First Responder Bowl College Football Odds & Pick: How to Bet Louisiana vs. UTSA
Michael Wade/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images. Pictured: Bralen Trahan
- Louisiana-Lafayette and UTSA will duke it out in their final game of 2020 in the First Responder Bowl on Saturday.
- Louisiana head coach Billy Napier looks to keep his team focused despite receiving interest from Power Five schools, while UTSA hopes to tie its best season ever with a bowl victory.
- Mike Ianniello broke down the First Responder Bowl below and explains why he's backing Napier and the Ragin' Cajuns.
Louisiana vs. UTSA Odds
The Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns will meet the UTSA Roadrunners in the First Responders Bowl in Dallas on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. ET.
The Ragin’ Cajuns finished a terrific season with a 9-1 record but surely have a bitter taste in their mouth after the Sun Belt Championship, and their chance to avenge their loss to Coastal Carolina was canceled due to COVID-19 issues for the Chanticleers.
The Roadrunners are looking for their first-ever bowl victory after finishing the season 7-4 in their first season under Jeff Traylor. A win would tie their 2012 season for the best record in program history.
Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns
Billy Napier is one of the hottest head coaches in the country and has been brought up as a candidate for pretty much every FBS vacancy. Napier has come out recently and confirmed his commitment to remain at Louisiana moving forward… for now.
Napier has led the Ragin’ Cajuns to a 27-11 record in three seasons, and a win Saturday would give them back-to-back 10-win seasons and bowl victories.
The First Responders Bowl will likely mark the final game for a pair of running backs that will finish their careers as two of the best players in ULL history.
Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell rank third and sixth, respectively, for the most rushing yards in program history. Ragas has totaled 3,901 yards from scrimmage and 42 touchdowns, while Mitchell has accumulated 3,692 yards and 45 touchdowns in their four-year careers.
The two seniors have each averaged over 50 rushing yards per game for four straight years — 83.4 for Mitchell and 66.0 for Ragas during the 2020 season.
The #Cajuns have arguably the top RB duo returning this season, and the rest of the country knows it.
Elijah Mitchell and Trey Ragas BOTH have been named to the Doak Walker preseason watch list.
— Madeline Adams (@MadelineAdamsTV) July 16, 2020
The nation’s 26th-ranked rushing offense also gets contributions from dual-threat quarterback Levi Lewis.
Lewis is another senior who could be playing his final game in red and white. The three-year starter has thrown for 2,129 yards and 17 touchdowns this season while adding 310 yards and five touchdowns on the ground.
Lewis has thrown 52 touchdown passes in his Louisiana career, second in program history behind only Jake Delhomme.
On the other side of the ball, the Ragin’ Cajuns rank 31st in the country in total defense and 28th in scoring defense. The Cajuns’ strength is very clearly in defending the pass.
Louisiana has allowed just 166.9 passing yards per game this year, the fifth-best mark in the country. Cajuns star safety Bralen Trahan was named a third-team All-American by Pro Football Focus.
The Louisiana secondary had an incredible five players named to the PFF All-Sun Belt teams. Trahan earned first-team honors, while cornerbacks Eric Garror and Mekhi Garner and safeties Cameron Solomon and Percy Butler finished with second-team honors.
After suffering through five losing seasons in the last six years, UTSA has had an impressive 7-4 season in its first year under new head coach Traylor. The Roadrunners will play in just their second bowl game in program history after suffering a loss in the 2016 New Mexico Bowl.
Just like Louisiana, the Roadrunners’ strength is their running game. But unlike the Cajuns, they rely on just one workhorse back: Sincere McCormick.
McCormick was named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference with 134.5 rushing yards per game and 11 touchdowns. He finished second in the country with 1,345 yards on the ground, behind only Iowa State’s Breece Hall.
The speedy McCormick is one of the most explosive backs in the country; his 14 rushes over 20+ yards are twice as many as any other player in the conference. UTSA ranks sixth in the country in rushing explosiveness.
— Conference USA (@ConferenceUSA) November 28, 2020
UTSA also has a dangerous quarterback who loves to use his legs in Frank Harris. Harris has 10 passing touchdowns and eight rushing this year and averages 39.7 rushing yards per game to help McCormick lead the 23rd-ranked rushing offense.
The Roadrunners defense has been just middle of the pack all season. It ranks 42nd in scoring defense and 48th in total defense.
UTSA will continue to play without defensive coordinator Tyrone Nix, who was placed on administrative leave in connection with an internal investigation on Nov. 14.
Safety Rashad Wisdom is the star of this Roadrunners defense and was recently named a first-team All-Conference USA member. He leads the team in tackles (82), forced fumbles (two), and interceptions (four). He has helped lead UTSA to the best turnover margin in the conference.
Betting Analysis & Pick
Both of these teams live and die by their running game, but they do it in different ways.
Louisiana uses two running backs to consistently pick up yards, ranking 24th in the country in Rushing Success Rate.
The Cajuns will look to send their two-headed monster of Ragas and Mitchell out in style against a Roadrunners defense that ranks 61st in Success Rate against the run.
For UTSA, its rushing success comes largely from the big play. McCormick is a stud, but the Roadrunners rank just 98th in Rushing Success Rate. However, they sit sixth in rushing explosiveness.
This will be a tough matchup for UTSA. The Cajuns defense struggles to defend the run, but it’s very good at limiting explosiveness, ranking fourth in the country at defending big plays.
Bowl games are always hard to handicap because you’re trying to predict each team’s motivational levels. I think both teams will be highly motivated to cap off terrific seasons, but Louisiana is just a better team and has the better coach.
Napier has stayed committed to the Cajuns despite Power Five opportunities, and his team will play hard for him after losing its chance to secure the Sun Belt Championship.
Pick: Louisiana -14 or better.