Back Louisiana Ready for More

Louisiana Ready for More

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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When the Ragin' Cajuns step onto the field for Saturday's nationally-televised game on ESPN, they, too, will bring a national profile with them as well.

Back-to-back Sun Belt West champion Louisiana will soon open the season against 23rd ranked Iowa State. When the Ragin' Cajuns step onto the field for Saturday's nationally-televised game on ESPN, they, too, will bring a national profile with them as well.

In two years under current head coach Billy Napier, Louisiana has won 18 total games. For point of reference, a very good Iowa State program has 15 wins in that same span. The Ragin' Cajuns have not lost a regular season game by more than eleven points since facing Alabama, a former coaching stop for Napier, in September of 2018. Louisiana is fresh off the most victories in program history, an eleven-win season that includes a LendingTree Bowl triumph. 

One of the top programs in Group of Five football, the Ragin' Cajuns have momentum that is both regional and national alike.

A Sun Belt title was very nearly part of Louisiana's success a year ago. Playing an Appalachian State side that beat North Carolina and South Carolina en route to 13 wins in 2019, Louisiana nearly pulled off a dramatic finish in Boone, ultimately losing 45-38. The Ragin' Cajuns compiled nearly 100 more total yards than the Mountaineers, recording 31 first downs compared to Appalachian State's 20. This from a program that was previously within seven points of Mississippi State with mere minutes remaining in the fourth quarter.

On any stage, Louisiana clearly belongs.

Much of last season's core that made history is back for more. After finishing sixth nationally in team rushing a year ago with 257.4 yards per game, star Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas return with 61 rushing touchdowns between them. Both also have 1,100-yard seasons on their resumes. Quarterback Levi Lewis is also one of the nation's best, having just set new program records for passing yards, with 3,050 yards, and passing touchdowns, with 26. For good measure, the Ragin' Cajuns just finished second in the Sun Belt in scoring and total defense.

Louisiana enters week one confident and with plenty of potential. Since their hard-fought regular season loss to Appalachian State last season, the Ragin' Cajuns have scored at least 27 points in eight consecutive games. They have scored at least 37 points five times in that stretch. Over the final two months of this past year, Louisiana, defensively-speaking, held Appalachian State to 17 points, Texas State to three, Coastal Carolina to seven, Troy to three and Miami of Ohio to 17 in the postseason.

Tragically, the 'Rajun Cajuns move forward remembering and honoring their late offensive line coach D.J. Looney, who recently passed away at the age in 31. A beloved leader in college football with an accomplished resume, he undoubtedly remains a big part of the team. His impact, which still continues, helped Louisiana develop a thriving brand on the field and off.

As the season starts, the Ragin' Cajuns have been and are a capable football team. They can also be one of college football's best.

After losing only to Appalachian State and Mississippi State in 2019, Louisiana moves forward with a week-by-week focus and big picture goals. Nationally-ranked Iowa State, featuring heralded quarterback Brock Purdy, a potential first round NFL Draft pick, will be quite the barometer. These Ragin' Cajuns have been eager for such tests. With every challenge, comes an opportunity. Louisiana has been making the most of those in recent years.

Pay attention to the Ragin' Cajuns this fall. It's a spotlight they have earned.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports