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2021 Mid-American Conference Football Week 3 Game Preview: Ohio Bobcats vs Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

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The Bobcats and the Ragin’ Cajuns look to ramp it up after slow starts.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: SEP 04 Syracuse at Ohio
All-MAC RB De’Montre Tuggle looks to spark the Bobcats in prime time against the Ragin’ Cajuns
Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Bobcats and the Ragin’ Cajuns meet in primetime, looking to improve over their early season performances as they head towards conference play.

The Bobcats (0-2) hope to put last week’s 28-26 loss to the Duquesne Dukes behind them as quickly as possible, and to do that, they will need to improve in all phases if they are going to compete for a MAC East Title in 2021.

Meanwhile, Louisiana (1-1) started the year ranked #23 in the preseason AP Poll, but come into this contest looking to play better on both sides of the ball after a 38-18 loss to the Texas Longhorns in Week 1, followed by a close 27-24 win last week against FCS Nicholls State.

We take a look at some game notes followed by a look at each squad heading into Thursday’s contest.


Game Notes

  • Time and Date: Thursday September 16th at 8:00 p.m. ET
  • Network: ESPN
  • Location: Cajun Field — Layfette, Louisiana
  • Weather: Tropical Storm Nicholas will still be impacting the area on Thursday night, with 50% chance of thunderstorms, low of 73 degrees, wind East at 6 MPH per Weather.com.
  • Line: Louisiana (-20.5), over/under 57.5, per Tipico Sportsbook
  • ESPN FPI: Louisiana has 91% chance to win
  • Last Meeting: Louisiana beat Ohio 45-25 in 2019: Ohio committed five turnovers and the Ragin’ Cajuns rushed for 286 yards

Ohio Bobcats

SNAPSHOT

  • Points Per Game: 17.5 (116th in FBS)
  • Points Per Game Allowed: 28.5 (93rd)
  • Yards Per Game, Offense: 326.5 (103rd)
  • Yards Allowed Per Game, Defense: 372.5 (76th)

PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • QB Kurtis Rourke, Season: 310 yards passing, 1 TD, 70% pass completion
  • RB De’Montre Tuggle, Season: 104 yards rushing, 2 TDs including 83-yard kickoff return for score
  • LB Bryce Houston, Season: 20 tackles, 2.0 TFLs
  • S Jarren Hampton, Season: 19 tackles
  • DE Will Evans, Season, 1.5 sacks

The Bobcats come into this early-season matchup not looking like their former selves on offense, averaging just 17.5 points a game in 2021 after finishing in the top 20 in the FBS in scoring offense in the last three full seasons with about 38 points per game.

If Ohio is going to contend in this one, the ‘Cats need to hit on more explosive plays and/or sustain drives. Last week, Ohio’s defense was on the field an incredible 42 minutes and a big factor was a stagnant offense; during the second and third quarters, the Bobcats had five drives against Duquesne, totaling 20 plays, that resulted in a total of -2 points (Dukes had a safety) and under 10 minutes of TOP.

Although the Bobcats like to establish the run, Ohio’s passing game may play a key role in this one based on how things have gone early in the season for both squads, if the rain is not a factor.

The Ragin’ Cajun’s defense has been porous versus the pass in the early going, ranking 122nd in the FBS, surrendering 312 yards a game.

Louisiana’s opponent last week, Nicholls State, passed for 359 yards and hit on five passes over 20 yards, including a 53-yarder. If Ohio gets similar coverage against the Ragin’ Cajuns, particularly on the outsides of the defense, they have the personnel to cash in on some explosive plays and move the chains through the air.

QB Kurtis Rourke and WR Cam Odom showed they can connect on the deep ball, hitting on a 60-yard strike last week. Ty Walton was moving the chains at times last week, finishing with six catches for 44 yards and a TD.

Also, Rourke could have the time to throw if their pass protection continues to hold up; after two weeks, the Bobcats surrendered only one sack and three pressures (and a few holding penalties).

One guy the Bobcats pass protectors will have to keep an eye on is DL Zi’Yon Hill, a second-team, all-Sun Belt performer in 2020. Hill has a high motor and is a threat to sack the QB or make a TFL at any time, and Louisiana will move him around the defensive line to get favorable matchups.

De’Montre Tuggle is always a threat on special teams, with two kickoff returns for touchdowns in just 11 career attempts.


Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns

SNAPSHOT

  • Points Per Game: 22.5 (97th in FBS)
  • Points Per Game Allowed: 31 (103rd)
  • Yards Per Game, Offense: 376 (77rd)
  • Yards Allowed Per Game, Defense: 473 (114th)

Players to Watch

  • QB Levi Lewis, Career: 6.872 passing yards, 57-14 TD-INT ratio, 733 rushing yards, 9 TDs
  • Offensive line, Career: 104 combined starts, four players with 2020 All-Sun Belt honors: Ken Marks, Shane Vallot, Max Mitchell, O’Cyrus Torrence
  • RB/KR Chris Smith, Career: 992 yards from scrimmage, 9 TDs, 2 TDs kickoff return
  • DL, Zi’Yon Hill, Last Week: 7 tackles, sack, QB pressure

The Bobcats will have their hands full with super-senior QB Levi Lewis, who is probably the best player on the field in this one.

Lewis is the total package. He is experienced with 55 appearances and poised-you never see him rattled, no matter the situation. Games like last week show he can make all the throws with very good accuracy: deep, touch, bullet, etc.

The Ragin’ Cajun QB is a great competitor who also seems to find a way to win, even when things aren’t going well, frustrating opponents with timely scrambles and extending plays with movement in the pocket to find an open WR.

The Bobcats will see similar things vs Louisiana that they saw last week against the Dukes, with quick passing game and some shots over the top. Those deep shots will be an interesting matchup with Ohio’s underrated cover corner Jamal Hudson locked up against some tall Cajun receivers, like the six-foot-three Michael Jefferson, who caught a 46-yard bomb for score last week.

Something to watch will be who wins the running game, where both teams have struggled. The Ragin’ Cajuns ran for 213 and 257 yards per contest in 2019 and 2020, but have only been able to muster 83 yards per game so far, including just 90 last week vs the Colonels.

Meanwhile, the Bobcats are giving up on average of 226 yards per game early in 2021. It will be a big win for the Bobcats defense in terms of getting off the field, something they couldn’t do in the second half last week, if they can hold the Ragin’ Cajun running game to modest runs on first and second downs. Last week, the Bobcats had too many drives where the Dukes were working from very manageable second downs after picking up 6-8 yards on first down runs.

A final thing to watch is if Louisiana can get on track defensively. The Ragin’ Cajuns came into 2021 with five to seven defensive players on preseason All-Sun Belt teams, depending on the publication, because they were that good in 2020; however, so far, the Ragin’ Cajuns are 116th in the FBS with 473 yards allowed per game.


Prediction

Both teams have not played their best football early in the season and both should play better this week because there is too much talent on each team not to. Louisiana is at home and have the best player in QB Levi Lewis, so the Ragin’ Cajun should win but will not cover the spread as Ohio’s offense has to be better than what we have seen so far.