In it's 11th year in existence, the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will have some new blood participating this year. The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (8-4) will take on the San Diego State Aztecs (8-4). Kickoff is set for December 17th at 9:00 pm ET in the Superdome.
Sportsbooks opened with the Aztecs as a 4.5 point
favorite and the total is listed at 58 on the College football odds boards. The lins have remained steady for the most part, with certain college football betting sites offering the spread at 5 points.
The first thing that sticks out in this matchup
is the lack of bowl experience
on each teams part. UL Lafayette will have a major homefield advantage but have
never participated in a bowl game. The San Diego Aztecs will be playing in
their first back to back bowl games since 1966-67.
Offense will be the theme in this game as the Cajuns average 32.3 points and
the Aztecs average 29.8 points per game.
Strength of Schedule
Overall the Aztecs had
the tougher schedule, which was featured a 28-7 loss to Michigan, a 52-35
loss to Boise State and a loss to TCU. UL Lafayette has one loss on their
rather weak schedule and that was a 61-34 loss to Oklahoma State
UL Lafayette plays at Cajun Stadium in Lafayette, Louisiana but this is still
will have that home game feel to it, and it will give the Cajuns a slight edge in this bowl game.
King of the Hill
The San Diego Aztecs have a well rounded offense which is featured by running
back Ronnie Hillman. The California native has 1656 yards rushing with
19 TD's this season, and has also played the receiver role out of the backfield,
catching 20 passes for 221 yards and 1 TD. In just his second year of college, Hillman is
putting up huge numbers, and the NFL will definitely be calling for this running
Aside from being fresh coming into this game, Hillman's performance has increased towards the end of the season. In his last 2 games, Hillman has rushed
61 times for 370 yards and 6 TD. Look for Hillman's number to be called a lot
in this game and he'll be unaffected by the crowd support that his opponents
will be getting. He is also my leading choice for the game MVP.
Aztecs passing game
Senior quarterback Ryan Lindley is quite capable of throwing the ball. In his
career at San Diego State, Lindley has thrown for 12277 career passing yards
with 87 TD and 47 INT. This season his touchdown to interception ratio is 2.5
to 1. The one knock on Lindley is his under 60% passing accuracy in his
Both Colin Lockett and Gavin Escobar, two of Lindley's favorite targets, are
coming off of 100 yard performances against Fresno State. Lockett leads the
team with 885 yards and 5 TD, while tight end Gavin Escobar has been solid with
710 yards and 7 TD. Regardless of how many carries that Ronnie Hillman gets in
this game, look for both of these receivers to play well in one of the biggest
game of their collegiate careers.
The Next Drew Brees?
Standing at 6 feet tall and weighing 205 pounds, Louisiana Lafayette
quarterback Blaine Gautier will get the same support that Drew Brees of the
Saints does when he plays in the Superdome. Gautier is similar in stature in
comparison to Brees, and he can put up big numbers as well. This year was a
breakout year for Gautier as he filled in for senior Chris Masson.
2488 yards passing with 20 TD and 5 INT, and take into concideration that he hardly played in three games. Take away a poor three interception performance against Arkansas
State and Gautier has had nearly a perfect season. This is a quarterback
capable of throwing for more than 400 yards, and I expect a shootout here.
Key players to watch:
The Cajuns will only go as far as Blaine Gautier takes them, and you cannot fail to mention that he is also a threat to run the ball. Gautier had 464 yards rushing and 3 TD this season. If leading
rusher Alonzo Harris keeps slumping, it might be mandatory for Gautier to be a
Alonzo Harris is just a freshman and has had a solid season up until the last
3 games. At Middle Tennessee, Harris carried the ball 33 times for 189 yards
and 2 TD in what was by far the best game of his college football career. Since
then he's fallen off of the radar, rushing 25 times for 76 yards and 3 TD in his last 3
games. Harris must get back on track and overcome the pressure for his team to
This has been a breakout year for junior Javone Lawson. Lawson leads
the team in receiving with 899 yards and 6 TD. Lawson is coming off of a huge 5
receptions for 137 yards game at Arizona. The only concern is that none of Lawson's four 100 yard games this season came in concession. Look
for Lawson to break that streak and come up with a big game as his team plays
in the state of Louisiana in their first bowl game ever.
Outcome of the game
San Diego State is the better team with the most talented players at key positions, and
more experience. This leads me to expect the Aztecs to cover the spread and win this bowl
game. I'm also willing to go as far to say that that Ronnie
Hillman will get the MVP of this exciting game.
My NCAA football pick - San Diego State -4.5
MVP of the game - Ronnie Hillman