In my last article, I wrote that if the Arkansas Razorbacks are going to play in a bowl game this season, they must win all of their non-conference contests. This prompted several Hog fans to write in and ask about the season opener against the Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns. While it’s possible that ULL will hang around for a while, Arkansas will usher in the Bret Bielema era with a decisive victory.
Make no mistake about it, Louisiana-Lafayette is an excellent team. The Ragin’ Cajuns finished 9-4 last year, and nearly upset the Florida Gators in the Swamp. Under the leadership of Mark Hudspeth, the ULL offense has become one of the most explosive units in the country, averaging 35.4 points per game last season. With seven starters returning—including dual-threat QB Terrance Broadway (2,838 yards passing, 772 rushing, 26 total TDs)—Louisiana-Lafayette will be the favorite to win the Sun Belt this fall.
However, ULL will not beat the Hogs this season.
A closer examination of each team will bear this out.
Believe it or not, it’s the Arkansas defense that should make it the favorite in this game. Sure, the Razorback D struggled at times, but it still finished with the 19th-best run defense in the land last season, allowing a paltry 3.38 yards per carry. This unit should be just as a good—if not better—with the return of stalwart defensive ends Trey Flowers and Chris Smith, who both tied for fifth place in the SEC in tackles for a loss last year.
Stopping the ground game is the key to beating the Ragin’ Cajuns. After all, Louisiana-Lafayette went 0-4 last season when they ran the ball 30 times or less.
Even if the Hogs’ defense struggles to slow down the ULL ground game—a big if considering how well the front seven played at the end of the season—it won’t have any trouble moving the ball through the air. Don’t let the sub-par stats of the last scrimmage fool you: the Arkansas aerial attack shouldn’t skip a beat this year under new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney, considered to be one of the top offensive minds in the game today. He’ll have no trouble dissecting a suspect Louisiana-Lafayette secondary that ranked 115th in passing defense last season.
The bottom line: Arkansas should win its season opener, and it should do so convincingly.
Just remember that you heard it here first.