Sun Belt Championship Pick – Coastal Carolina vs. Louisiana Lafayette – 12/19/20

sun belt championship pick
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This is a rare Sun Belt Championship Game which could have national implications. While Coastal Carolina are unlikely to make the College Football Playoff, they could still find their way into a big bowl and against one of the better big-conference teams in the country.

Playing at home, the Chanticleers are -3.5 point favorites with an over/under of 55.

Coastal Carolina’s closest game of the season was when these teams met back in October. At the time, Louisiana was thought to be the class of the conference and closed as a -9 point favorite.

1st Game Was Even

For the most part, the game was even with maybe the biggest difference being Louisiana’s lone turnover. Otherwise, Carolina averaged 8.4 yards per pass to 7.1 for Louisiana, while Louisiana averaged 7.9 yards per rush to 4.4 for Carolina. 

The bonus for the Ragin’ Cajuns is that they didn’t play last weekend and basically got a free week of preparation. As for the Chanticleers, they had a battle against Troy and needed a last-minute touchdown to win 42-38.

While the Ragin’ Cajuns got that extra week, the Chanticleers are coming off two huge games, the win against BYU and then the late comeback against Troy. Even on the road, it kind of makes sense to back the underdog in this spot given how close the prior meeting was.

Chanticleers Rush Defense In Question

Coastal Carolina’s rush defense is the biggest question again after struggling in that first matchup. They’re allowing 4.2 yards per carry on the season and didn’t know what to do against Louisiana.

Quarterback Levi Lewis had a 51-yard run and then their three running backs all had a rush of at least 17 yards. Those long carries can’t happen again if Carolina wants to remain undefeated. 

Lewis’s numbers aren’t as good as last season, but he’s still leading the offense to 33.9 points per game. He’s averaging 7.7 yards per pass for 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions, while adding 310 rushing yards and five touchdowns on 6.5 yards per carry.

His mobility allows the offense to work, as the Cajuns are averaging 5.4 yards per carry as a team. Top running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas have a combined 1,411 yards and 16 touchdowns and are the main threat on the ground.

Coastal Offense Gets the Nod

Of course, Coastal Carolina’s offense is a touch better at 37.5 points per game and the reason it won the first meeting. Louisiana’s defense couldn’t figure out how to stop them and is the weakest of the units in this matchup.

The overall numbers are good, but the Ragin’ Cajuns are allowing 4.2 yards per carry and over 180 rushing yards per contest.

Coastal Carolina is winning because its offense is balanced and doesn’t turn it over. Quarterback Grayson McCall is more of a game manager, but his numbers are elite, completing 69.3% of his passes on 10.0 yards per attempt for 23 touchdowns and just two interceptions.

It’s a run-heavy offense, but when he passes, it’s usually efficient and that’s why the Chanticleers won the first meeting.

McCall has also added 473 rushing yards and six touchdowns on 4.9 yards per carry, which is a nice complement to running backs CJ Marable and Reese White, both of whom are above five yards per rush. Marable has been the guy of late, rushing for more than 400 yards and seven touchdowns the last three games.

This game will likely be a repeat of when these teams met a couple months ago. Both sides will move the ball and put points on the board and the winner could be decided by who makes the first mistake. Coastal Carolina is undefeated, but Louisiana showed in that first game that they’re on the same level in terms of talent.

Our Pick

Our model has Coastal winning this game by 10 to 16 points and we agree. We think the Chanticleers will be playing with a chip on their shoulder, using the latest college football playoff rankings as motivation.

It’s been a special season for Coastal Carolina and we expect that to continue.

Coastal Carolina -3.5