Although the 2023 Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns begin Sun Belt Conference play Sept. 9 on the road against the Old Dominion Monarchs, the team won’t face their first divisional opponent until early October.
As Louisiana continues to establish their identity one week into the new season, here are some of the biggest potential threats the Ragin’ Cajuns will face in the Sun Belt West Division.
The Texas State Bobcats pay the Ragin’ Cajuns a visit on Oct. 7, featuring perhaps one of the more prominent quarterbacks the team has faced in the past two years in redshirt sophomore TJ Finley.
The 5-foot-7-inch former LSU Tiger and Auburn Tiger showed out in a Week 1 42–31 win against the Baylor Bears, posting 316 total yards of offense and accounting for four touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, senior 6-foot-3-inch safety Tory Spears, who finished seventh in the SBC in tackles per game (7.7) in 2022, and junior corner Alonzo Edwards, Jr., who tied for the conference lead in forced fumbles (3) last season, will lead an opportunistic secondary against Louisiana.
The Ragin’ Cajuns head to Mobile, Alabama for a matchup with the South Alabama Jaguars on Oct. 28, where they’ll face three of the conference’s most productive players.
Junior safety Yam Banks led not only the Jaguars secondary, but also the SBC with 17 total passes defended, including a conference leading six interceptions.
Senior La’Damian Webb may be small, but size didn’t stop the 5-foot-7-inch tailback from finishing fourth in the conference with 1067 rushing yards and second in the conference with 15 total touchdowns in 2022.
South Alabama kicker Diego Guajardo shouldn’t be disregarded as a threat. The senior scored the second most points (100) in the entire conference in 2022, and missed only three of his 67 combined PAT and FG attempts.
On Nov. 4, on the road against the Arkansas State Red Wolves, Louisiana’s offense will face off against a stout linebacking tandem in senior Melique Straker, who finished tenth in the SBC in 2022 in tackles per game, and redshirt freshman Javante Mackey.
Leading the Arkansas State secondary is senior safety Eddie Smith. After spending two seasons with the Alabama Crimson Tide, and one with the Illinois Fighting Illini, Smith recorded six pass breakups and two interceptions in his first season with the Red Wolves.
The Southern Miss Golden Eagles visit Cajun Field on Nov. 9 and will deploy the son of an NFL legend on offense along with a lockdown force in the secondary on defense.
Junior halfback Frank Gore, Jr. finished third in the SBC with 1601 all-purpose yards in 2022. He added nine touchdowns to his 2022 campaign and will undoubtedly look to top that this season.
Standout senior corner Jay Stanley filled up the statsheet in 2022, finishing with seven pass deflections, five interceptions, and three forced fumbles. Stanley started this season right where he left off with two picks in Southern Miss’ Week 1 40–14 victory over the Alcorn State Braves on Sept. 2.
The Ragin’ Cajuns will go up against a ferocious defense and a premier Sun Belt weapon in their final road matchup of 2023 against the Troy Trojans on Nov. 18.
Junior running back Kimani Vidal finished 2022 with the third most rushing yards (1132) in the SBC and is coming off of a 300-plus yard performance in the Trojans’ Week 1 win over the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.
On the other side, defensive ends T.J. Jackson and Richard Jibunor both finished 2022 with eight total sacks, forming one of the most potent pass rushing duos in the conference.
Additionally, Troy senior corner Reddy Steward tallied three interceptions and 11 pass deflections in 2022 and recorded a 45-yard pick-six in the Trojans 2023 season opener.
Finally, the Ragin’ Cajuns will host the UL Monroe Warhawks in their final regular season game on Nov. 25.
Senior Warhawks wideout Tyrone Howell finished ninth in the SBC in 2022 with 852 receiving yards and projects this season as one of the premier perimeter weapons in the division. Howell got behind Louisiana for 124 yards in 2022, one of five 70-plus yard performances of his season.
How well the Ragin’ Cajuns perform against these impact players will play a pivotal role in determining their overall outlook and competing for a conference championship.