NCAA Friday Night Football: Louisiana/Appalachian State Preview

by Big Al Staff

The Friday night game on ESPN is a rematch of the last two conference championship games in the Sun Belt Conference. Appalachian State defeated Louisiana-Lafayette in the 2018 conference championship game by a 30-19 score. The Mountaineers followed that victory up last year with their second-straight conference championship in a 45-38 win over the Ragin’ Cajuns. Appalachian State won both of those games at home in Boone, North Carolina, which is once again the site for this showdown.

Louisiana returned 14 starters from last year’s team that finished 11-3 with a 27-17 victory over Miami (OH) in the Lending Tree Bowl. The Ragin’ Cajuns have clinched their third straight appearance in the Sun Belt Conference championship game with an 8-1 season. Louisiana’s lone loss was against Coastal Carolina, which they will get to avenge in this year’s Sun Belt championship game on December 19th. But first, the Ragin’ Cajuns have the opportunity to settle some past business in this revenge opportunity.

The Ragin’ Cajuns come off a 70-20 victory at Louisiana-Monroe last week as a four-touchdown favorite. Senior quarterback Levi Lewis completed 18 of 25 passes for 147 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Lewis is completing 62.2% of his passes this season for 2027 yards with 16 touchdown passes but along with seven interceptions. Lewis has added 233 rushing yards on the ground on a 6.3 yards-per-carry average with another five touchdowns. Lewis hands off to running backs Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas, who have each rushed for more than 600 yards. The Ragin’ Cajuns average 5.8 yards-per-carry as a team, which is the sixth-highest mark in the nation.

Appalachian State responded to their 34-23 loss at Coastal Carolina two weeks ago with a 47-10 victory at home against Troy last Saturday as a two-touchdown favorite. While the Mountaineers cannot defend their conference championship, they can still improve their standing for a bowl bid in this high-profile matchup. Appalachian State is 7-2 on the year, with their other loss being a 17-7 setback at Marshall.

Senior quarterback Zac Thomas completed 22 of 29 passes of 279 yards with four touchdown passes last week in the win over the Trojans. Thomas is completing 66.7 points-per-game this season for 1775 yards with 17 touchdown passes but also with eight interceptions. He has added 273 yards on the ground with another two touchdowns. Thomas leads an offense that is seventh in the nation by averaging 256.4 yards-per-game. Yet the Mountaineers put up six fewer points-per-game than their 38.8 points-per-game clip last season.

The weather may play a role in this game, with temperatures expected to drop to the low-30s Friday night in Boone. Rain and perhaps snow are in the forecast with winds of 15 to 25 miles per hour. COVID restrictions will limit the attendance to a capacity of 2170 for this game.

BetOnline lists Appalachian State as a 3-point favorite with an over/under of 51.5. The ESPN broadcast starts at 8:30 PM ET.

All photographic images used for editorial content have been licensed from the Associated Press.

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