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Too Much Information: Georgia Bulldogs v. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns

If you’re looking for a legitimate preview of the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns, Bubba ‘n’ Earl have you covered. If you’d like the short course on Saturday’s opponent, check out what Jason Kirk has to say. If you want questions and answers, Paul Westerdawg is your man.

What we deal in here are historical and statistical minutiae of frequently dubious relevance and only occasional interest, but be forewarned: when breaking down the Georgia Bulldogs’ upcoming opponent, I do not content myself with providing you a pinch of insight or a dash of data. Rather, I bring you . . . Too Much Information.

Odds and Ends

Apparently, the Ragin’ Cajuns dropped the "-Lafayette" from their institutional nomenclature without reclaiming the previous "Southwest." This leaves us to wonder where exactly in the Pelican State these particular Louisiana Acadians are, placing us approximately in the same uncomfortable position as Powers Boothe and Keith Carradine in "Southern Comfort." Let us therefore proceed with caution.

I have not bothered to look at the Bulldogs’ 2009 statistics, because I hope that most of those statistics are irrelevant to 2010. However, the Ragin’ Cajuns’ numbers from last year may prove instructive, so consider these figures:

  • Louisiana was outscored 170-89 in the second half last fall, including a 115-43 deficit in points scored in the fourth quarter.
  • Louisiana ranked eighth in the nine-team Sun Belt in scoring offense in 2009. Only winless Western Kentucky, playing its first season as a full-fledged Division I-A program, scored fewer points per game than the 22.2 averaged by the Cajuns.
  • Louisiana ranked dead last in its league in kickoff returns and kickoff coverage yet led the conference in punting.
  • Last year’s Ragin’ Cajuns allowed their opponents to convert a Sun Belt-worst 61.1 per cent of their fourth-down tries. If the ‘Dawgs face fourth and short on the visitors’ side of the field, they need to go for it.

The Red and Black went 8-5 last year, making 2009 the thirteenth season in Georgia football history in which the Bulldogs lost exactly five games. The previous dozen such autumns came in 1901 (1-5-2), 1904 (1-5), 1905 (1-5), 1914 (3-5-1), 1925 (4-5), 1928 (4-5), 1932 (2-5-2), 1951 (5-5), 1963 (4-5-1), 1969 (5-5-1), 1970 (5-5), and 1979 (6-5). In the years immediately following those five-loss campaigns (1902, 1905, 1906, 1915, 1926, 1929, 1933, 1952, 1964, 1970, 1971, and 1980), the Athenians finished with three or fewer losses six times, went 3-0 in bowl games, and posted winning records over the South Carolina Gamecocks (3-0-1), Tennessee Volunteers (1-0-1), Florida Gators (6-3), Auburn Tigers (7-5), and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets (6-4-2) while going 7-5 in their twelve season-openers.

This Saturday will mark Georgia’s first meeting with Louisiana and the Bulldogs’ eighth meeting with a Sun Belt squad. The Red and Black are 7-0 in their previous outings against that league, and the ‘Dawgs have gone 4-0 against the Sun Belt in the Mark Richt era. The Classic City Canines’ previous meetings with the Ragin’ Cajuns’ conference coevals produced an average score of 45-12, with only one Sun Belt team scoring more than 17 points on Georgia and four of those visiting clubs being limited to single-digit point tallies.

With all due respect to Johnny Rauch, four freshman quarterbacks have started the majority of the Bulldogs’ games over the course of an autumn in the modern era of Georgia football (e.g., since freshman eligibility was restored in the 1970s). Eric Zeier in 1991, Quincy Carter in 1998, David Greene in 2001, and Matthew Stafford in 2006 previously trod the ground Aaron Murray will tread in 2010. The four freshman signal callers who preceded Murray under center collectively posted an average of 2,252 passing yards, 11 touchdown passes, nine interceptions, and a 9-4 record as rookies.

In the last five seasons, the Ragin’ Cajuns have played four road games against the SEC (LSU in 2006 and 2009, and South Carolina and Tennessee in 2007) and two road games against the Big 12 South (Texas in 2005 and Texas A&M in 2006). The closest of those contests was decided by a two-touchdown margin, and the average final score of those six games was 46-6 . . . and that’s not even including last year’s 55-0 loss to Big 12 North behemoth Nebraska.

The Ragin’ Cajuns’ home field, nicknamed "The Swamp," has an official seating capacity of 31,000. In 2009, Louisiana went 1-3 before crowds larger than 16,500 and did not win a game in front of as many as 42,000 fans. This weekend, Sanford Stadium will be sold out for the 58th consecutive game. No, I don’t expect the stadium to be full, but the Cajuns ought to be impressed by the number of folks on hand, just the same.

The Feel Good Stat of the Week

This Saturday, the Bulldogs will play their first home game of the season against a team from the Pelican State for just the third time in Georgia history. It happened before in 1953 and in 1969---both games were against Tulane---and the Red and Black were 2-0 in those contests, by a combined margin of 51-14.

The Bottom Line

I’m as big a pessimist as anyone, but even I’m not going to pour hailstones down the back of your hairshirt on this one. I mean, come on, now. It’s Louisiana-Lafayette. (Oh, all right, Louisiana.)

It’s an unranked out-of-conference opponent playing in Sanford Stadium. Do you know how many times a Mark Richt-coached Georgia team has lost to an unranked out-of-conference opponent between the hedges? Try none. Do you know how many non-conference road games the Ragin’ Cajuns have won since 2006? Try none. If the ‘Dawgs lose this one, the sky truly is falling.

Of course, there’s always a risk of getting Appalachian Stated. I was in the stands for the 1991 game against Cal State Fullerton and I was in the stands for the 1999 game against Central Florida, so I understand how an anticipated patsy can jump up and bite you. Certainly, Louisiana is capable of making things interesting, as Rickey Bustle’s club dropped close contests at Illinois and at Kansas State in 2008 before beating Bill Snyder’s bunch at Cajun Field last year.

Nevertheless, while I’d bet on the Bulldogs letting the Ragin’ Cajuns lurk around for a couple of quarters (as we always seem to do in these sorts of games), I think talent alone will carry the Red and Black to victory. What do I want out of this game? In order of importance, this:

  • A Georgia win
  • No injuries
  • Consistent offensive line play (protecting Murray in the pocket, opening holes for the running game)
  • Pressure from the defensive front seven
  • Good defense up the middle
  • Significant playing time for the backups
  • No picks thrown by Murray
  • At least two turnovers forced by the Bulldog D
  • No personal foul penalties
  • Kickoffs going out the back of the end zone
  • No more than 13 points allowed by Georgia
  • More than 40 points scored by Georgia

Give me the first two and at least seven of the next ten, and I’ll be happy. I think the Red and Black will have a good day, but not that good a day.

My Prediction: Georgia 45, Louisiana 17.

Go ‘Dawgs!