Coach: Mark Hudspeth (36-16, entering fifth season; 102–37 overall)
2014 record: 9-4 overall, 7-1 Sun Belt; second in Sun Belt
Look back: Louisiana has rolled to four consecutive New Orleans Bowl wins, but the Ragin’ Cajuns have fallen just short of winning the Sun Belt title. Last year, the team bounced back from dropping three of its first four games, mounting a six-game win streak that included a victory over rival ULM. The team stumbled against Appalachian State late, firmly leaving the Ragin’ Cajuns in second place in league standings.
Offensive starters returning: 6
Offensive starters lost: 5
Defensive starters returning: 5
Defensive starters lost: 6
Key losses: QB Terrance Broadway, WR James Butler, TE Larry Pettis, OL Terry Johnson, OL Daniel Quave, DL Justin Hamilton, DL Christian Ringo, LB Boris Anyama, LB Trae Johnson, DB Trevence Patt, DB Sean Thomas, DB Corey Trim
Top returnees: RB Elijah McGuire, WR Al Riles, WR Jamal Robinson, OL Octravian Anderson, OL Mykhael Quave, OL Donovan Williams, DL Jacoby Briscoe, LB Dominique Tovell, DB Travis Crawford, DB Tracy Walker, DB T.J. Worthy
Strengths: Louisiana boasts one of the most dynamic players in the Sun Belt and an under-the-radar college football star in versatile running back Elijah McGuire. Maguire won Sun Belt player of the year and offensive player of the year honors last year. McGuire rushed for a team-high 1,165 yards and 14 touchdowns. He led the Ragin’ Cajuns with 40 receptions while ranking 19th nationally in all-purpose yards per game at 141.2.
The team returns many of the key pieces of the offensive line that helped the Ragin’ Cajuns rank No. 22 nationally in rushing yards per game (225.9).
Weaknesses: Louisiana loses a key team leader in quarterback Terrance Broadway, a veteran athlete who played a role the team’s bowl streak and accounted for 2,948 yards of total offense last season.
Brooks Haack, Jalen Nixon and Jordan Davis are all battling for the starting job.
Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Mark Hudspeth has declined to name a starter during the offseason.
“We’ll probably let you know a few minutes before we kickoff [against] Kentucky,”’ Hudspeth told Nola.com during spring football in March.
The defense may face the toughest task offsetting the loss of first team All-Sun Belt defensive linemen Justin Hamilton and Christian Ringo. The unit will have to figure out a way to improve without the veteran leaders after ranking No. 72 nationally in total defense last season (405.8 yards allowed per game).
Outlook: While Louisiana has to replace six starters on offense and five starters on defense, it’s a mistake to bet against coach Mark Hudspeth. He has posted a 36-16 record in four seasons. However, the team will need to improve defense and identify a steady game manager at quarterback to compete for a Sun Belt title.
Sept. 5 at Kentucky
Sept. 12 Northwestern State
Sept. 26 Akron
Oct. 3 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 10 Texas State
Oct. 20 at Arkansas State
Oct. 31 ULM
Nov. 7 at Georgia State
Nov. 12 at South Alabama
Nov. 21 New Mexico State
Nov. 28 at Appalachian State
Dec. 5 Troy
College Football / College Basketball Handicapper. 2011 won 74%, 2012 won 72% 2015 SPECIAL. CALL, 877.WIN.ATS9 EMAIL,V@VincentRizzoSports.com