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New Orleans Bowl Pick
UL Lafayette vs. San Diego State
UL Lafayette takes on San Diego State in the New Orleans Bowl to be held at the Superdome on December 17th. San Diego State is listed as a -4.5 point favorite at Betonline, down 1 point from the opener of -5.5, with a current total of 58.5 points.
We had our eye on San Diego State earlier in the year. We expected big things from them and while 8-4 isn't bad, we expected better. They won 9 games last season (including the bowl game) and returned most of their offensive starters. They lost coach Brady Hoke to Michigan but retained Rocky Long, the defensive coordinator and former New Mexico head coach. With QB Ryan Lindley and Running Back Ronnie Hillman, we expected they would make a bigger splash when they stepped up in class at Michigan, TCU and Boise State. (All losses)
Lindley didn't match last years success and only completed 52% of his passes. Hillman lived up to his hype by becoming the #3 rusher in the country, but overall, there had to be some disappointment for this team. They almost ended up on the outside looking in having to come back from a 21-0 deficit to beat Fresno State to end the year. 7 wins likely wouldn't have been enough for this team to make a bowl.
For UL Lafayette, the season was a huge success. This team was just 3-9 a year ago. No one expected them to be here. They had a new coach, which meant new schemes and the learning curve that goes along with that, but this team competed from day one. They opened up against the mighty Oklahoma State Cowboys who would go on to lose just one game all year, and while they lost 61-34, it was hardly an embarrassment, all things considered.
The feeling here is that San Diego State is the better all around football team, with the big question mark being their motivation, or lack of it, for this game, along with the potential that exists for taking UL Lafayette lightly.
The San Diego State defense kept just about all opponents it faced in the 20's. The only teams to score 30+ points on the Aztecs were Boise State and Wyoming. Teams held under 30 included Michigan and TCU, both known to score many more against much bigger name teams. La Laff on the other hand gave up 31 to Florida International, 34 to Florida Atlantic, 42 to Western Kentucky, 35 to La Monroe, 30 to Arkansas State and 45 to Arizona.
For the most part, when Sun Belt teams stepped up in class this year, it was evident. They were outclassed. The best in the Sun Belt, Arkansas State, perhaps reached the highest, playing Virginia Tech and Illinois and played respectably against both. But the next best, Western Kentucky, Lost to Kentucky, was blown out by Navy and was blown out by Indiana State. Western Kentucky beat UL Laff 42-23.
It's safe to say that outside of Oklahoma State, San Diego State is the best team La Laff will have faced all year. The same can't be said for the Aztecs. They have faced tougher opponents. Again, San Diego State is a better football program, with the better all around talent. Motivation is the biggest worry.
Both yards per point numbers and our score prediction model like UL Lafayette here. The model predicts UL Laff to win straight up. When you factor in the questionable motivation for SD State as well as the fact that UL Laff will no doubt have the majority of the crowd on their side, it shapes up as a nice spot for a potential upset. But, we're not going to bite here.
We'll likely pass in the real world. But for the sake of making a play here, the feeling is that San Diego State will be able to control this game offensively with Ronnie Hillman piling up the yards while the San Diego State defense likely comes up big in spots. That defense has seen much more potent offensive attacks with much larger offensive lines than they'll see against the Cajuns and with the exception of Boise State, they kept them in check on the scoreboard.
Opinion only - San Diego State -4.5
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