GAME PREVIEW: Louisiana at Appalachian State

Louisiana at Appalachian State
When: Friday, Dec. 4th, 8:30 PM EST
Where: Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, N.C.
TV/Streaming: ESPN/WatchESPN (subscription req’d)

This was the game that before the season started was what I had predicted to be again for the Sun Belt Conference championship for the third straight season. The original Sun Belt Conference title game was slated for Dec. 4th or 5th.

Well, due to this wild COVID-19 2020 season, this weekend is not conference championship weekend like the original schedule had.

This Friday’s game is a rescheduled game from Oct. 9th and is not the Sun Belt title game that is being made-up due COVID-19 issues from that originally scheduled weekend.

Louisiana, however, will be playing in the Sun Belt title contest but Appalachian State will not . The Mountaineers two weeks ago lost to Coastal Carolina and now the Chanticleers will play the Ragin’ Cajuns on Dec. 19th for the SBC crown.

App State, though would like to put another win on its resume as it moves towards its bowl bid and a win again over the SBC West champions would clearly do that in the Mountaineers last home game.

Here is a statistical glance at the two teams overall:

Also, here are some highlights from last year’s Sun Belt title game where App State had a 45-38 victory:

Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (8-1, 6-1 SBC)

Louisiana moved into the College Football Playoff rankings this week at #25. The Cajuns are coming off a huge rivalry victory over Louisiana-Monroe 70-20 and this game will be its last before traveling to Coastal Carolina on Dec. 19th for the Sun Belt title game.

Louisiana has a well-balanced offense but slightly leans more towards the running game with about a 30-pass to 38-run play average per game.

QB Levi Lewis is the leader of the offense and has the ability to not only pass but also factor into the running game.. He’s completed 62 percent of his attempts with 16 touchdowns and has run for 233 yards with five more scores.

With Lewis as a threat to both run and pass, the dedicated running back with Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas are both capable of big gains on the ground. Both backs have rushed for over 600 yards on the season and spearhead the nation’s sixth ranked offense in the FBS in yards per carry.

The Ragin’ Cajuns’ defense as seen in the statistics above have yielded is fair share of yardage, especially on the ground. But where the defense has flourished this season is its ability to get turnovers. The Cajuns through nine games have 18 turnovers from their opponents. The Louisiana pass defense area has been the biggest contributer with 13 of those turnovers being interceptions. S Bralen Trahan and CB Eric Garror have combined for seven of those interceptions.

Key Player: QB Levi Lewis

The senior signal caller has thrown for 2,027 passing yards and 16 touchdowns. His passing production is down this year as compared to last season (3,050 passing yards and 26 touchdowns), and has thrown more interceptions this year than last (seven to four).Lewis is still scoring this season as a runner– 233 yards and five touchdowns on the ground. For the Cajuns to pick-up the road win, he will need to stay turnover free and also make the right calls at the line of scrimmage to keep drives alive to keep the ball away from the powerful App State offense.

Appalachian State Mountaineers (7-2, 5-1 SBC)

App State was one of my picks to possibly represent the Group of Five in a New Year’s Six bowl game in my preseason predictions. That possibility went out the window when the Mountaineers lost early in the season at currently undefeated Marshall in an out-of-conference game.

And the Sun Belt East Division crown that has been the Mountaineers the last two seasons also went out the window with the loss a couple of weeks ago at Coastal Carolina.

But this Mountaineer team is still very strong and will be up for its last home game for many of its seniors.

The Mountaineers rank seventh in all of FBS in rushing yards per game at 256.4. App State’s per-carry average of 5.59 is just below that of Louisiana.

RB Camerun Peoples has carried the load effectively, while Marcus Williams Jr. has a pair of 100-plus-yard games. Appalachian State despite being without the third leg of the rushing attack in Daetrich Harrington for the past month, the rushing attack has still been strong.

The passing attack with QB Zac Thomas has been a little down this year in his senior campaign. Thomas has thrown for more incerptions through just nine games this year over what he had the prior two seasons combined.

The App State defense is not quite as dominate this year as has been seen over the past two seasons but still fairly potent. The team like Louisiana has a large number of interceptions (11).

Key Player: QB Zac Thomas

Two weeks ago, Thomas had a chance to lead the Mountaineers to the road win at Coastal Carolina but instead through two interceptions in the fourth quarter. Those are the types of mistakes that Louisiana feeds on so he will need to be careful with the ball in a game that likely will have turnovers decide the winner.

Fearless Prediction:

With this being the last home game for App State, there is a big part of me that thinks the Mountaineers will come out on top in a narrow finish. But Louisiana, outside of the narrow home loss to Coastal Carolina just seems to find ways to win this year. I think they do it again on the road and head into the Sun Belt title game on a high but it will be a game that goes down to the wire before it is decided. Louisiana 31 App State 28