No. 25 Louisiana aiming for conference championship vs. South Alabama
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns host the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday afternoon with a chance to clinch a berth in the Sun Belt Conference championship game.
No. 25 Louisiana (6-1, 4-1 in conference), ranked for the second time this season following a 27-20 victory last week against Arkansas State, can lock up the top spot in the Sun Belt’s West division with a win.
But a victory for South Alabama (3-4, 2-2) would give the Jaguars a chance to make a run for the West title if they also win their remaining conference games against Georgia State, Arkansas State and Troy.
“I told the guys in the locker room that of the five teams in our division, only one has one conference loss and we play them next week,” South Alabama coach Steve Campbell said. “If we can go on the road and beat Louisiana, we’ll own the tiebreaker over them. We still control our own destiny.”
The Ragin’ Cajuns have had their share of close battles with all five of their conference games decided by 10 points or less, including three of them by four points or less.
Louisiana has won three consecutive games since suffering their lone loss against unbeaten Coastal Carolina, the current leader in the Sun Belt East division.
South Alabama just held Coastal Carolina to its season-low point total but lost 23-6.
“Everybody was hitting on all cylinders and doing their job,” South Alabama senior linebacker Riley Cole said. “The defensive line was holding their gaps, the linebackers were flowing and the safeties and corners were playing well.”
The Jaguars are led by the conference’s most accurate passer in 6-3, 200-pound sophomore quarterback Desmond Trotter, who has a 70.1 completion percentage (89 of 127 attempts) and has thrown for 1,187 yards, eight touchdowns and two interceptions.
South Alabama receivers Jalen Tolbert and Kawaan Baker are ranked among the Sun Belt’s top five in receiving yardage and touchdowns.
“This will be one of the more impressive teams we’ve played despite the record,” Louisiana coach Billy Napier told ESPN 1420 during a radio interview on Monday. “We have to make sure our focus is on them and not (being ranked again).”
South Alabama has allowed 23 sacks this season, and this weekend they will face one of the nation’s toughest pass defenses as Louisiana ranks fifth among FBS schools with 10 interceptions and is ranked 19th in passing yards allowed per game (187.1).
Junior safety Bralen Trahan and junior cornerback Eric Garror each have three interceptions — tied for second-most in the conference with the latter recording his three over the past two games.
“Eric is a consistent practice player,” Napier said. “He’s very engaged all the time and from the minute he got here we knew he was going to be a factor.”
The matchup will also feature two of the Sun Belt’s best running backs in South Alabama’s Carlos Davis (134 attempts, 586 yards, two TDs) and Louisiana’s Elijah Mitchell (87 attempts, 502 yards, five TDs), who rank fourth and fifth in the conference in rushing yards, respectively.
Louisiana’s prolific rushing attack also features Trey Ragas and Chris Smith as well as quarterback Levi Lewis, who have all run for 175 or more yards.
Lewis leads the Sun Belt in passing with 1,624 yards on 117 of 195 attempts while throwing 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.
–Field Level Media