Louisiana Rajin' Cajuns at Appalachian State Mountanieers
|Date & Time||Saturday December 7, 2019, 12:00 PM (EST)|
Kidd Brewer Stadium
Appalachian State -3.5; Total 56.5
In a repeat of last year’s Sun Belt Conference title game, the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (10-2, 7-1 Sun Belt) will travel to Boone, N.C. to face No. 25 Appalachian State (11-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) at Kidd Brewer Stadium on Saturday. The Mountaineers won the Sun Belt title last year 30-19 after winning in the regular season, 27-17. Appalachian State also won knocked off the Ragin’ Cajuns this season in Lafayette, 17-7.
These teams have actually met seven times in the schools’ history with the first matchup coming in 2014. Appalachian State is 7-0 all-time, but Louisiana appears to be edging closer to the Mountaineers. While the first four games in the series were decided by an average of 28.3 points per game, the last three meetings, which took place in the last two seasons, were decided by an average of 10.3 points per game. So while the Ragin’ Cajuns are getting closer to Appalachian State, they have still never been closer than 10 points to the Mountaineers.
The game taking place in Boone doesn’t help Louisiana’s hopes much, either. Since 2003, Appalachian State is 98-18 at Kidd Brewer Stadium and it has only lost three times at home in the past five seasons. One of those losses accounts for the Mountaineers’ lone loss of the season this year when Georgia Southern came into Boone and won 24-21. Since that game, however, Appalachian State has been incredible, winning its final four games including a 20-15 win over South Carolina of the SEC. Three of those final four games were road games and the Mountaineers won them by an average of 23 points.
Appalachian State’s final regular season game came last Friday at Troy, a game the Mountaineers won 48-13. It was the sixth time this season they scored more than 40 points and the ninth time they have scored more than 30. That potent offense ranks 11th in the FBS scoring 38.9 points per game, but that offense will be opposed by Louisiana, a school that ranks 12th in the FBS in scoring at 38.8 points per game. These teams are also similar in that they will both look to get the offense going on the ground, with Louisiana ranking sixth in all of the FBS rushing the ball for 274.2 yards per game while the Mountaineers rank 18th in FBS rushing for 226.0 yards per game.
The edge goes to the Mountaineers, though, when looking at defense. Louisiana and Appalachian State rank 11th and 18th in the FBS respectively in scoring defense allowing 17.8 and 18.8 points per game, but against these rush-heavy offenses, the Mountaineers’ defense has the edge ranking 34th in the FBS allowing just 134.3 yards per game as opposed to the Cajuns that rank 80th and allow 172.3 yards per game on the ground. That edge was the difference the first time these two teams met this year. Appalachian State out-rushed Louisiana 196-123 and the Mountaineers scored twice on the ground.
Appalachian State showed that it can get it done through the air as well against Troy as junior quarterback Zac Thomas completed 28-of-34 passes for a season-high 326 yards and four touchdowns and added another score on the ground in the win. The Mountaineers still had a huge game on the ground, rushing for 194 yards led by junior Darrynton Evans who carried the ball 13 times for 82 yards and two touchdowns. Junior Thomas Hennigan caught 11 passed for 140 yards and junior Jalen Virgil caught five passes for 95 yards and a touchdown.
Thomas leads the offensive attack for the Mountaineers, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 2,247 yards and 24 touchdowns against just six interceptions. Evans has his second-straight 1,000-yard rushing season, currently sitting at a career-best 1,250 yards on the ground with 16 touchdowns, which ties him for ninth in the FBS in that category. Hennigan is the team’s leading receiver, catching 54 balls for 673 yards and four touchdowns.
The Ragin’ Cajuns didn’t have the same cakewalk through the final month of the season that Appalachian State did, but they did have two blowout wins over Coastal Carolina (48-7) and Troy (53-3). But Louisiana did knock off South Alabama, the team that defeated the Mountaineers this season, 37-27, before just getting past rival UL-Monroe in the season finale, 31-30. A late field goal by senior kicked Stevie Artigue sealed the win of the Cajuns.
In that win over UL-Monroe, junior quarterback Levi Lewis completed 15-of-23 passes for 270 yards and three touchdowns while completing four of those passes to senior Ja’Marcus Bradley for 127 yards and a touchdown. Senior Raymond Calais and junior Elijah Mitchell both had 100-yard rushing days with Calais carrying right times for 107 yards, highlighted by his 83-yard touchdown run just before the half, while Mitchell rushed 19 times for 102 yards.
On the season, Lewis has completed 65.4 percent of his passes for 2,450 yards and has thrown 20 touchdown passes while having just three passes intercepted. His favorite target is Bradley, who has caught 48 passes for 760 yards and seven touchdowns. Mitchell is the team’s leading rusher with 1,007 yards and 14 touchdowns, which ranks him in a tie for 15th in the FBS in that category. Calais has also rushed for 818 yards and six touchdowns.
Both teams are great against the spread so those numbers can be thrown out the window. Picking championship games in which the two teams have already played each other can also get tricky. The line is also jumping all over the place in the early going this week, so depending on when you get to place this bet, Appalachian State might need more than a touchdown to cover. Not saying that won’t happen, but it also doesn’t make a lot of sense to risk it as Louisiana has been getting closer and closer to the Mountaineers each time out.
What does make sense is to take the under. The total for this game is too high at 56.5. The two teams combined for 24 points earlier this season, for 49 in the Sun Belt Championship last year, and for 44 in the regular season in 2018. In fact, only one of their seven meetings have ever gone over 56.5 points, and that was the 63-14 game in 2017. These teams are defense-first teams that will want to establish ground games, which takes time off of the clock. It might not be 17-7, but it will be under the total of 56.5.