Louisiana (4-1) at North Texas (2-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Tuesday, October 16, 9:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Apogee Stadium (30,850) -- Denton, Texas. Television: ESPN2. Home Record: Louisiana 3-0, UNT 1-1. Away Record: Louisiana 1-1, UNT 1-2. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, UNT 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 2-0, UNT 1-1. Series Record: Series is tied, 8-8.
GAME NOTES: Sun Belt Conference action takes center stage on Tuesday night, as the North Texas Mean Green play host to the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns at Apogee Stadium in Denton.
For the second straight year, Louisiana has started the season 4-1. The Cajuns are fresh off back-to-back wins over Tulane (41-13) and FIU (48-20), with both victories coming at home.
As for North Texas, its season has not started as smoothly with four losses in six outings, but three of them came in very difficult road games at LSU (41-14), Kansas State (35-21) and Houston (44-21). The Mean Green has a solid conference victory already, winning in a 20-14 final at Florida Atlantic), but they've dropped their only home SBC game so far to Troy (14-7).
This game marks the 17th meeting in the all-time series between Louisiana and North Texas, with each having won eight times previously. The Cajuns have had the advantage recently, winning the five matchups.
The Louisiana offense (38 ppg, 411.2 ypg) is one of the most explosive in the Sun Belt this year, despite a lack in continuity at the quarterback position.
Blaine Gautier (32-of-67, 492 yards, four TDs) started the season under center but has been in and out of the lineup with injuries. He is now sidelined indefinitely with a broken throwing hand, but luckily for the Cajuns Terrance Broadway has been even more effective this season, completing 45-of-77 passes for 612 yards with four touchdowns and only one interception. He's also a playmaker with his legs, piling up 135 yards rushing and three more scores on the ground.
Louisiana has also overcome a devastating injury to its starting tailback as Montrell Carter was lost for the season with a torn ACL in the opener. In Carter's absence, Alonzo Harris (374 yards, three TDs) and Effrem Reed (264 yards, two TDs) have done a nice job shouldering the load.
Harry Peoples (259 yards), Javone Lawson (243 yards) and Daryl Surgent (235 yards) are all right there in the race to be the team's top receiver. Lawson has three of the team's eight touchdown receptions.
The Cajuns defense has some holes that foes can exploit, particularly in the passing game (294.6 ypg allowed), but the unit has held up on the scoreboard, ranking third in the conference in scoring defense (24.4 ppg).
Rodney Gillis is responsible for four of the team's 13 takeaways with three interceptions and a fumble recovery.
Louisiana ranks 18th in the country in rushing defense (107.2 ypg) and seventh in turnover margin (plus-8).
North Texas has had a rough go of it in the early going, the Mean Green currently ranking eighth in the conference in both total offense (381.8 ypg) and scoring offense (19.5 ppg).
Derek Thompson has taken nearly every snap under center but the results have been mixed, as he has completed fewer than 56 percent of his passes (94- of-169) for 1,245 yards with six touchdowns and five interceptions. The good news is his offensive line has done a nice job protecting him as he's been sacked just three times in six games.
Thompson has the luxury of throwing to one of the best receiving tandems in the Sun Belt. Brelan Chancellor (23 receptions, 433 yards, five TDs) and Ivan Delgado (27 receptions, 369 yards) both rank in the league's top 10 in receiving yards, although no other UNT player has more than eight catches or 100 yards.
Brandin Byrd has received the lion's share of the work out of the backfield (101 carries, 380 yards, two touchdowns), but Antoine Jimmerson has been just as, if not more effective with a lesser work load (68 carries, 367 yards, three TDs).
The North Texas defense (25.8 ppg, 397 ypg) has played much better against teams it matches up well with, allowing just 11.7 ppg in three games against Texas Southern, Florida Atlantic and Troy.
Zachary Orr is among the conference leaders in tackles with 56, while Marcus Trice and Zac Whitfield have two interceptions apiece. K.C. Obi (five TFL, 3.5 sacks) and Aaron Bellazin (five TFL, three sacks) anchor a strong defensive line.
North Texas is playing at home for just the third time this season, and it usually plays well in front of the Denton faithful. The Mean Green defense should be able to keep Louisiana under its scoring average, and if Thompson can get the ball to his big-play receivers they will have a chance. That said, the Cajuns will likely come up with some key turnovers that will be the deciding factor in the game.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 30, North Texas 24
10/16 10:58:08 ET