Saturday, December 22: New Orleans Bowl in New Orleans, LA at noon EST
LA-Lafayette Ragin' Cajuns (8-4) vs. East Carolina Pirates (8-4)
Another early bowl game, another good matchup.
Vegas line/spread: LA-Lafayette by 6 1/2 (over/under 68)
The Cajuns are a slight favorite to win a fairly high-scoring game according to the oddsmakers. The line started around 5 and the over/under has risen from around 64 to 68 by game day.
|Game-comparisons||win %||vs. Spread
UL-Lafayette's Strength ranking is #60, about average for the FBS. East Carolina perhaps surprisingly ranks only #91, meaning a lot of their game ratings are going to be low. Consequently, ULL wins about 70% of the comparisons, and about 60% against the spread.
Strength Power Rating: ULL 39, ECU 28 by Median rating: ULL 42, ECU 26
Louisiana-Lafayette's very average Strength ranking is reflected in their adjusted yardage differential, which ranks #63; in total offense they rank #27 but they are only 92nd on defense. East Carolina is 85th overall, with similarly poor offense and defense. This gives the Cajuns a projected advantage similar to the score-based estimate, 11 points. The Cajuns should rack up nearly 500 yards to about 420 for the Pirates.On a per-attempt basis ULL has a much bigger projected advantage, due to stronger per-attempt passing stats but also due to ECU's low per-carry rushing projection of just 3.1 yards.
Adjustments to yardage estimate: LA-Lafayette 49, East Carolina 28
- Interceptions: There's no projected advantage here; each team should have 1 pick on average.
- Forced fumbles: Again, not much here to project. East Carolina gains maybe 1/2 point for a slight projected advantage.
- Sacks: ULL ought to win this battle about 3-1 on average. That's good for almost 3 points. 2.8
- Red zone%: This could be a major factor in the game. ULL's red zone %, adjusted for opposition, is #2 in the country based on points scored divided by potential points. Only Clemson ranks higher. Meanwhile East Carolina's red zone defense is 94th. Taken together, ULL is expected to have a 96% success rate, with ECU having a more standard 67%. That's good for another 7 points for ULL, while ECU loses 1/2 point. 7.1, and -.6 for ECU.
- Kick returns: ECU is poor on kick defense, but ULL is poor on returns which offsets.
The most important consideration here is red zone play, where Louisiana-Lafayette excels on offense and East Carolina lags on defense. Since about 2/3 of points are scored here, this gives ULL a big advantage. ECU should do fine on offense in the red zone, that's not the issue, but ULL also has the probably advantage in sacks. As far as turnovers go it's a wash, so any surprises could still change the game.
Estimated Time of Possession: LA-Lafayette: 28:30 East Carolina: 31:30
Louisiana-Lafayette is only 92nd in adjusted time of possession, so most likely ECU has the ball for about 3 extra minutes total.
When LA-Lafayette has the ball
|LA-Lafayette rushing offense: #40
||East Carolina rushing defense: #71
ULL's running game is strong with Alonza Harris and QB Terrance Broadway combining for over 1,400 yards, with 8 touchdowns apiece. They should have a good day against ECU's defense, with the team approaching 200 yards for the day.
|LA-Lafayette passing offense: #40||East Carolina passing defense: #95 per att: #82|
|LA-Lafayette interceptions thrown ranking: #30||East Carolina interceptions picked ranking: #95|
|LA-Lafayette quarterback protection rank: #31||East Carolina pass rush rank: #70|
The Cajun offense is very balanced and is reflected in Terrance Broadway's numbers. In addition to running for 661 yards he has over 2,500 passing yards and 16 TD passes after replacing Blaine Gautier (who had 500 yards and a sub-50% completion rate before being injured). Four ULL receivers have 500+ yards. ECU's pass defense is poor so look for the Cajuns to rack up nearly 300 yards through the air.
As a team the Cajuns threw just 8 picks, but unfortunately all were by Broadway in the last 8 games, so don't expect a perfect game. East Carolina isn't a huge pick threat so more than one would be a surprise. Neither does the team give up many sacks—12 in all—though again, 11 were when Broadway took the snap (Gautier had no interceptions and was sacked just once). East Carolina doesn't have a powerful pass rush, so they might not get more than one sack.
When East Carolina has the ball
|East Carolina rushing offense: #112
||LA-Lafayette rushing defense: #66
East Carolina doesn't run the ball very often or very effectively, ranking 84th in attempts and just 112th in opposition-adjusted per-game yardage. Still, Vintavious Cooper managed to top 1,000 yards for the season, though he has just 7 TD runs. ULL's defense is about average in per-game terms but could limit the Pirates to around 100 yards on the ground as since they rank #16 in per-carry rushing defense.
|East Carolina passing offense: #32||LA-Lafayette passing defense: #114 per att: #107|
|East Carolina interceptions thrown ranking: #94||LA-Lafayette interceptions picked ranking: #33|
|East Carolina quarterback protection rank: #102||LA-Lafayette pass rush rank: #61|
Here is where ECU has a chance to even things up: the passing game. Shane Carden has passed for 2,838 yards and 21 TDs this year, with Justin Hardy (1,046 yards) his top target. Meanwhile Louisiana-Lafayette has a dreadful pass defense that ranks near the bottom ten. ECU should get the bulk of their yardage—over 300—from the passing game.
