- Time: Saturday, 10:00 a.m. MT
- Location: Cajun Field, Lafayette, LA
- Weather at kickoff: 83 degrees, Clear—1 billion percent humidity
- Odds: Boise State by 20
- TV: ESPN3...which is to say "no TV"
- Radio: KBOI 670 AM
- Commentators: Doug "Taco" Bell, Keith "Hernandez" Moreland
1. Flood of emotion
Cajun Field should be in good shape on Saturday morning, but that's more than can be said about a lot of the surrounding area. Right around the time I was celebrating my birthday earlier in the month, more than 10 Louisiana rivers hit moderate, major, or record flood stages—devastating parts of the state and causing millions of dollars worth of damage. The Ragin' Cajuns themselves assisted the flood relief efforts and like it or not...this first big game after such a horrific event is sure to stir emotions in the players and locals.
2. Hud's thud
ULL coach Mark Hudspeth was enjoying quite the rise in Lafayette after going 9-4 in each of his first four seasons at the helm (including 2014, when they last played—and lost to Boise State). However, last season the Ragin' Cajuns had much more reason to rage after they limped to a 4-8 record. Most think last season was the anomaly and this year the swagger will return, but the team has a lot more to prove this year which could make them dangerous...or docile, I suppose.
3. Slap on the wrist
Louisiana-Lafayette was accused of some pretty major NCAA violations in October...and not of the sleepin' on couches variety. 9 of those wins we just talked about from Hudspeth's first year at the helm (2011) were summarily "vacated" after former assistant David Saunders was accused of manipulating ACT scores for incoming players and even funneling cash to another. Because of the infractions, ULL is down 11 scholarships over the next 3 seasons and probably has to wear a degrading sandwich-board sign as well. No telling if the schollie reduction will have any real impact on this season for them, but when Boise State had to take a similarly bitter pill a few years ago...it did, in fact, sting a little.
If the Broncos went all Ivan Drago this offseason with their training, Louisiana-Lafayette definitely opted for more of a mountain-climby, log-lifting sort of regimen. Maybe bust out the medicine ball and box some kangaroos next time, huh fellas?
Gotta love offseason workouts lol pic.twitter.com/NhmxAlQA0y— Ethan Rosenbalm (@Cajun_73) June 6, 2016
Boise State - Won 2
Louisiana-Lafayette - Lost 4
Best name on their roster
Senior LB Otha Peters
Best player picture on their roster
Going through ULL's roster and there's no way around this: Gunner Hudspeth looks kinda like an emu. pic.twitter.com/MTOkbxwO6k— Drew Roberts (@mybrainissmart) August 30, 2016
Players to watch
Tackle this guy. The 5'11" 208 lb. senior running back is about as big a weapon as the Ragin' Cajuns have and stopping him will be a major key to victory. McGuire has had back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons for Louisiana and has 35 career rushing TDs to his name. Regarded as the best NFL prospect on the Ragin' Cajuns' roster, McGuire can do major damage—if you let him. The Broncos need to "mind their gaps" and wrap up cuz this fella also has 100 receptions and 1,145 yards to his name. Like I said...tackle this guy.
Jennings hasn't done a darn thing thus far for ULL, but was recently named the starting QB after transferring from LSU so you know he's got that SEC speed, Pawwwwl. Jennings rode the bench last season at LSU, but as a sophomore started 12 games for the Tigers and has more than enough experience (and against "decent" competition) to be ever so dangerous. I guess this is the part that we are thankful he isn't behind an SEC O-line throwing to SEC receivers. Of course, not everything is better in the SEC.
Remember him? Well, the senior LB not only has a heckuva name, but he's a heckuva player too. The one-time member of the SEC All-Freshman team (when he played for Arkansas) has kick-started his career after transferring from the Razorbacks and tallied 68 total stops a year ago...good enough to land him on the honorable mention All-Sun Belt team. Peters was a 4-star recruit out of Covington (LA) High and was the Linebacker of the Year at the Offense-Defense All-American Bowl as a senior there.
This senior DB was a preseason All-Sun Belt first-teamer and has the size (6'2" 210 lbs) to match up well with any receiver the Broncos put on the field. He finished the 2015 season with 43 tackles, 3 INTs and 6 PBUs and is expected to be better in 2016.
I probably could have added DE Taboris Lee to this list, but the one Cajun defensive lineman who I really think could make the sledding tough would be the massive senior DT Karmichael Dunbar. The 6'2" 295 pounder was a preseason second team All-Sun Belt honoree and also made the Wuerffel Trophy Award Watch List for 2016 (player who "best combines exemplary community service with athletic and academic achievement"). Dunbar could soak up some double teams, leaving some space for other defenders to sneak into the backfield—or he could just be the immovable object for Bronco running backs. If he's left, I'd suggest going right.
Players NOT to watch
Starting WR Al Riles suffered a sprained ankle in fall camp and may or may not be ready to go for the opener. Another WR, Jared Johnson, is most definitely OUT...as is slot receiver Gary Haynes, who is facing a one game suspension for violating team rules. By my math, the Ragin' Cajuns could be 3 receivers down...potentially good news for a Bronco secondary that is at least one man down.
Keys to victory
- Beat the heat. It's going to be sauna-like conditions in Lafayette this Saturday, and the Ragin' Cajuns have already decided to wear white...meaning the Broncos will have to don sun-absorbing dark jerseys. This may not be an issue for the Broncos, but it'd probably be wise to hydrate nonetheless.
- Build a lead. "Keeping a lead" is also important, but on the road...jumping on the opponent early takes the crowd out of it and the Ragin' Cajuns are hungry for a win. If the Broncos come out guns blazing, I think the more methodical offense of ULL will have a hard time recovering.
- Stop the run. ULL ran the ball over 62% of the time last season on standard downs and still at a near 33% clip on "passing downs". They think Elijah McGuire is a home-run threat and give him plenty of opportunities to ply his trade. They did not have competent passer last season, so mabye Jennings can come in and flip the script a bit, but I still expect a run-heavy offensive look from the Cajuns. I'd say make them beat us through the air.
- DON'T LOSE. I'm not going to lie...I copied this key from last year.
Boise State 38, other team 17