We have one more College Football Bowl Game to tend to in advance of next week’s National Championship game. On Monday night, the LendingTree Bowl, emanating from Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL, takes center stage.
The Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns will be squaring off with the Miami-Ohio RedHawks. Both of these squads were in action on Conference Championship weekend. The Cajuns came up short versus Appalachian State in the Sun Belt title tilt, while the RedHawks handled business over Central Michigan to take down the MAC.
Overall, Louisiana was the more impressive team during the regular season while racking up 10 wins. The club can put points on the board, and the defense held opponents to an average of less than 20 points per game. Miami-Ohio closed out the season strong with wins in six of their last seven contests after struggling to begin the season.
The spread is pretty hefty for this one, but there’s potential that this contest will be better than expected. Let’s take a closer look at this primetime showdown, starting with the current game lines.
Louisiana vs. Miami-Ohio, 7:30 PM EST, Mon. Jan.6, ESPN
Betting odds provided by Sportsbetting.ag
Louisiana vs. Miami-Ohio Pick:
For the Sun Belt championship game, Louisiana walked on the field as a 5.5-point underdog to Appalachian State. They got down by a score of 21-0 to the Mountaineers but managed to come back and make a game of it. However, the final result was never in doubt. The Cajuns closed the gap but came up short in the end, falling by a score of 45-38. The final score obliterated the Over/Under of 57 points.
Entering the MAC title game, Miami-Ohio was a 6-point underdog to Central Michigan. It turned into a tight affair with the Chippewas holding a 14-10 lead at the half. The RedHawks took control after the break to take the lead and put up three field goals in the fourth quarter to walk away with a 26-21 victory. The final total of 47 points was well under the projected number of 56.
The Cajuns opened up the year with a neutral-site loss to Mississippi State, but they played the Bulldogs tough in a 38-28 defeat. The club ripped off four victories afterwards before falling to Appalachian State. Five more victories followed, and a 7-1 mark in conference play was good enough to take down the Sun Belt West. That set up a rematch with the Mountaineers for the title where they lost by seven.
The year started off poorly for the RedHawks. The team opened up the year with a mark of 2-4, with all four of the defeats coming by double digits. They managed to get it together from that point, ripping off five wins in a row before falling to Ball State. The 6-2 conference record put them in first place in the MAC East and advanced them to the title game where they took down Central Michigan.
On paper, Louisiana is the stronger squad on both sides of the ball. The offense skews towards the run overall but remains balanced, while the defense is solid in both facets. The RedHawks show some balance on both sides of the ball, with the pass being the bigger strength on offense. They do a pretty solid job of pressuring opposing QBs, but could use improvement on protection.
Levi Lewis has been solid behind center for Louisiana. He threw for four scores and one pick in the loss to Appalachian State and has accounted for 27 total scores on the season. Elijah Mitchell tops the team in rushing at 187/1,092/15. Ja’Marcus Bradley has been the top target in the passing game at 53/818/8. Jacques Boudreaux leads the team with 91 tackles, while Joe Dillon is tops with six sacks.
Brett Gabbert has been hit or miss at QB for Miami-Ohio. All told, he has 14 total scores versus eight picks on the year while completing 53.7 percent of his passes. Jaylon Bester is the team’s leading rusher at 152/689/12. Jack Sorenson paces the pass catchers at 34/461/4. Sterling Weatherford has the team lead with 93 tackles, while Kameron Butler leads with 5.5 sacks.
These two programs have hooked up twice previously with the RedHawks winning both meetings. The last matchup took place in 1993 with Miami-Ohio pulling out a 29-28 win.
Last season, Louisiana was invited to the Cure Bowl and fell to Tulane by a score of 41-24. This will be the first Bowl Game for Miami-Ohio since 2016 when they lost by a score of 17-16 to Mississippi State in the St. Petersburg Bowl.
This annual game was known as the Dollar General Bowl for the last three seasons. Troy defeated Buffalo by a score of 42-32 in last year’s edition.
For the season to date, the Cajuns are 9-4 against the spread and 6-7 on the Over/Under. The RedHawks are 7-6 ATS and 6-7 on totals.
Since the 2017 season, Louisiana is 16-4 overall as a favorite and 12-8 ATS. Miami-Ohio is 9-11 straight-up as an underdog over that span and 12-8 ATS.
The line has stayed pretty steady here as Louisiana was favored by 14.5 upon release. It’s now at 14 in advance of game time. They’re clearly the better team on paper from both a record and statistical perspective.
That said, Miami-Ohio has shown a lot since a tough start to the season. After opening up at 2-4 with four double-digit losses, the club got it together and advanced to take down a conference crown. That doesn’t happen with a team that resembles a doormat.
The Cajuns are stronger on offense and defense, so an outright win in the LendingTree Bowl seems likely. However, the RedHawks can keep it a bit closer than expected. Miami-Ohio plus the points is the call.