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MAC Football Previews: UL-Lafeyette Ragin' Cajuns

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The Ragin' Cajuns of Lafayette, Louisiana host Akron in what will be a tough atmosphere to play in for the Zips. Can the defense get it done, or is the UL-Lafayette scoring attack too powerful?

UL-Lafayette knows what it takes to win
UL-Lafayette knows what it takes to win
Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

The 2011 season resulted in a 9-4 record with a bowl win.  9-4 in 2012 with a bowl win and ended on a four-game win streak. 9-4 in 2013 with a bowl win and a 35-30 victory over the Akron Zips. 9-4 in 2014 while grabbing wins in eight of its last nine games and, you guessed it, a bowl win. The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns don't mess around and they sure know how to close a season out. UL-Lafayette's real struggles have came early in the non-conference against powerhouse teams and some solid smaller D-I programs. Enter a questionable Akron Zips team.

With the Cajuns playing relatively close games against the likes of Kent State and Akron over the last few years, the Zips once again should prove to be a tough challenge for those Bayouians down there (just run with the endearing terminology). These Cajuns have posted the same record in each of energetic coach Mark Hudspeth's four years there.

Offense

These Ragin' Cajuns can tear it up on the gridiron, and are particularly lethal at home, going 18-4 at Cajun Field under Hudspeth. Just last year at home alone, UL-Lafayette averaged 31.5 points per game on its own turf.

Junior back Elijah McGuire comes off a season in which he gathered 1,848 all-purpose yards while gashing opposing defenses on the ground for 1,264 yards and 14 touchdowns. McGuire leads the nation among actives backs with a 7.9 yards per carry average and brought home Sun Belt POTY honors last season. The nominee for award lists like the Doak Walker, Maxwell, Paul Hornung, and Walter Camp POTY award, will have to carry the load after the Cajuns lost their starting QB of a year ago. The QB battle continues with Hudspeth refusing to give any hints as to who may be the 'skin-slinger. But after rushing for nearly 3,000 yards as a squad last season, it'll be up to the Zips' front seven to give themselves any chance to compete in Lafayette. Somewhat luckily for Akron, the RB depth isn't where it was a year ago, where two Cajun seniors ran for 800+ yards. Not to say that going up against McGuire frequently is a good thing.

The O-line returns three of its five starters from a year ago from a group that has stayed relatively healthy over the years, so don't imagine any inconsistencies from the line when the Zips head down there.

Defense

The defensive coaching staff is seeing some changes personnel-wise, and what difference that'll make has yet to be seen, especially with some second-stringers from last year coming on to take the load of snaps.

A year ago, the D-Line wreaked notable havoc, as the team in total accumulated 32 sacks. Gone from that unit are guys like Christian Ringo, one of the more nightmare-inspiring defensive tackles in college football in 2014 and Justin Hamilton. But 84 tackles for loss isn't something you come by without some depth at the position (and at LB) and the Cajuns will be just fine in the trenches this season with fellas like Chris Prater and Rodrick Stephens back.

The defense additionally loses two starting linebackers and both starting corners, but there's no reason for panic as the second-string unit comes back almost entirely still together. Leading tackler Dominique Tovell returns to the LB corps and some backup corners with experience return to the secondary.

As far as special teams go, the Cajuns bring back almost all of their specialists.

General Thoughts

Consistency is the mantra of those who see UL-Lafayette from the outside. Early season struggles have been characteristic of this team, so it's not irresponsible to think that someone with a high-defensive upside like the Zips might have success at Cajun Field. Maybe the offensive shows some chops and bursts through the inexperienced UL-Lafayette defense for a few touchdowns. The upside of this Akron team was clearly visible against the likes of Pittsburgh last season, and maybe after a potential stomping against Savannah State this fall, this squad will feel good about itself heading into Louisiana. Akron fans can hope. But if we're looking at consistency, we know who is in better standing between these two.