Texas vs. Louisiana College Football Odds, Prediction, Pick: Can Sarkisian Pull Away in Debut?
Adam Davis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Steve Sarkisian.
Texas vs. Louisiana Odds
When the Texas and Louisiana athletic departments scheduled this game a few years back, I doubt there were many that would have predicted it would be one of five Week 1 matchups that features two ranked teams squaring off.
Billy Napier has the Ragin’ Cajuns firmly entrenched as one of the best Group of 5 programs in the country, and there is legitimate hope that this team can play in a New Years 6 game this season.
In Austin, Texas sent shockwaves throughout the country when they parted ways with Tom Herman in January and quickly brought in Steve Sarkisian to take over the reins of the program. Sark inherits plenty of talent on the roster, and with his offensive prowess, many are calling Texas a darkhorse Big 12 contender in 2021.
Since 2018, Louisiana has gone 28-11 under Napier and won three consecutive Sun Belt titles (co-champs a year ago).
Louisiana has a veteran group again in 2021, with 20 starters returning, including quarterback Levi Lewis and several key cogs from a defense that led the Sun Belt in fewest points allowed.
With sights set on finishing the year as the top ranked Group of 5 team, the Ragin’ Cajuns understand how big an opportunity this game provides to make a statement to the CFP committee.
Ragin’ Cajuns Offense
Lewis returns for his fifth year in Lafayette and barring injury, the steady veteran should easily eclipse 30 career wins as the program’s starting QB.
However, the loss of RB Elijah Mitchell to the NFL should not be understated, as reports out of 49ers camp indicate Mitchell is already turning heads with his explosiveness and big play ability. Sophomore Chris Smith will be in line to inherit most of the carries in the backfield and will certainly have big shoes to fill. He will be running behind an offensive line with plenty of experience, as all five starters return from 2020.
Ragin’ Cajuns Defense
When taking a look at the Louisiana defense from a year ago, one stat really jumped out at me.
The Ragin’ Cajuns held seven of their 11 opponents to under 200 yards in passing. This is an elite secondary group that will challenge Hudson Card (more on him below) in his first career start.
Limiting Texas’ passing attack is one thing, and I have legitimate concerns as to whether the Louisiana front can contain Bijan Robinson and everything that he brings to the table.
I’m not sure if there is a program in the country that generated more headlines in the offseason than Texas. The introduction of a brand new coaching staff combined with the recent news of the move to the SEC (come 2025) has dominated news outlets.
All of that noise aside, this is a roster with tons of talent on both sides of the ball. Replacing quarterback Sam Ehlinger, who in my opinion was one of the more underappreciated players in recent memory will be the biggest challenge for the Longhorns. Ehlinger helped mask a lot of Tom Herman’s philosophical issues, something Texas should no longer have to worry about with Sarkisian taking over.
Hudson Card and Casey Thompson dueled it out all the way through the summer for the starting quarterback job, and Sarkisian announced last week that Card will be the first man under center on Saturday afternoon.
Expect Sark to come out with a comfortable early game plan for him, allowing Card to settle in with some quick delivery throws out of the gates.
When you have Bijan Robinson accompanying you in the backfield, it probably eases some of the nerves of making your first career college start. To me, Robinson is one of the very best RB talents in the country, and he is now in a system where he should absolutely thrive.
When it comes to mixing up personnel, creating mismatches, and allowing his best playmakers to get in space, there simply aren’t many offensive minds that can rival Sarkisian. I believe this offense will be dynamic in 2021 and I don’t expect many growing pains in the opener, despite Card’s lack of experience.
Sarkisian quietly made a very strong hire in late January, bringing in defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski from Washington. Kwiatkowski is known for showing offenses multiple looks, including many three- and four-down variations.
On the defensive interior, Texas brings back both T’Vondre Sweat and Keondre Coburn, a duo that could wreak some havoc in the Louisiana backfield and get after Lewis. DeMarvion Overshown leads the linebacker group and he has shown a knack for making disruptive plays thus far in his career.
On the back end Josh Thompson and D’Shawn Jamison both return, and each will be counted on to match up with opponents’ top weapons throughout the season.
Texas vs. Louisiana Matchup Analysis
Toggle the dropdowns below to hide or show how Louisiana and Texas match up statistically:
Louisiana Offense vs. Texas Defense
Texas Offense vs. Louisiana Defense
Pace of Play / Other
Texas vs. Louisiana Betting Pick
This line opened with Texas favored by as many as 16 points, and it has continued to drop as public money keeps coming in on the trendy underdog in Louisiana.
As the number continues to fall, I feel better and better about the Longhorns covering this spread.
This is not a situation where a high-profile head coach enters his first year at a new school with a relatively barren cupboard. Sarkisian has plenty of weapons at his disposal and as steady as the Ragin’ Cajun defense is, I do not believe they will have much of an answer for Robinson.
Card taking care of the football will be imperative, something Ehlinger did a great job of a year ago. Sark knows this and will build a game plan that should allow Card to gain confidence as the game goes on.
When Louisiana has the football, Kwiatkowski will look to dial up some pressure and create some tackle-for-loss opportunities for Coburn, Overshown and the rest of the Longhorns front.
Lewis will make his fair share of plays, but for 60 minutes in a sold out DKR Stadium, I just don’t see the Ragin’ Cajuns having the horsepower to hang with Texas.
The Herman era began with a brutal home loss to Maryland, and he never really got the Longhorns fully on track after that.
I don’t believe the Sarkisian era will follow the same tune. I like the Longhorns to pull away in the second half of this football game and win by double digits.
Pick: Texas -8 (Play to -10)