 rushing yards per contest. Running back Anthony D. Taylor enters Thursday as the team’s leader with 256 yards on the ground, but quarterback Damian Williams lays claim to a team-high four rushing touchdowns.
The Bobcats should be able to move the ball with some success against a Louisiana defense that’s last in the Sun Belt and tied for 124th in the FBS in total defense at more than 500 yards (506.6) per game. The Ragin’ Cajuns are allowing 6.5 yards per play and have already surrendered a total of 31 touchdowns (21 of those rushing).
2. Louisiana quarterback Andre Nunez’s time
Nunez will go from backup to starter Thursday against the Bobcats. Jordan Davis was benched in favor of Nunez last week, and after leading the Ragin’ Cajuns to victory, Nunez was awarded the start.
Nunez has seen action in two games this season, and he’s gone 40-for-61 for 500 yards and three touchdowns in those contests. The junior saw his first action of the year against ULM when he threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns and he added a rushing score to his tally. Last week against Idaho he completed 18 of his 24 pass attempts for 213 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
Davis, who has passed for 676 yards and five touchdowns against four interceptions this year, could be available should Nunez struggle. The good news for Nunez is that Texas State’s defense has not been very good against the pass thus far, allowing opponents to complete 63 percent of their attempts for an average of 266.5 yards per game. The Bobcats also have allowed eight touchdown passes and have yet to record an interception.
3. Can Anthony D. Taylor sustain the Bobcats’ offense?
As mentioned earlier, Texas State’s offensive success this year can be credited to its rushing attack. Although Taylor has yet to find the end zone, he does boast a team-high 56 carries through six games.
Against ULM he accumulated a season-high 102 rushing yards, and he also pulled in three catches for 52 yards and a touchdown.
If the Bobcats want to snap their five-game losing streak, Taylor needs to build off of last week’s performance.
History hasn’t been kind to Texas State as evidenced by its 0-4 record against Louisiana. The Bobcats have struggled to score points this season and it may be hard for them to keep up with a Ragin’ Cajuns offense that’s producing nearly 420 yards per game.
Even with Louisiana's defensive struggles, Andre Nunez should provide the spark the offense needs to protect home field and even the Ragin' Cajuns' record on the season.
Prediction: Louisiana 35, Texas State 17
— Written by Elton Hayes, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. A sports reporter for The Meridian Star Newspaper, Hayes also has been an invited guest on “The Paul Finebaum Show.” Follow him on Twitter @EHDC12.
(Bryan London photo by Kelley Spencer)