Bet on Blue: Louisiana Lafayette Preview

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Game week has arrived. After an annoyingly long off-season it is finally time to get hyped for an actual, real-life game. Boise State travels to the Deep South to lace ‘em up against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns at 10 a.m. Saturday morning. It’s time to break down the betting line, find out who the Ragin’ Cajun’s are, and decide if we should Bet on Blue.

THE LINE

Boise State is a 20 point favorite (-110) and the O/U for the game is 64 points. What this tells us is that the betting markets are calling for a 42-22 BSU victory. The line was first available on 5/18/2016 and opened at BSU -19.5. In early June it shot all the way down to BSU -18 (suggesting some big bets on ULL), but has steadily crept back up and seems to be holding steady at BSU -20. The O/U opened at 60.5 and has methodically worked its way up to 64. My guess is that at kickoff Saturday morning the line will be BSU -20.5 with an O/U of 64.5.

THE RAGIN’ CAJUNS

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The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (ULL) have a long and storied history (probably), but we’ll just focus on the last few years.

Their head coach is Mark Hudspeth who has an official record at ULL of 18-24 but that doesn’t include the 22 vacated wins during the 2011-2014 seasons. If we gave him back those games he has a healthy record of 40-24 as the ULL head man. Vacated wins aside, ULL had three straight 9-4 seasons before a disastrous 4-8 campaign in 2015. It is safe to assume that ULL is, at the very least, a competently coached team.

THE OFFENSE

The ULL offense has a few intriguing players surrounded by a lot of mediocre ones. The Ragin’ Cajuns are led by LSU QB transfer Anthony Jennings. The scouting report on Jennings is that he can run around to gain yards or avoid trouble, and has a live arm. On the down side, Jennings isn’t known for his accuracy, decision-making prowess, or poise. He tends to break down when the play does.

The real star of the offense seems to be RB Elijah McGuire. The senior RB had a combined 1,732 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2014, and backed that up with 1,351 yards and 16 touchdowns in 2015 despite ULL’s, at times, sputtering offense. The Boise State program has ample experience of McGuire’s explosiveness as the RB racked up 137 yards and a touchdown on The Blue in 2014. McGuire also ran for 110 yards on 10 carries in a (vacated) 23-7 victory over the Bryan Harsin led Arkansas State Red Wolves in 2013.

The Ragin’ Cajuns began the year with a deep and talented pool of wide receivers, but due to suspension and injury only one receiver who was in the mix for a starting spot will be available on Saturday morning.

THE DEFENSE

The ULL defense was a disaster for large stretches of 2015. They finished the season with just 11 turnovers and gave up almost 32 points per game. A possible reason for optimism for ULL fans is that they have an experienced group returning in 2016. The Ragin’ Cajuns return every starter in the secondary, and three of their four starting linebackers are seniors.

The Ragin’ Cajuns run a 3-4 defense and play a zone coverage scheme. This is not a look that Boise State runs into frequently, but it certainly isn’t a novel defense. In theory ULL will clog up the line of scrimmage with their three-man front allowing their four linebackers to run free at McNichols in the run game or Rypien when he drops back to pass. The zone coverage on the back-end should help to prevent the deep ball, but it

will allow Rypien to complete short and intermediate passes to receivers who find the holes in the zone.

WHAT WILL HAPPEN?

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For all of the words I’ve strung together about ULL, I could have summed it up thusly; the Ragin’ Cajuns have a few electric players, but overall they are a middling football team. They don’t have the talent to hang with Boise State. Some bed-wetting members of Bronco Nation will surely let their angst run wild with concern citing the humidity, the early kickoff, and a certain position group decimated by suspension as reasons for doom-and-gloom, but the fact is, BSU is the superior football team.

The 3-4 zone defense shouldn’t give BSU much trouble. Boise State’s line is bigger and more talented than ULL’s line which will allow BSU’s linemen to get to the second level and harass the Ragin’ Cajun’s linebackers in their attempt to stop the run.

Once McNichols gets loose, and the linebackers start cheating up against run, Rypien will start picking apart the zone and complete 12-yard pass after 12-yard pass. If ULL ever does figure it out then it’s time to go to the bag of tricks to demoralize their outmatched foes. Boise State is scoring 40+ points.

On defense, Boise State will focus on the run game and corralling Jennings. I wouldn’t be surprised if the focus is more on preventing the speedy quarterback from rolling out into space than actually sacking him. If BSU can limit McGuire in the run game (plus keep tabs on him in the passing game), and force Jennings to be, more or less, a pocket passer, then the ULL offense is in trouble. BSU has the young and talented line, and the veteran linebackers to accomplish this task. The Ragin’ Cajuns will score around 20 hard-fought points.

SHOULD WE BET ON BLUE?

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This game won’t be close. I am predicting a 45-20 Boise State victory. This would cover the 20.5 point spread and go OVER the point total. I would not advise betting on the game though. Boise State is fielding an inexperienced defense and one

missed assignment turns 45-20 into 45-27 and a losing betting slip. If we were still looking at a -18 line, I’d say that this game is pretty close to free money, but -20+ is a bit too large to gamble on.

Even though I can’t advise Betting on Blue this week, I do predict a #BEATEMDOWN Saturday morning of college football for the Boise State Broncos. Game week has finally arrived and you can bet that Bronco Nation is fired up!

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