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Louisiana Lafayette took a step back last year, going from four straight 9-4 records with bowl wins to 4-8 overall and only three wins in the Sun Belt. With plenty of questions remaining on both sides of the ball, it won't be easy for the Ragin' Cajuns to make it back to a bowl.
At the least, they got good news in mid-July when former LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings decided to transfer in to compete with sophomore Jordan Davis for the starting gig. Davis thought he had the job easily won, but will now have to compete with another semi-mobile quarterback in Jennings. Either way, it's important that whoever wins the job does better than last year's mix of QBs as they totaled 13 TDs and 12 INTs with the offense stepping back to 26.4 points per game.
Do-it-all running back Elijah McGuire is back for his senior season after totaling 3,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in his first three years. His stats took a dive last year, and that went hand-in-hand with the rest of the offense. The Ragin' Cajuns lose their best receiver, but still return experience with Al Riles (46 receptions, 477 yards, 4 TDs) and Gabe Fuselier (357 yards). The offensive line gets three starters back with a couple sophomores looking to grab spots at each guard position.
Lafayette's defense wasn't terrible last year, but giving up 31.8 points per game didn't help by any means. Part of those growing pains came with new coordinator Melvin Smith and a younger roster, however, they'll have seven starters back, which should help.
Smith moved a lot of players around, most notably last year's leading tackler Tracy Walker to more of a linebacker role, while Savion Brown moved from corner to safety. A number of junior college transfers come in that could see time right away, while the Ragin' Cajuns also get back Simeon Thomas at corner after he missed the last two years.
With a favorable opening schedule, Lafayette should get off to a better start in 2016 with three home games out of the gates. They should win two of those, with Boise State being the difficult one. Reaching more than three Sun Belt wins will be their goal and should be made possible with home games against South Alabama and Idaho, to go with road games at NMSU, Texas State and UL Monroe all being winnable.
It'll be tough for the Ragin' Cajuns to get back to nine wins again, but appearing in a bowl game is definitely a possibility. A lot of that depends on who wins the quarterback job and how much the defense improves. Their over/under at 5Dimes is 6 wins with the over coming in at -260 in late July. After a poor season, coach Mark Hudspeth is looking to return to relevance in the conference.
2016 Louisiana Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns Football Schedule
Sept. 3 vs. Boise State
Sept. 10 vs. McNeese State
Sept. 17 vs. South Alabama
Sept. 24 at Tulane
Oct. 1 at New Mexico State
Oct. 12 vs. Appalachian State
Oct. 22 at Texas State
Nov. 5 vs. Idaho
Nov. 10 at Georgia Southern
Nov. 19 at Georgia
Nov. 26 vs. Arkansas State
Dec. 3 at Louisiana Monroe
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