Cajuns to host Boise State in season opener
The Cajuns’ 4-8 record last year was the worst since head football coach Mark Hudspeth joined the team in 2011, and Saturday, the team will finally be able to brush last season under the rug with a fresh start at Cajun Field against the Boise State Broncos.
Boise State will provide stiff competition for the Cajuns to start the season, but the game will finally shed some light on some of the question marks surrounding the Cajuns’ roster.
The Broncos’ 9-4 record in 2015 was disappointing by their standards, but they capped the season off with a dominant victory in the Poinsettia Bowl against Northern Illinois, where they outgained Northern Illinois in yards 654-33.
But the 2015 season is behind both of these teams now.
The Cajuns’ option offense
The Cajuns’ option offense may prove tricky for Boise State’s defense, who struggled against teams running similar offenses in 2015, especially Air Force.
A defense who rarely allowed over 400 total yards from its opponents allowed 607 total yards and 328 rushing yards against Air Force.
The Cajuns’ offense historically thrives while running the option, but had a down year in 2015. With former LSU quarterback Anthony Jennings now at the helm of the Cajuns’ offense, it appears more likely the offense could get back to its pre-2015 form.
Cajuns’ running back Elijah McGuire is primed for a decent game as well. The Broncos lost nearly their entire defensive line, but have a lot of experience returning at the linebacker position.
If the Cajuns’ offensive line can win the battle in the trenches, it should open up holes for McGuire to earn some decent gains — although the explosive runs we are used to seeing from him may not be as prevalent in week one.
Broncos’ explosive offense
Although Boise State lost a lot of defensive talent, the team will see many starters on offense return, including sophomore quarterback Brett Rypien, junior running back Jeremy McNichols and senior receiver Thomas Sperbeck.
The Cajuns’ defense will be looking for junior college transfers on the defensive line to step up, experienced linebackers to hold their own and a hyped-up secondary to live up to expectations, in order to slow down this offensive powerhouse as much as possible.
However, Boise State will still put up points.
If the Cajuns’ offense can soak up some time of possession, it will help the defense exponentially. The more the Cajuns can keep this offense off the field, and the more time they can give their defense to breathe, the better.
The Cajuns need to avoid a slow start. If they have to play catch up by throwing the ball around instead of establishing the run, they may spiral out of control, much like when the two teams faced off in 2014.
What does this game mean?
If the Cajuns lose, it’s really not a huge deal. Boise State is the clear favorite in this game. The Broncos are one of the best teams in the nation outside of one of the power-five conferences.
But if the Cajuns put up a good fight, Anthony Jennings has a stellar debut or they manage to upset the Broncos — it’s a good sign for the season to come.
Boise State on Saturday and the Georgia Bulldogs in November are by far the toughest opponents on the Cajuns’ schedule, so a loss to either of these teams should not be cause to panic.
However, although one game is an extremely small sample size, a win would bolster confidence and expectations for the entire season.