This is the first in a series of opponent previews we will be running over the next 3 weeks. We will only be previewing the non-conference opponents in this series as everyone is fairly familiar with our conference foes, and we devote so many pixels* to them throughout the season anyway. So look for Zona and Tulsa previews over the next couple weeks... and then the season is here.
* is "pixels" the best internet substitution for saying something gets a lot of "ink"?
Who are the Ragin Cajuns?
ULL is located in Lafayette, LA, right in the middle of the Acadiana region of the state, which is basically a fancy name for describing, "where all the French folks are". I mean these people are as Frenchy as it gets for America. They even have their own flag.
ULL was a bunch of different versions of the name Southwest Louisiana until 1999 when it officially became ULL. Which explains what has always been my biggest question about ULL and LSU. It has always seemed odd that ULL, which is officially the University of Louisiana, has such a small national profile when compared to LSU. It might be the only state in the US where the "State" university is so much more known nationally than the "U of" school (except Pennsylvania, but their "U of" is Ivy League so it isn't like Penn State students can really look down on them). The switch from the directional name of "Southwest whatever" to University of Louisiana thoroughly explains this.
Notable Alumni: Jake Delhomme and Richard Simmons. Yes, that Richard Simmons. Thanks for the serially disappointing quarterback and the go to comparison for everyone over 40 at your office who wants to insinuate that something is similar to the most homosexual thing they can think of.
How did last year go?
3-9, with the wins coming against North Texas, Arkansas State, and Louisiana Monroe. The only signs of anything positive out of the Cajuns was the 1st half performance against Oklahoma State, and that they hung with Troy, but how much consolation can that be when you get throttled at home by Western Kentucky and Middle Tennessee. The season ended with the firing of Head Coach Rickey Bustle after nine disappointing seasons.
What is new for 2011?
They actually did find a new coach for this mess in Mississippi State WR coach and Passing Game Coordinator, Mark Hudspeth. (Incidentally, I always love titles like "Passing Game Coordinator". It feels like he was begging and begging to be the OC, and to finally shut him up they gave him a bullshit title that would placate him for a while.) This is a great hire for ULL though because as we all know, when you can get the coordinator of the 87th best passing attack in the country, you absolutely have to pull the trigger on that. Honestly though, Hudspeth has stated that he wants ULL to be a run-focused team like Mississippi State was, although I don't know how he expects to mimic that given that as Passing Game Coordinator I assume his contributions to the run game consisted of him saying, "There is no way we can pass effectively, please run it".
In addition to the focus on the ground game through a bunch of handoffs, Hudspeth has also stated that he would prefer to utilize a mobile QB over a dropback passer. This does not bode well for the chances of returning starter Chris Masson who chucked it 55 times against the Pokes in last season's meeting between the teams. Blaine Gautier is listed as the backup and he does have some ability as a runner, although he isn't considered to be anywhere near the passer Masson is. Mississippi State did it's fair share of QB rotating last season, so it is possible that Hudspeth will implement the worst strategy ever yet again and rotate Masson and Gautier depending on situation and who has the hot hand.
What should the Pokes be worried about
- Ladarius Green. Green is a 6'6", 230 pound tight end who is making most of the preseason All-American lists. The Pokes lucked out a little last year in that Green had to sit out the matchup due to a strained neck. There is no doubt he will be on the field in this season's opener, and will function as ULL's primary receiving threat. At 6'6", and coming from that inside position, Green is obviously a tough cover and will likely see attention from more than one Cowboys when he is out in the pattern.
- Size on the Offense Line. As I will show later in the post, this size doesn't necessarily mean they can block anyone, but these measurements across the line look nice on paper: LT: 6'5" 300. LG: 6'6" 300, C: 6'1", 305. RG: 6'3" 325. RT: 6'7" 330. Those are some hosses.
- Devon Lewis-Buchanan. Buchanan is out of the Shaun Lewis mold and serves as the Cajuns best defensive talent. At 6'2" 210 he is list at the strong-side linebacker spot, but will really play that hybrid/rover position that allows him to fly all over the field. Last season Buchanan had 63 tackles to lead the team, and added 2.5 sacks. He has the ability to blitz, come up for run support, cover inside or outside receivers, or just play the "ball-hawk" position where he just lets his instincts guide him around the field.
- That their starting DE is named Chris Tucker? That is something to worry about right?
- hmmm. That they made the Pokes look beatable for the first half last season.... ya, I'm out of positives.
What are the Ragin Cajuns bad at?
- Scoring (22 ppg)
- Stoping other teams from scoring (37 ppg allowed)
- Experience (11 returning starters)
- Running the ball (Only 3 TD's from RB's last season, and overall they averaged 2.9 YPC). 2.9!!!!! This reminds me of my suggestion for Washington State last season (who averaged 2.4 YPC) to just have a 7 foot tall guy fall forward. So this project of turning a decent passing offense into a running team seems like even more of a daunting task.
- Blocking (see: 2.9 ypc, add to that, 38 sacks allowed)
- Applying pressure (16 sacks, 161 rushing ypg)
I could go on with the negatives obviously, but they all point to the same thing: ULL is breaking in 11 new starters, new coaches, new schemes, and they weren't very good last year. All of this equates to a likely rough first game for Hudspeth, and probably a rough first season. I guess the one positive out this is at least they aren't running the same scheme with the same guys that got them to 3-9, and in the bottom 10 of a staggering number of statistical categories last season.
CRFF's too early and meaningless prediction
Something similar to the Tulsa game last year. These guys just don't have the horses to keep up, in spite of the one half of flukiness from last year. Add to it that this is the first game for a team that is changing everything, which usually means tons of mental mistakes. So if they don't have the athletes, and don't have the experience to make up for not having the athletes, I just can't see any way this game stays close. AND it is in Stillwater. I'm going to say 51-24, starters are pulled 2 possessions into the 3rd quarter.