After three consecutive losses early, Louisiana bounced back in 2022 and earned a .500 record in the regular season. The Ragin’ Cajuns were also 4-4 in the Sun Belt, but that wasn’t enough to earn a trip to the conference title game.
The Cajuns ended last season with an appearance in the Independence Bowl. They led by 10 points going into halftime, but Houston scored 17 unanswered in the second half to win 23-16.
If Louisiana could avoid a similar losing streak, the team will be in much better shape in 2023.
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Louisiana Football’s Over/Under Win Total
Louisiana’s win total Over/Under is 7.5, with Under 7.5 at -115 and Over 7.5 at -105.
Louisiana Football’s Schedule
9/2 vs Northwestern State
9/9 at Old Dominion
9/16 at UAB
9/23 vs Buffalo
9/30 at Minnesota
10/7 vs Texas State
10/21 vs Georgia State
10/28 at South Alabama
11/4 at Arkansas State
11/9 vs Southern Miss
11/18 at Troy
11/25 vs ULM
Bold indicates Sun Belt contests.
Key Louisiana Football Returners
2022 All-Sun Belt Honorable Mention
TE Neal Johnson
Louisiana’s Offense Searching For New Playmakers
UL’s offense will look different with its leading rusher and receiver both gone.
Running back Chris Smith, who tallied 628 yards and three touchdowns rushing, and wide receiver Michael Jefferson, who recorded 810 yards and seven touchdowns on 51 catches, are both gone. But that gives others more opportunities to step up.
Neal Johnson was UL’s second-leading receiver in 2022. The All-Sun Belt honorable mention tight end recorded 296 yards and two touchdowns on 25 catches last year.
Terrence Williams and Dre’lyn Washington both made a few impressive plays at running back last season and return. Williams ranked second on the team with 373 rushing yards to go with one touchdown, while Washington was third with 350 yards on the ground and added two touchdowns.
At quarterback, Ben Wooldridge led the team with 1,661 yards, 15 touchdowns and five interceptions on a 57% completion rate in 10 games and is back, but he tore his ACL late last season and was recovering this spring.
While a shoulder injury affected his 2022 season, Chandler Fields was UL’s Day 1 starter last year and could be again this year. He tallied 1,123 yards, 11 touchdowns, and four picks while completing 58% of his throws in eight games.
Whoever plays at quarterback, UL should be capable of protecting the team’s passer.
Louisiana allowed the fourth-fewest sacks (24) in the Sun Belt but was seventh in the league in rushing yards per game (141.8). The team’s offensive line has a chance to make some strides, though, as left tackle Nathan Thomas, left guard A.J. Gillie, right guard Jax Harrington, and guard/tackle George Jackson all return after starting multiple games last year.
K.C. Ossai Among Top Returners For Louisiana’s Defense
Louisiana’s defense was in the top half of the Sun Belt last year with 22.8 points and 361.7 yards per game allowed. But only four of its top 11 tacklers return from last season.
Players like defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill-Green, linebackers Andre Jones and Jourdan Quibodeaux, and defensive back Bralen Trahan, who each earned all-conference honors last season, are all gone. Jones was drafted in the seventh round by the Commanders.
But that doesn’t mean this defense doesn’t have potential.
Linebacker K.C. Ossai led UL’s players who are returning in tackles with 63. He also added two tackles for loss and a forced fumble.
Defensive lineman Sonny Hazard was third on the team with four sacks and fourth with 5.5 TFLs. He added 26 total tackles.
Louisiana also added a few transfers from other Division I programs, including defensive lineman Lance Williams from Holy Cross, linebacker Trey Fite from SMU, and defensive back Glenn Brown from Southern.
Louisiana Football Season Prediction
Louisiana won’t win the Sun Belt title but will win more games than last season.
The Cajuns should have a solid start to the year with wins over Northwestern State, Old Dominion, and UAB. I also anticipate they’ll defeat Buffalo at home, though they’ll probably lose the following week at Minnesota.
But from that point, I don’t believe Louisiana will be the underdog for more than two games. The Cajuns will be closely matched with South Alabama, but I think Louisiana will lose on the road there. I also don’t believe UL will win at Troy.
But other than that, I believe Louisiana is skilled enough to win at Arkansas State as well as at home against Texas State, Georgia State, and Southern Miss. I also give the Cajuns the advantage at home against ULM to end the season.
That would give Louisiana nine wins for the year, which would be great for a program seeking to sustain the success it’s seen in the past five years.