The Nevada Wolf Pack take on the Louisiana-Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns on Saturday, December 20th in the 2014 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. This game will be played in New Orleans, LA, which gives the Rajin’ Cajuns a bit of a home-field advantage.
Nevada (7-5) went 4-4 in the Mountain West Conference to finish in third place in the West division. It is 4-9 all-time in bowl games with two straight losses coming in, including a 48-49 loss to Arizona in its last bowl appearance in 2012.
Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4) went 7-1 in the Sun Belt this season to finish in second place within the conference. It is 3-0 all-time in bowl games with all three coming the last three years, including a 24-21 win over Tulane in 2013.
This game is set to kick off at 11:00 a.m. EST Saturday morning inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome with ESPN providing the television coverage. Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have installed Louisiana-Lafayette as a 1-point favorite over Nevada with a total set of 60.5 points.
My Early Lean: Louisiana-Lafayette -1
For starters, the Rajin’ Cajuns have a huge home-field advantage for this game as it will be played in their home state of Louisiana. In fact, these players and coaches are very familiar with this game as this will be the fourth consecutive time they have played in it. They are a perfect 3-0 in those three games. Obviously, it would be nice for these players to experience a different venue, but they haven’t looked at it that way. They will be fighting for their thousands of fans that show up to watch.
Lafayette has really been playing some great football for quite some time now. It has gone 7-1 straight up and 6-2 against the spread in its last eight games overall. It went on the road and beat Texas State (34-10), LA-Monroe (34-17) and Troy (42-23) during this stretch, while also beating two other bowl teams in Arkansas State (55-40) and South Alabama (19-9) at home.
This is a veteran bunch that returned 17 starters from last year and was the favorite to win the Sun Belt, but Georgia Southern just didn’t lose a game all season, and it never had the chance to face the Eagles to settle it on the field. I just believe all of these senior starters aren’t going to allow this team to have a letdown even though this is the fourth consecutive time they’ll be playing in the New Orleans Bowl.
It starters with senior quarterback Terrance Broadway, who leads an offense that is putting up 30.6 points and 417.9 yards per game this season. Broadway is completing 61.1 percent of his passes for 2,068 yards and 12 touchdowns, while also rushing for 646 yards and three scores. The one-two punch of Elijah McGuire (1,165 yards, 14 TD, 7.8/carry) and Alonzo Harris (737 yards, 12 TD, 4.6/carry) is tough to deal with.
I just have not been that impressed with Nevada this season. It went just 4-4 in a very weak Mountain West Conference and is not playing that great coming in. It has lost two of its last three games with its only win coming against 2-11 UNLV. It lost at home to Fresno State 20-40, getting outgained by 198 yards against a mediocre Bulldogs squad. It also lost at Air Force 38-45. Its seven wins this season have come against Southern Utah, Washington State, San Jose State, BYU, Hawaii, SDSU and UNLV.
Nevada’s defense is the reason it stands little chance in this game. It is giving up 28.2 points and 450.1 yards per game to rank 105th in the country in total defense. It hasn’t been able to stop the run or the pass. It is giving up 179 rushing yards per game and 4.8 per carry this season. It is also allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 64.7% of their passes for 271 yards per game. Broadway and company will have a field day against this defense.
Nevada is a run-first team that averages 215 rushing yards per game compared to 197 passing yards. That actually makes this a great matchup for the Rajin’ Cajuns because they have been solid against the run, but not very good against the pass. They are allowing just 147 rushing yards per game and 4.1 per carry against teams that average 168 rushing yards per game and 4.3 per carry. So, they are an above-average defense against the run.
The Wolf Pack are 0-8 ATS vs. awful passing defenses that allow a completion percentage of 62% or worse over the last three seasons.
The Wolf Pack are 0-8 ATS vs. awful passing defenses that allow a completion percentage of 62% or worse over the last three seasons. This trend goes right in line with my thinking. They haven’t been able to take advantage of poor passing defenses in the past, and they won’t in this one, either. Lafayette is 15-5 ATS in its last 20 vs. a team with a winning record. Nevada is 1-4-1 ATS in its last six bowl games.