Only one game remains before the 2020 College Football Playoffs National Championship on Monday, January 13th. The 2020 LendingTree Bowl will once again be composed of two elite non-AQ teams in the MAC and the Sun Belt. The Miami (Ohio) Redhawks (8-5) come into this game with a surprising MAC Conference title. While the Louisiana Ragin Cajuns (10-3) are coming off a disappointing loss to the Appalachian State Mountaineers in the Sun Belt Conference title game. The Ragin Cajuns are coming into this game as a 14-point favorite over the Redhawks. They rank higher in almost all of the major categories on the offensive and defensive side of the ball. The long time span between could be the key factor for both teams especially the Redhawks, who excel efficiently in winning match-ups.
Ragin Cajuns With A Dominating Offense
The Ragin Cajuns come into this game with a high-power, explosive offense. They are highly productive in running the ball down the middle and making efficient passes. Louisiana ranks 10th in the nation in points per game (38.8) and seventh in rushing yards per game (265.3). They are led by their stout, consistent offensive line and their three running back power run game. Junior running back Elijah Mitchell has rushed for 1,092 yards and 15 touchdowns on 187 carries. Their other running backs have been a huge impact on wearing down opposing defenses throughout the game. Raymond Calais has rushed for 882 yards and six touchdowns on 114 carries. Finally, Trey Ragas has rushed for 781 yards and 11 touchdowns on 107 carries.
Having three highly productive backs relieves much of the pressure from junior quarterback Levi Lewis. Throughout the season, Lewis’ stability and productive passing have added dynamism to the Ragin Cajuns’ offense. The Ragin Cajuns face a Redhawks defense that ranks 35th in passing yards allowed per game (206.4). The Redhawks have the key players to hold down Louisiana’s immediate impact receiver in Ja’Marcus Bradley. Louisiana must have a reliable and powerful run game against the Redhawks’ defense that ranks 80th in rushing yards allowed per game (174.2). Two of the Ragin Cajuns’ offensive linemen, left tackle Robert Hunt and right guard Kevin Dotson were named first-team All-Sun Belt team.
Keys For The Redhawks
Coming into this game as a 14-point underdog is a huge hurdle. The Redhawks know that the game hasn’t even started yet and they have been underdogs all season. There are still many areas where the Redhawks have an edge in the game. One of the biggest goals for the Redhawks is to stop the power run game of the Ragin Cajuns. For other teams, it can be nearly impossible, but for the Redhawks they can rely on a couple of key playmakers. Sophomore defensive end Kameron Butler leads the team in tackles for loss with 13. Senior defensive tackle Doug Costin has accounted for 12 tackles for loss. Together, they lead an effective defensive line that can crowd the line of scrimmage and make big plays in the backfield. Nickelback Bart Baratti has accounted for 85 total tackles and 11.5 tackles for loss.
Offensively, the Redhawks do not have the efficiency and firepower that matches the Ragin Cajuns offense. They are led by true freshman quarterback Brett Gabbert, the younger brother of Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Blaine Gabbert. In 13 games, Gabbert has passed for 2,163 yards, 11 touchdowns, and eight interceptions on 153 completions (out of 285 attempts). He has been a surprise this season for the Redhawks as he can make efficient passes based on coverage schemes. His running back in Jaylon Bester can be the tough short, yardage back the Redhawks need. Overall, the Redhawks will need to have a reliable offense in the run game and passing game if they want to create long sustainable drives to beat the Ragin Cajuns’ defense.