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The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, December 7, 8 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Ladd Peebles Stadium (33,471) -- Mobile, Alabama. Television: ESPN3.com. Home Record: Louisiana 4-1, USA 3-2. Away Record: Louisiana 4-2, USA 2-4. Neutral Record: Louisiana 0-0, USA 0-0. Conference Record: Louisiana 5-1, USA 0-0. Series Record: Louisiana leads, 1-0.
GAME NOTES: The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns can win the Sun Belt Conference title outright on Saturday night, as they close out the regular season against the South Alabama Jaguars at Ladd Peebles Stadium.
Despite losing at home last week to ULM (31-28) and thus snapping an eight- game winning streak, Louisiana still captured at least a share of the conference crown when Arkansas State lost to Western Kentucky (34-31). The Cajuns have been outstanding for the most part this season at 8-3 overall and 5-1 in conference, and for the third straight season the team has accepted a bid to the New Orleans Bowl where it will take on Tulane.
South Alabama's season had taken a turn for the worse at mid season with losses in five of six, but it has redeemed itself of late with back-to-back wins to climb to 5-6, just a win away from bowl eligibility. After defeating ULM at home on Nov. 23 (36-14), the Jaguars experienced their second straight convincing win last Saturday at Georgia State (38-17).
These two teams met for the first time last season, with Louisiana coming out on top in Lafayette, 52-30.
Louisiana has the Sun Belt's most explosive scoring offense this season, as it puts up 37.0 points per game, but it had its share of problems last week with three turnovers, and it'll likely be without its starting quarterback for this matchup.
Terrance Broadway (2,276 passing yards, 421 rushing yards, 27 total TDs) injured his wrist in last week's loss after tossing a career-high three interceptions and is doubtful for this contest. Brooks Haack was impressive in relief against ULM (10-of-14, 126 yards, TD) and will get the call if Broadway can't suit up.
The Cajuns' strength comes in the rushing attack, where Alonzo Harris (808 yards) and Elijah McGuire (805 yards) are both in the midst of outstanding seasons. Harris has 13 touchdowns compared to McGuire's seven, but McGuire has earned his yardage on nearly half the amount of carries as has Harris, and he has also been a playmaker catching the ball out of the backfield (13 receptions, 269 yards, three TDs).
Jamal Robinson is one of the Sun Belt's best receivers (49 receptions, 801 yards, eight TDs), and his presence will certainly help Haack.
Louisiana has also performed well (by Sun Belt standards, at least) on defense, allowing 26.6 points and 396.8 yards per game while creating 20 takeaways.
Justin Anderson makes plays all over the field with 111 tackles, 9.0 TFL, three forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and an interception. T.J. Worthy and Darius Barksdale have two picks apiece, although Barksdale is listed as questionable with a hand injury. Dominique Tovell has been a force along the defensive line with 12.0 TFL and two forced fumbles.
South Alabama's offensive attack has not been nearly as strong as Louisiana's this season (29.4 ppg, 431.2 ypg), but it has turned up the heat during its two-game win streak with 37.0 points per game during that stretch.
The unit runs through Ross Metheny, who has been both an effective passer (.625, 2,451 yards, 15 TDs, seven INTs) and rusher (560 yards, 10 TDs). He has accounted for six touchdowns over the past two weeks paired with just one turnover.
Shavarez Smith is one of the nation's best deep threats, as he has turned 47 catches into 900 yards (19.1 ypc) and six touchdowns. Wes Saxton (45 receptions, 547 yards) has also been solid despite having not scored a touchdown.
Outside of Metheny, the Jaguars don't have a very explosive ground attack, although Jay Jones has been steady with 632 yards and five scores on 124 carries.
Defensively, USA has generally been strong enough to support its offense, as it yields a respectable 26.7 points per game and holds opponents to just 38 percent success on third down.
Enrique Williams leads the unit with 97 tackles, 25 more than any other player. Alex Page, Romelle Jones and Pat Moore have all recorded at least 11.5 TFL, with Jones leading the team with 7.5 sacks.
Louisiana showed last week that it is indeed vulnerable against conference competition, and South Alabama is a formidable foe at home, but even if Broadway misses the action, the Cajuns are simply the more talented team. Even with them already clinching a trip to the New Orleans Bowl, don't expect the Cajuns to roll over in this one with the outright conference title on the line.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 34, South Alabama 31
12/04 10:43:34 ET
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