The 2019 college football season got started off this past Saturday with a pair of fun matchups, but it will really begin in earnest this Saturday when the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns open the slate of games on August 31st when they take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs.
Looking at both teams at the surface, there are a lot of similarities with both teams having a new starting quarterback and a second-year head coach at the helm. Both teams are extremely excited about playing in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, so let’s not waste any more time and preview the season opener for the Ragin’ Cajuns.
Last Time Out:
The Ragin’ Cajuns season came to a disappointing end in a lopsided 41-24 loss to in-state foe Tulane in the Cure Bowl. The Bulldogs 2019 campaign also ended poorly with a heartbreaking 27-22 loss in the Outback Bowl.
The last time these two teams squared off, it was a fairly one-sided affair with the Bulldogs dominating the Cajuns in a 56-10 ballgame in Starkville, Mississippi.
The Bulldogs have won all four matchups and Saturday’s game will be the first to not take place at Mississippi State’s home field.
Storylines to Watch:
The Cajuns and the Bulldogs are both sending out new starters to begin the 2019 season and it will be interesting to see how both teams utilize their respective signal-caller.
Looking at Mississippi State, Tommy Stevens was named the starting quarterback over Louisiana native Keytaon Thompson last Thursday and it feels like the right fit for what Joe Moorhead wants to do. He has a former Penn State QB that was largely used as a gadget quarterback while Moorhead was the OC for the Nittany Lions when Trace McSorley was hurling the pigskin. That alone made it easy for the coaching staff to ride with Stevens as they open up the season.
It’s a relatively similar situation with Lewis starting for the Cajuns after being used every four series and it was a successful system that Billy Napier used to help get the program to the top of the West Division. According to Billy Napier, Lewis has improved by leaps and bounds not only with his speed, but his arm strength has improved. Can that cause the Scotlandville product to change his game to a true dual-threat? That will be put to the test on Saturday.
Can Bulldogs Stop the Run?
Mississippi State’s defense lost a lot of great talent from last season including Jeffrey Simmons and Montez Sweat on the defensive line and at first glance, the Bulldogs defense is going to be put to the test in New Orleans with one of the best running back trios in college football. The one big player to keep an eye on is linebacker Leo Lewis. He is going to be an impact player in a front seven that looks depleted.
With Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas leading the way, the Bulldogs will need to bring the heat against a group that can definitely hit the jets at any given moment. That being said, Napier will need to establish the passing game as a threat early to take some of the pressure off of his backs and open up some holes as the game progresses.
Cajuns Front Seven Looms Large
The front seven for the Cajuns has a lot of talent on it and will be employing the 4-3. The initial depth chart didn’t have too many surprises on it, but one thing that had many scratching their heads was Joe Dillon being named backup JACK linebacker. Before I get in-depth on the linebacker corps and the rest of the front seven, this isn’t anything to worry about as he will be eased back into game mode after his hip surgery. Don’t be surprised if he starts at the position once conference play begins.
The front line of the defense is loaded with Bennie Higgins, Zi’Yon Hill, and Chauncey Manac leading the way. That alone gives a lot of confidence towards Cajuns fans that may have been skeptical of a defense that has underwhelmed the last couple of seasons. The big thing to keep an eye on is the second level which has been a weak spot after having some really good linebackers circa 2014-2015. If they can create chaos in the backfield, it will be a hotly contested affair as the 2019 college football season kicks off in earnest.
Louisiana Will Win If:
The Cajuns can pull off the upset if the run-pass balance can stay on point and Levi Lewis shows that he can do more than run the football. It also wouldn’t hurt matters to see the defensive line stifle Tommy Stevens.
Mississippi State Will Win If:
This seems almost academic that the Bulldogs can win this by at least two touchdowns it just requires them to keep the Cajuns running backs in check on Saturday. That will cause them to play one-dimensional and it’s pretty easy to take any team to task if you handcuff them to throw the football.