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Texas State (3-1) at Louisiana (2-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 7 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajun Field (31,000) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Texas State 2-0, Louisiana 1-0. Away Record: Texas State 1-1, Louisiana 1-2. Neutral Record: Texas State 0-0, Louisiana 0-0. Conference Record: Texas State 0-0, Louisiana 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: The Texas State Bobcats and the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns will open up Sun Belt Conference play on Saturday evening when the squads meet up at Cajun Field.
Texas State is off to an outstanding start to the 2013 campaign, and at 3-1 it is just one win away from matching last season's total. The Bobcats took care of business against Southern Miss (22-15), Prairie View A&M (28-3) and Wyoming (42-21), with their only loss coming on the road against nationally-ranked Texas Tech (33-7).
Louisiana opened its season with a pair of difficult road tests, losing at Arkansas (34-14) and Kansas State (48-27) to begin the year at 0-2. The Cajuns have since rebounded with back-to-back wins, dismantling Nicholls State at home on Sept. 14 (70-7), and claiming a strong road victory over Akron on Sept. 21 (35-30).
This bout marks the first-ever meeting between these two programs.
The Bobcats have found success this season despite owning one of the Sun Belt's worst offenses. The unit puts up just 24.8 ppg on 326.8 ypg and converts fewer than 36 percent of its third-down opportunities, but things are looking up after a recent switch under center.
With Tyler Arndt (366 yards, zero TDs, INT) proving ineffective through the first three games, Texas State turned to Tyler Jones against Wyoming, and the freshman impressed in his first start by completing 14-of-18 passes for 196 yards and a score while rushing for another 56 yards.
More than 63 percent of the Bobcats' plays have been rushing, and both Robert Lowe (279 yards, five TDs) and Chris Nutall (237 yards, four TDs) have taken advantage of the ground-heavy approach.
Andy Erickson (116 yards) and Isaiah Battle (108 yards) each have 13 receptions, while Bradley Miller leads the team with 128 receiving yards. The receivers should expect to be more active in the coming weeks with Jones taking over at quarterback.
Texas State's bread and butter is its play on defense, as it ranks first in the league in allowing just 18.0 ppg, and its effort against the run (62.5 ppg) is third-best in the nation behind only Michigan State and Florida.
David Mayo is a multi-dimensional linebacker with 29 tackles, two interceptions and a sack, while Michael Orakpo wreaks havoc in the backfield with 5.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks and three forced fumbles.
Louisiana's offense has picked up the pace in recent weeks, scoring 105 points over its last two games, and it now leads the league with 36.5 ppg.
Terrance Broadway is an impressive dual-threat option at quarterback, completing nearly 63 percent of his passes for 818 yards, six touchdowns and four interceptions, while rushing for 151 yards and four additional scores. Broadway accounted for 373 total yards and five touchdowns against Akron en route to winning Sun Belt Conference Offensive Player of the Week award for the week of Sept. 21.
The Cajuns employ a backfield by committee, and while Alonzo Harris (251 yards, two TDs) gets the most work, Elijah McGuire (186 yards, three TDs) and Torrey Pierce (150 yards, two TDs) have also been productive. All three average at least 5.6 yards per carry.
Jamal Robinson is Broadway's preferred target in the passing game, as he has reeled in 19 passes for 265 yards and four touchdowns. He had a career-high eight receptions in a 124-yard, two-touchdown performance at Akron.
Louisiana could stand to improve on the defensive side of the ball, as it surrenders nearly 30 points per game while allowing foes to convert 45 percent of their third-down opportunities.
Justin Anderson is a bona fide playmaker in the middle of the field, having posted 42 tackles, 3.5 TFL, 0.5 sack and an interception that he returned 58 yards for a touchdown against Nicholls State. Overall, the defensive unit has made up for lackluster play in the early going by creating 10 turnovers.
Texas State may have some limitations on offense, but its outstanding defense has all but assured that it will be remain competitive in most games, as it proved at Texas Tech a few weeks back. Broadway and company will have difficulty finding running lanes against a stacked Bobcats' front, but in front of the home crowd, the Cajuns should complete enough big passing plays to earn the victory.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 23, Texas State 20
10/02 10:36:50 ET