Members of the Marshall Thundering Herd may find it easier adapting to the spicy food on Bourbon Street than finding ways to handle the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in the New Orleans Bowl. The game is set for a 9:15 p.m. ET kickoff on Dec. 18 at the Caesars Superdome.
That said, despite being priced as 4.5- to 6-point favorites in early wagering around the betting market, the Ragin’ Cajuns will face challenges of their own as Michael Desormeaux makes his debut as head coach. A former player at Louisiana and the team’s offensive coordinator this past season, Desormeaux took the helm after Billy Napier left for the top job with the Florida Gators following a win in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
The total has been on the rise on oddsboards, bet up from an opener of 51.5.
NCAAF · Sat (12/18) @ 9:15pm ET
|Caesars Superdome, New Orleans, LA|
Marshall (7-5 ST, 6-6 ATS)
The Thundering Herd averaged 471.1 yards per game this season (10th best in the nation) and 34 points per game (26th overall), but the lofty figures weren’t enough to help them reach the Conference USA title game. Defensively, Marshall yielded 22.8 points per game (40th nationally) and 388.1 yards per game (76th overall).
Running back Rasheen Ali was named the Herd’s MVP after rushing for 1,241 yards and 20 touchdowns on 230 carries, while Sheldon Evans added 291 yards rushing and five TDs. Quarterback Grant Wells completed 280 of 419 attempts for 3,433 yards and 16 TDs but was intercepted 12 times.
Wells has plenty of targets to choose from as Corey Gammage led the way with 69 receptions for 828 yards, but just two touchdowns. Willie Johnson (625 yards), Xavier Gaines (476 yards), and Shadeed Ahmed (436 yards) had three touchdown catches apiece.
Linebacker Abraham Beauplan led Marshall with 104 tackles and 2.5 sacks, while fellow linebacker Eli Neal had 92 tackles and 5.5 sacks. Linemen Koby Cumberlander (4.5), TJ Johnson (3.5), and Owen Porter (3.5) were also among the sack leaders.
Louisiana (12-1 ST, 6-7 ATS)
After a season-opening loss to Texas, the Ragin’ Cajuns began a roll that hasn’t shown signs of stopping during their 12 straight wins. Quarterback Levi Lewis has led the way and will be making his 42nd career start for Louisiana on Saturday night. Lewis has thrown for 73 career touchdowns overall and has gone 217 of 360 for 2,647 yards and 19 touchdowns against just four interceptions this year. Lewis has also rushed for five scores.
One key to the Cajuns’ offensive success is their versatility, as they’re thrown for 2,572 yards while rushing for 2,307 yards. Peter LeBlanc led the receivers with 37 catches for 417 yards and one touchdown, with Michael Jefferson (373 yards, 4 TDs), Kyren Lacy (295 yards, 5 TDs), Dontae Fleming (295 yards, 2 TDs), and Neal Johnson Jr. (287 yards, 1 TD) sharing the wealth.
Chris Smith led the running backs with 855 yards and five TDs while Emani Bailey (548 yards, 6 TDs), and Montrell Johnson Jr. (784 yards, 11 TDs) exemplified the backfield’s versatility.
Defensively, Louisiana allowed just 18.3 points per game, the 11th lowest total in the country, and just 345.1 yards per game. Linebacker Chauncey Manac (10.5 sacks) and lineman Zi’Yon Hill (5.5) applied the pressure upfront while linebackers Lorenzo McCaskill (78) and Ferrod Gardner (67) led the team in tackles.
Marshall Vs. UL-Lafayette Betting Trends
While the Cajuns have reeled off 12 straight wins, they’ve been a middling proposition for bettors, going just 6-5 ATS during that run (one game was not lined). ‘Under’, though, has cashed in nine of Louisiana’s 12 lined games, including a six-game streak spanning late September through early November.
This is just the second time all season Marshall has been spotted points. The Herd covered as 7-point underdogs in a 31-30 loss Appalachian State back in September.
Louisiana beat App State twice this season, both times as dogs – 41-13 while catching 4.5 points on October 12 and 24-16 as 2.5-point dogs in the Sun Belt title game.