Stuckey’s Mississippi State vs. Louisiana Betting Odds & Preview: Can Ragin’ Cajuns Hang Tough?
Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports. Pictured: Louisiana coach Billy Napier
Mississippi State vs. Louisiana Betting Odds
- Odds: Mississippi State -20.5
- Over/Under: 57
- Date: Saturday, Aug. 31
- Time: Noon ET
- TV: ESPNU
- Location: New Orleans, La.
All odds above are as of Friday afternoon and via PointsBet.
Those who listen to our podcast or saw my favorite Group of Five futures piece know that I love the Ragin’ Cajuns this year. They are loaded and have a shot at back-to-back Sun Belt title game appearances under second-year head coach Billy Napier, who spent time in the past under both Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney.
Louisiana kicks off its campaign with an SEC opponent in a matchup it has talked about all summer, as it looks to avenge an embarrassing 56-10 loss at the hands of Mississippi State last season.
That game was in Starkville, while this year’s rematch will take place at a neutral site in New Orleans at the Mercedes Benz Superdome.
Ground and Pound
ULL will have a new quarterback under center in Levi Lewis, but I think he’ll actually help increase the efficiency of the passing game.
Lewis has game experience and plenty of weapons to work with in front of an offensive line that returns five senior starters.
The strength of the team sits in the backfield with three returning backs that combined to rush for over 2,900 yards on the ground last year at a silly 6.7 yards per carry clip.
That trio of Raymond Calais, Trey Ragas and Elijah Mitchell were held in check last year in that blowout loss against Mississippi State, combining for only 58 yards on 14 carries.
However, Louisiana wasn’t the only team to struggle offensively against the Bulldogs in 2018.
Mississippi State’s defense led the nation in yards per play and only allowed 2.9 yards per carry.
Everything started up front for the Bulldogs, who had one of the best defensive lines in all of college football.
That unit will certainly take a step back this year after losing every starter, including Jefferey Simmons and Montez Sweat, who were both drafted in the first round of the 2019 NFL Draft. Their entire defensive line this year has a combined one career start.
There’s obviously still talent but those are massive losses. And while the linebacker group lacks many questions, the Bulldogs will also have to replace some talent at safety.
Bottom line: the explosive Louisiana rushing attack should have a lot more success in the dome this Saturday against a rebuilt Mississippi State defensive line.
Mississippi State’s offense should be much better this year. Penn State transfer Tommy Stevens will take over at quarterback and should give them a more balanced offensive attack.
Joe Moorhead is a superb offensive mind who will get the Bulldogs rolling on that side of the ball sooner than later.
They will certainly get theirs on Saturday against a subpar Sun Belt defense. I do think Louisiana’s defense will be slightly better than most are projecting with all of the experience it gets back, including linebacker Joe Dillon, who missed all of last year with an injury.
Even if you assume a big jump in defensive production for Louisiana, Mississippi State will still have a significant edge when on offense.
You may have heard about the sanctions Mississippi State recently received from the NCAA. Well, not only has that served as a potential distraction leading up to its season opener, there are a number of suspensions as well.
So, which players are suspended? Your guess is as good as mine.
Per the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, Mississippi State can’t announce who’s suspended until a few hours before before kickoff on game day.
Regardless, that can essentially only work in Louisiana’s favor. If a number of critically important players are suspended, the line could come down a few points.
Bet to Watch: Louisiana +20 or better
If you follow me in the app, you know I previously bet Louisiana at +21.5.
Louisiana should be able to run the ball with much more success this year. It’s also a nice revenge spot that likely means much more to the Ragin’ Cajuns than it does to a potentially distracted and undermanned Mississippi State team that knows it beat this same team with ease last year.
Also, don’t forget about Louisiana’s solid recruiting class this past offseason and its great special teams unit.
The Louisiana defense shouldn’t inspire much confidence, but the offense should keep this much closer than last year’s rout.