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New Orleans Bowl
Louisiana-Lafayette is in the New Orleans Bowl for the second straight year after winning as underdogs in 2011 over San Diego State. This year, they are -6 point favorites over East Carolina at 5 Dimes Sportsbook. Each of these schools had a solid season going 8-4 and was one game away from winning their respective conferences.
East Carolina missed out on the C-USA Championship game after they lost to UCF in early October. In their big non-conference games, they were handled by South Carolina and North Carolina which was to be expected. LA-Lafayette was also one game out of winning the Sun Belt conference. Two back-to-back losses cost them early in the season (one coming to the eventual Champion, Arkansas State). In their two big out of conference games, they lost 65-24 to Oklahoma State, but actually had Florida on the ropes in a 27-20 loss. The Gators blocked and returned a punt for a TD in the final seconds to pull out the win. With two minutes to go, they were seven points ahead on the No. 3 team in the country.
With games like that, it's easy to see why the Ragin' Cajuns are favorites, but their loss at 4-8 North Texas is a bit troubling. They will go into this game without their record-throwing QB from a season ago, Blaine Gautier who broke two bones in his hand earlier this season. Terrance Broadway has now started in eight straight games. He has led them to four straight conference wins in which they've scored more than 30 points in all of them. Broadway has solid numbers through the air with 16 TDs and hitting 300 passing yards in three of his last six games, but he's started to use his legs to his advantage lately. After throwing three interceptions and rushing for only 14 yards at Arkansas State, the offense decided to let Broadway loose. He's now averaging over 10 carries and 85 yards per game in his last five outings. Starting running back Alonzo Harris has been inconsistent this year, but with four 100-yard games, he does have the ability for a big game.
Defensively, the Ragin' Cajuns have allowed at least 21 points in seven straight games. After scoring 65 points in their final regular season game, East Carolina shouldn't have a problem moving the ball.
The Pirates have more of your typical offense with a QB that throws a lot, a dominant RB and a dominant WR. Shane Carden is behind center and has had some pretty big games this year. He has thrown for at least 298 yards in five of his past seven games and had at least three TDs in three of those games. Considering this is his first year as a starter, the 16 total points scored earlier in the season at South and North Carolina can be excused. Their running back Vintavious Cooper is also a first-year starter, but it hasn't shown this year. He has 1,030 yards and seven TDs. In early November, he had a stretch of three straight 120-plus yard games. In the receiving game, Justin Hardy has been close to unstoppable. He has 83 receptions for 1,046 yards and 10 TDs on the year, which is close to triple of any other receiver on the roster. Maybe more impressively, Hardy had eight grabs for 111 yards and a TD against the Gamecocks which is not an easy feat.
We have these two offenses rated pretty close to even but it's UL Laff that has the better defense and that could be enough to get the cover here. Our model agrees as it has the Ragin' Cajuns winning by a score of 42-29. That margin increases dramatically when we use data from the last 5 or 7 games only. UL Lafayette -5.5
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