Saturday, December 19, 2020, Brooks Stadium, Conway, South Carolina, 3:30 p.m. ET
Ragin’ Cajuns at Chanticleers Betting Preview: Ragin’ Cajuns (+3.5), Chanticleers (–3.5)
No. 19 Louisiana (9-1, 7-1 Sun Belt) has demonstrated a knack for winning close games on its way to a third-consecutive Sun Best West Division title, winning four of five games decided by five points or fewer.
“Each week that’s kind of what’s consumed us, is coming up with plans for improvement,” Ragin’ Cajuns coach Billy Napier said. “We played that game, we learned from that game and we moved forward after that game. I think we’ve been focused on improvement since then.”
The one setback, however, was a three-point loss to East champ Coastal Carolina.
“They’ve got a very consistent team,” Napier said of the Chanticleers. “They haven’t had a lot of injuries. They’ve had a lot of continuity in terms of the players that play in the game.”
Napier’s Cajuns have developed numerous reliable players in terms of production. Levi Mitchell has averaged 212.8 yards a game passing with eight different players reaching double figures in receptions.
Elijah Mitchell (751 yards) and Trey Ragas (660) have been the primary runners, but Chris Smith (332 yards) has provided a change of place option in the running game.
“I think each week’s been a little bit different, different personnel available, different variables, different matchups,” Napier said. “The big thing is we’ve found ways to win, and certainly we’ve been consumed with improving.”
The Cajuns will have a key defensive player ready this week.
Linebacker Ferrod Gardner, the team’s second-leading tackler behind linebacker Lorenzo McCaskill, didn’t play in the first matchup with Coastal Carolina. Gardner has 66 tackles that include 3.5 sacks.
No. 12 Coastal Carolina also has been involved in a couple of thrilling finishes the past two weeks, stopping BYU a yard short of a game-turning touchdown on the final play to hold on for a 22-17 win, then scoring a last-minute touchdown to win at Troy 42-38.
The win over the Trojans gave the Chanticleers (11-0, 8-0 Sun Belt) their first undefeated regular season going into their first title game appearance and also made them the only team in the country with more than 10 wins.
“Our team has played well all year long and earned an opportunity to obviously host it, and one that our team is looking forward to,” Coastal Carolina coach Jamey Chadwell said of the Sun Belt title game. “We know that we have our work cut out for us.”
Grayson McCall has thrown for two or more touchdowns in eight of the 10 games he has played this season for the Chanticleers, and CJ. Marable has scored at least one touchdown in each of the last 10 games.
The Chanticleers won the regular-season meeting between the two, but Chadwell thinks the Ragin’ Cajuns have kept on developing as the season has gone on behind Lewis at quarterback.
“The thing that’s happened is they’ve gotten better and better, the receivers have gotten better and better since we played them in early October,” Chadwell said. “We’re going to have to do some different things to try to not allow him to beat us with his feet, and that’s where he really gave us issues that time.”
The title game is sold out, though the current capacity at Coastal Carolina’s Brooks Stadium is less than usual due to the pandemic.
“We’ve had great electricity here, so we’re thankful we don’t have to travel and thankful for having it here,” Chadwell said. “I think that is a benefit, especially with us playing this past weekend and them sitting at home. I don’t know how much of an advantage it is …it’s about the team that’s most rested and ready to go preparation wise.”
Ragin’ Cajuns at Chanticleers Betting Pick for December 19, 2020
These two teams met in October in Lafayette with the Chanticleers emerging with a 30-27 win on Massimo Biscardi’s 40-yard field goal with four seconds remaining. McCall was 17 of 24 passing for 204 yards and two touchdowns and Marable and Reese White combined to rush for 146 yards for the Chanticleers while Lewis completed 15 of 25 passes for only 177 yards with a touchdown and interception and rushed for a team-best 84 and another touchdown for the Cajuns.
Ragin’ Cajuns at Chanticleers Betting Pick:
Chanticleers 24, Ragin’ Cajuns 21
Ragin’ Cajuns at Chanticleers Best Bet for December 19, 2020
The Chanticleers have averaged nearly 38 points a game for the season but have been over the 40-point mark twice in their last three games (49-14 over Texas State and 42-38 over Troy) with t a 22-17 win over BYU in between. The Cajuns also have averaged in the 30s (33.9 per game) and hit a season-high in a 70-20 romp past instate rival Louisiana-Monroe to end November.
Ragin’ Cajuns at Chanticleers Best Bet: UNDER 55