by Logan Harris
Both the Texas State Bobcats (1-3) and University of Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns (1-3) had high hopes coming into the 2015 season, but neither has lived up to the billing. However despite their cold starts, each team’s goal of being the 2015 Sun Belt Champions are very much still alive, as this Saturday night matchup in Lafayette, Louisiana, marks the first conference game of the season for both teams.
With the defending Sun Belt Champions, Georgia Southern, off to another hot start at 2-0 in conference play, neither team wants to fall behind this early. Especially considering the Georgia Southern Eagles are now a perfect 10-0 against Sun Belt teams since joining the conference last year.
Texas State, coming off their best season in their short 3-year history playing in the FBS, was expecting to build off that 7-5 season en route to the program’s first ever bowl game. Currently the Bobcats are 0-3 against FBS teams this year as their only win came against FCS’s Prairie View A&M. Obviously a whole lot of ground has to be made up if Texas State wants to reach the goals they set prior to the season.
Louisiana-Lafayette hasn’t done much better themselves to start the 2015 season. The long-time Sun Belt powerhouse has the same non-conference record as the opposing Bobcats, yet it’s easy to make the argument that they’ve played a much easier schedule. While Texas State has the excuse that 2 of their 3 losses came against currently undefeated Florida State and Houston, the Ragin’ Cajun have no such excuse. Most (including myself) expected this team to be 3-1 at this point, with their given strength of schedule.
The Ragin’ Cajuns do have history on their side in this matchup though, as they have beaten the Bobcats twice in as many tries, including last year’s thrashing on national television and on Texas State’s home field. These teams have only locked up 2 times since the Bobcats joined the conference in 2012.
The Bobcats will be coming into the matchup fresh off a bye-week and a fresh off a coaching change as well. After being ranked dead last in the nation in total defense heading into their bye-week, Defensive Coordinator John Thompson decided it was time to step down. Head Coach Dennis Frachione’s son, Brad Franchione, will be taking over the reclamation project that is the Texas State defense.
The Ragin’ Cajun are going through a bit of change as well, though they’ve had the entire season thus far to adjust. To much of the delight of the entire Sun Belt Conference, Terrance Broadway’s 3-year reign in the Sun Belt is over after graduating last year. Louisiana-Lafayette has had trouble filling his shoes as they have bounced back and fourth between quarterbacks Brooks Haack and Jalen Nixon to start the season. Haack and Nixon have struggled mightily throwing the ball so far as they have combined for 2 Touchdowns and 6 interceptions on the year.
Jalen Nixon started in last week’s 43-14 loss to Louisiana Tech, and considering he’s thrown the only 2 passing touchdowns on the year, as well as 2 less interceptions than Haack, he’ll likely be the starter Saturday night. Then again, with the way last week’s game played out, maybe the Cajun will want to switch things up again.
This is an ultimate strength vs strength, weakness vs weakness matchup. Texas State will bring in one the most intimidating and effective offenses in all of the Sun Belt, while the Ragin’ Cajun will bring in one of the conference’s most stout defenses. Though Lafayette hasn’t put up the best numbers defensively, that’s definitely their strong suit right now.
On the other side of the ball, you have one of the worst defenses in the nation (statistically speaking) in Texas State, going against an offense that has put up 14 points in each of their last 2 games against very beatable opponents.
In this weakness vs weakness showdown, whoever can right the ship and improve upon their respective issues will have the advantage. Texas State will need to see improvement in the defense with Brad Frachione now at the helm, while Louisiana-Lafayette need’s to see better quarterback play.
Whether it be Texas State’s defense, or Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense, one of them will seemingly HAVE to turn it around this week. I see the Bobcats being the one to patch things up and stay afloat heading into Sun Belt play.
Texas State 42 Louisiana-Lafayette 38