Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the New Orleans Bowl between the Golden Eagles and Ragin’ Cajuns.
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette – New Orleans Bowl Preview
When: Saturday, December 17 – 9:00 p.m. ET
Where: Mercedes-Benz Superdome, New Orleans, LA
Filling a stadium can be a concern for bowl committees, but not this one. The New Orleans Bowl has a matchup tailor-made for a packed Superdome between schools with a history together, a history in this event, and a short drive to the venue. Southern Miss and Louisiana-Lafayette have played 50 times, the Golden Eagles winning the last eight, but this is their first meeting since 2008. There’ll be plenty at stake on this opening weekend of the bowl season, since both 6-6 squads are seeking a winning campaign and both are pursuing many of the same recruits in the region on Signing Day in February.
What To Know About Southern Miss
It was a rough debut season for Jay Hopson, who replaced Todd Monken in Hattiesburg. The Golden Eagles flat-out underachieved in 2016, needing a win on the final weekend just to become bowl-eligible a season after going 9-5. Southern Miss made too many mistakes in the form of turnovers and penalties, failing to capitalize on a veteran roster that returned many key players, like star QB Nick Mullens. Mullens and the rest of the offense are still capable of moving the chains, averaging 472 yards and 33 points per game. However, the inability to make stops, has hamstrung this team since the Week 3 loss to Troy.
What to Know About Louisiana-Lafayette
The Ragin’ Cajuns have the wind at their backs as the second season in college football begins. Mark Hudspeth’s kids hit a rough patch in the middle of the year, losing to the likes of Tulane and New Mexico State. But they rallied late, winning their final three Sun Belt games, including a Dec. 3 rout of rival Louisiana-Monroe to reach .500. In fact, Louisiana-Lafayette’s only loss of the final month was a respectable 35-21 showing at Georgia. The Cajuns are an inverse of their New Orleans Bowl opponent—stingy on defense, but needing more pop and execution from the offense, namely LSU transfer QB Anthony Jennings.
Offense: Southern Miss. Mullens, RB Ito Smith and WR Allenzae Staggers provide the Golden Eagles with a run-pass option that has eluded the Cajuns for much of the year.
Defense: Louisiana-Lafayette. What the Cajuns lack in household names they make up for with a front seven responsible for holding opponents to just 3.4 yards per carry.
Special Teams: Push. Both teams have been leaky on special teams, though the kickers, USM’s Parker Shaunfield and ULL’s Stevie Artigue, can be counted on to split the uprights.
Coaching: Louisiana-Lafayette. Yeah, the last couple of seasons have been rough, but Hudspeth is a quality coach who’ll have his kids ready for this matchup.
Intangibles: Louisiana-Lafayette. The Cajuns are the hotter team, and they’re excited to be back in the New Orleans Bowl, a game they won four straight years from 2011-14.
Matchup To Watch
Mullens vs. Louisiana-Lafayette CBs Christian Goodlett and Savion Brown
The Cajuns like their chances of stopping Smith on the ground with linebackers Otha Peters and Tre’maine Lightfoot. The bigger key, though, will be slowing down Mullens, Staggers and WR D.J. Thompson. Louisiana will need pressure off the edge from rookie DE Joe Dillon and Goodlett and Brown to stick to Staggers and Thompson like seniors who’ve been here before.
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Betting Odds
Spread: No line as of post
Over/Under: No line as of post
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Prediction
The Superdome has become the Cajuns’ postseason home away from home under Hudspeth. Hopson, meanwhile, has never prepared a squad for a bowl game, and has had a tough time in his first year as a head coach. The team that can make timely stops and protect the ball will win. Advantage Louisiana-Lafayette in both instances. Jennings will continue to struggle, but senior RB Elijah McGuire will bail him out by rushing for 100 yards and a pair of scores against the soft Southern Miss defense.
Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Score Prediction: Louisiana-Lafayette 30, Southern Miss 27
Campus Insiders Staff Picks
Brian Stultz: Louisiana-Lafayette
Jeff Bartl: Louisiana-Lafayette
Rich Cirminiello: Louisiana-Lafayette
Robert Judin: Louisiana-Lafayette
Jordan Cornette: Southern Miss