Though we didn't project the Cajuns to get more than one interception, that was based on total pass defenses. Looking only at actual interceptions, ULL has an opportunity to slow down the Pirates. But it's still not seen to be a huge benefit; Carden has thrown 9 interceptions all year, while 4 are from early starter Rio Johnson in his 72 attempts. QB pressure is another matter, as Carden has been sacked 28 times; even ULL's average pass rush should get to him around three times, maybe more. It's the best chance for their poor pass defense to put a wrench in the ECU works.
LA-Lafayette's season (8-4)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (2)
Wins vs. SR Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (4) to losing teams (1)
- Lamar 40-0
- @ Troy 37-24
- @ Oklahoma State 24-65
- FIU 48-20
- Tulane 41-13
- @ North Texas 23-30
- Arkansas State 27-50
- @ Louisiana-Monroe 40-24
- @ #2 Florida 20-27
- Western Kentucky 31-27
- South Alabama 52-30
- @ Florida Atlantic 35-21
Louisiana-Lafayette lost to just one losing team, North Texas. But the losses to Oklahoma State (65-24) and Arkansas State (50-27) were every bit as bad as the 7-point loss to the Mean Green. The loss the Cajuns should be proud of was the Florida game, as they took the Gators down to the wire in the Swamp before falling 27-20.
As for their wins, there wasn't much to brag about in the first half of the season but in the 2nd half they beat rival ULM convincingly and added a win over Western Kentucky. The Cajun offense was generally mediocre but did well against FIU (48 points), ULM (40), and South Alabama (52), and scoring 20 on Florida is also remarkable. The defense was generally sound but had major breakdowns at Oklahoma State, Arkansas State, and against South Alabama, who shouldn't have been allowed 30 points in Lafayette.
East Carolina's season (8-4)
Wins vs. bowl-eligible teams (0)
Wins vs. SR Top 25 teams (0)
Losses (4) to losing teams (0)
- Appalachian State 35-13
- @ #10 South Carolina 10-48
- @ Southern Miss 24-14
- @ North Carolina 6-27
- UTEP 28-18
- @ UCF 20-40
- Memphis 41-7
- @ UAB 42-35
- Navy 28-56
- Houston 48-28
- @ Tulane 28-23
- Marshall 65-59 2OT
The most striking thing about East Carolina's season is the complete lack of wins over bowl teams. They didn't lose to any non-bowl-eligible teams, but they didn't beat a single FBS team with a winning record.
And when they did play a bowl team, the results weren't good: a 38 point loss to South Carolina; 21 points to North Carolina; 20 points to Central Florida; and worst of all, a 56-28 loss to Navy. Further, they beat 0-12 Southern Miss just 24-14; 3-9 UTEP also by just 10 points; 3-9 UAB by a touchdown; 2-10 Tulane by 5 points (ULL beat Tulane 41-13); and needed double overtime at home to beat Marshall. WIth those numbers, is it any wonder they rank so low in power ratings?
East Carolina could be missing center Taylor Hudson, which would further harm their already poor pass protection. But UL-Lafayette has three defensive players who are questionable for the game, so it remains to be seen if they can take advantage of that—or whether it makes their pass defense even worse.
- LA-Lafayette's season: +0 wins; East Carolina's season: +3 wins
- LA-Lafayette's momentum: +0 wins; East Carolina's momentum: +2 wins
- LA-Lafayette won final game: YES; East Carolina won final game: YES
- LA-Lafayette glad to be there? YES; East Carolina glad to be there: YES
- LA-Lafayette time zones from home: 0; East Carolina time zones from home: 1;
- LA-Lafayette coaching situation: stable; East Carolina coaching situation: stable
Not all that much here. East Carolina went from a losing season (5-7) to a bowl season, which is a plus, while ULL repeated their 8-4 record from last year, which ain't too shabby either. The Pirates came back from a 3-3 early record to win 5 of 6, which should keep their spirits high, too.
Louisiana-Lafayette is playing very close to home, which we've added into the various estimates. Both teams should be up for the game; ULL might have been more "up" for Louisiana Tech, who turned down this bowl, but they shouldn't have any disappointment at facing an 8-4 team.
It's not like Lousiana-Lafayette is a great team by national standards. They've lost to a losing team, and been beaten down by some pretty good ones. But they've done well overall, and played Florida much, much closer than East Carolina did South Carolina. These two 8-4 teams could hardly be farther apart, as ECU has struggled to beat just about every team and has been blown away by the good ones. Our every analysis points to a Louisiana-Lafayette victory.
But how will the game play out, and do the Pirates have a route to victory? It seems that their only hope is to turn the game into a shootout. ULL's offense is pretty good and very balanced, while ECU's defense is poor across the board. So it stands to reason that the Cajuns are going to get their points. ECU's counter for that is their passing game, which is very productive and should be moreso against the poor Cajun pass defense. It's not unreasonable to expect to match scoring drives with UL-Lafayette, with a chance to come out on top at the end.
We think that will be the scenario of the game—lots of scoring. Sometimes bowl games are surprises, where defensive teams light up the scoreboard or offensive teams lag, but odds are these teams put up the points. ECU should be able to keep up and trade score for score to some extent, but when it comes down to red zone play UL-Lafayette should keep their advantage. Playing essentially at home, when they get inside the 20 they'll find the end zone, while ECU's pass game won't be as effective in the shorter field—and their poor running game won't help. The defensive stands the Cajuns achieve in this area—as well as the offensive success they find—should be the difference in the game.
Prediction: LA-Lafayette 45, East Carolina 33
More previews, odds, and predictions: View the complete 2012-2013 bowl game schedule.