From the Bird’s Nest: How the Cajuns Can Break Even
Louisiana opens up the Mark Hudspeth Era of football this Saturday night.
Since Hudspeth arrived on campus, he's been an ambassador for Louisiana football.
He's said and done everything right. RCAF donations are up 25% with four months to go in the year. The number of donors is up 59%. The Cajuns are about to set a new record for season tickets sold, and could reach that by next week.
And, almost all of that can be attributed to the energy, the enthusiasm and the optimism brought by Mark Hudspeth.
But now, it's time for the reality of the football season.
You can't find a preseason publication anywhere that suggests that Louisiana will be in the first division of the Sun Belt this year. In fact, almost all pick the Cajuns at or near the bottom of the league.
But don't tell the fans that.
There are some fans who have either bought into what they've read, or they just understand that the Cajuns have a long way to go.
There are others who have drunk so much of the Hudspeth Kool-Aid that they're eyes look like cherries. They're talking about an eight win season. They are going to be pretty disappointed, I think.
Then there are those in the middle. Those that understand the lack of respect the Cajuns are getting, but have enough optimism the Cajuns can break even for the year.
And, for those fans, this blog is for you.
Even the most optimistic Cajun fans will probably mark down the Oklahoma State and Arizona games as losses. So I won't even address those.
But can the Cajuns get to six?
I don't know. But if they can, here's how it'll probably happen.
1. START 2-1. I've already said the Kent State game is going to be a huge one for the Cajuns. UL will be an underdog against a Kent State squad that's solid on both sides of the line of scrimmage. In fact, they could be a double-digit underdog. But if the Cajuns are going to get to six, they have to win that game, their 1-28 road non-conference record be damned. I laugh at those who have called the local shows and said "Kent State should be a win." No, it shouldn't. But it has to be in order to get to six. Then, you come home and take care of business against Nicholls State. (By the way, Kent State opens at Alabama in an early game on Saturday. The game will be available on espn3.com and ESPN Gameplan if you want to get a sneak peek.)
2. WIN TWO OF THREE ON THE HOMESTAND--Week four is the conference opener at FIU and the Cajuns probably won't win that game. FIU is the defending co-champion and the best defensive team in the league. And, they'll be pretty close to what they were last year. The focus then, comes on the three game homestand against FAU, Troy and North Texas. While I refuse to say that any of these games aren't winnable, I don't know if the Cajuns, who are still learning new systems and playing a lot of inexperienced people, will be quite ready to run off three straight. Two of three is doable.
3. SPLIT THE WESTERN/MIDDLE SWING--The Cajuns will be underdogs in both games, given WKU's trashing of the Cajuns and the fact the game is in Bowling Green. Middle Tennessee is probably a notch above the Cajuns but not a ton better. Both games are on the road. Get a split and you're doing well.
4. BEAT ULM--And it won't be easy. ULM returns a bunch of starters from last year and if they're in the middle of the conference race, this game will be all that much tougher. Working in the Cajuns favor is it's senior night at Cajun Field and ULM has failed every time they've played the Cajuns in one of their "gotta have it" games over the past few years.
The Cajuns won in Jonesboro two years ago, but that was after ASU lost eight offensive linemen and were playing with a fourth string center. Take that game out of the equation and it's safe to say the Cajuns don't win in Jonesboro. Now, if Ryan Aplin can't stay upright, they'll have a chance. But I'm not counting on this one.
Start 2-1. Win 2-3 on the homestand. Split on the road. Beat ULM.