The Southern Miss Golden Eagles take on the Louisiana Lafayette Rajin’ Cajuns in the 2016 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday, December 17th. Kickoff inside the Mercedez-Benz Superdome is set for 9:00 EST Saturday night with ESPN providing the television coverage.
Southern Miss (6-6) punched its ticket into the postseason with a 39-24 upset home win over Louisiana Tech as 15.5-point underdogs in the regular season finale. The Golden Eagles had lost their previous three games coming in, so it was nice to see them rebound with that performance.
Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) needed to win its final two games to get bowl eligible. And the Rajin’ Cajuns did just that, upsetting Arkansas State 24-19 at home and topping Louisiana Monroe 30-3 on the road in the finale.
According to the latest bowl odds, Southern Miss is a 3.5-point favorite over Louisiana-Lafayette with a total set of 58 points. Check out my bowl predictions where I pick the straight up winner of all 40 games.
Southern Miss underachieved as much as almost anyone in the country this season. The Golden Eagles went to the Conference USA Championship Game last season and brought back 13 starters from that squad, including their best player in QB Nick Mullens. So to finish just 6-6 was a huge disappointment.
That being said, I like the way this team rallied in their season finale as they clearly wanted to make a bowl game. They upset Louisiana Tech 39-24 as 15.5-point home underdogs, covering the spread by 30.5 points and finally living up to their potential. A big reason for their success in that game was that Mullens returned from a two-game absence from a concussion to account for four touchdowns (three passing, one rushing).
There’s no question that the Golden Eagles are way better than their 6-6 record would indicate when you look at the statistics. In fact, they have outgained 11 of their 12 opponents this season. They are outgaining foes 472-331 on the season, or by 141 yards per game. That is the sign of a dominant team, not one with a 6-6 record.
There’s no question that the Golden Eagles are way better than their 6-6 record would indicate when you look at the statistics. In fact, they have outgained 11 of their 12 opponents this season.
The reason for the record is that they have committed a whopping 32 turnovers this season while forcing only 14, a -18 differential. But their two worst turnover games came without Mullens as they committed four turnovers against North Texas and five against Old Dominion. Having Mullens back healthy makes all the difference for this team. He is completing 63.4% of his passes for 2,926 yards with 22 touchdowns and 10 interceptions on the season.
When you look at Lafayette’s numbers, they are the definition of an average 6-6 team. The Rajin’ Cajuns average just 366 yards per game on offense and give up 368 yards per game on defense. Their offense has been terrible all season as they average just 23.8 points per game and 5.1 yards per play. I think Southern Miss, which averages 33.2 points per game and 6.0 per play, has a massive edge on that side of the ball. And defensively, they’re pretty even.
I question the Rajin’ Cajuns’ motivation here because they will be making their 5th appearance in the last 6 years in the New Orleans Bowl. This venue probably has to be getting old, even though they have won all four trips with victories over San Diego State, East Carolina, Tulane and Nevada. I think Southern Miss is far and away the best team that they will have played in this particular bowl.