New Orleans Bowl Preview: San Diego State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
Capping off the first night of college football bowl games will be the New Orleans Bowl, featuring the San Diego State Aztecs and the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns.
The game will be played on Dec. 17 at 9 p.m. ET at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans, Louisiana. It will be televised on ESPN.
San Diego State Aztecs
Record: 8-4 (4-3 MWC)
Biggest win: at Air Force, 41-27, Oct. 13
Worst loss: vs. Wyoming, 27-30, Oct. 29
Expected to seriously contend with Boise State and TCU in the Mountain West Conference this season, the year was a disappointment for San Diego State. The Aztecs did not have any really bad losses, but only one win against a bowl-eligible team—the Air Force Falcons.
Senior quarterback Ryan Lindley was expected to have a big year, but he had a disappointing season. As a result, the Aztecs are ranked 64th in passing yardage. They are, however, ranked 28th in rushing yards nationally.
Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns
Record: 8-4 (6-2 Sun Belt)
Biggest win: at Florida International, 36-31, Sept. 24
Worst loss: at Western Kentucky, 23-42, Oct. 22
Louisiana-Lafayette had a solid season in the Sun Belt Conference, but only had one win all year against a bowl-eligible team—Florida International.
The Ragin’ Cajuns had a very suspect defense this year, ranking 83rd nationally with 29.8 points allowed per game. Their offense—65th nationally in total yards per game—was not much better. That said, their offense does rank 32nd nationally with 32.3 points scored per game and allowed them to win eight games this season.
Players To Watch
San Diego State RB Ronnie Hillman, Sophomore
NFL Draft Grade: Round 4
Ronnie Hillman’s first two years at San Diego State have been tremendous. After running for 1,532 yards and 17 touchdowns as a freshman, Hillman did even better in his sophomore season—rushing for 1,656 yards and 19 touchdowns. With those numbers, Hillman ran for more yards this season than the great Marshall Faulk ever did in a single season at San Diego State.
Hillman is not a big back, but he can take hits from defenders, and is very quick. Hillman ranks third in the nation this season with 138 yards per game, yet has really flown under the radar throughout his first two seasons as an Aztec.
Although Hillman has only been in college for two years, Hillman is eligible for the 2012 NFL Draft because he is three years removed from high school. It is unlikely he declares for the upcoming draft, but possible, and if he does, he should be selected on early on Day Three.
San Diego State QB Ryan Lindley, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 6
Although Hillman has been San Diego State’s best offensive player by a long shot this season, quarterback Ryan Lindley is the bigger name. Standing at 6'4" with good pocket presence and a strong arm, Lindley was my big NFL Draft sleeper coming into the season among senior quarterbacks, and I thought he had a chance to move his way up into the second or third round of the 2012 NFL Draft.
Unfortunately, Lindley has not been at his best in his senior season. Lindley ranks a dismal 81st in the FBS in passer rating, with a 52 percent completion rate: That doesn't even rank him among the Top 100 nationally.
All of that said, Lindley has the tools to be a solid NFL quarterback, so he will certainly be under the microscope from NFL scouts in this game. Lindley currently is a likely sixth-round pick, but if he can make the plays necessary to lead San Diego State to a victory, his stock may gain some of what it has lost.
Louisiana-Lafayette TE Ladarius Green, Senior
NFL Draft Grade: Round 6
Ladarius Green is one of the nation’s top tight ends, and he is the impact player of the Ragin’ Cajuns offense. At 6'6", Green has ideal height for the tight end position and he is a good athlete.
This season, Green has 46 receptions for 485 yards and seven touchdowns. The Ragin’ Cajuns will look for Green to be a playmaker in this game.
Comparing the Two Teams
San Diego State’s rushing offense: 28th in nation, 194.2 yards per game
Louisiana-Lafayette’s rushing defense: 56th in nation, 144.5 yards allowed per game
Louisiana-Lafayette’s scoring offense: 32nd in nation, 32.3 points per game
San Diego State’s scoring defense: 52nd in nation, 24.4 points per game
It has been a disappointing season for the San Diego State Aztecs, but the stage should be set to finish their season with a victory.
The Aztecs played a much more challenging schedule in the Mountain West than the Ragin’ Cajuns did in the Sun Belt, and they have a much more balanced team—both offensively and defensively.
The talent offensively—led by quarterback Ryan Lindley and running back Ronnie Hillman—and defensively—led by cornerback Larry Parker, who has seven interceptions this season—should be able to get the Aztecs to a victory in this game.
Final Score Prediction: San Diego State 31, Louisiana-Lafayette 17