South Alabama (5-2) at Louisiana (4-3) (ET)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Cajun Field (31,000) -- Lafayette, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: USA 2-2, Louisiana 3-1. Away Record: USA 3-0, Louisiana 1-2. Neutral Record: USA 0-0, Louisiana 0-0. Conference Record: USA 4-1, Louisiana 3-0. Series Record: Series is tied, 1-1.
GAME NOTES: Two of the Sun Belt Conference's best will try to climb in the standings on Saturday afternoon, as the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns welcome the South Alabama Jaguars to Cajun Field.
Since losing back-to-back games in mid-September - one to now-top-ranked Mississippi State (35-3) and the other to first-place Georgia Southern (28-6) - South Alabama has ripped off four straight victories to move to 5-2 overall and just a game behind Georgia Southern (5-0) in the league at 4-1. The Jaguars recently dismissed Troy last Friday at home, 27-13.
Like South Alabama, Louisiana has rebounded nicely from a slow start, winning three straight games, all in conference action, to move to 4-3 overall. The Cajuns defended their home field well against fellow favorite Arkansas State on Oct. 21 with a 55-40 victory to go to 3-0 in the Sun Belt.
Louisiana had a chance to win the Sun Belt outright last year in the regular- season finale at South Alabama, but the Jaguars pulled off the upset, 30-8, to even the all-time series at 1-1.
The Jaguars' offense has not performed as well as their record might indicate. They amass 406.9 ypg but for only 24.3 ppg, having scored touchdowns on just 48 percent of their red-zone possessions.
The rush-first offense picks up 211.9 ypg at just shy of five yards per carry. With Jay Jones (393 yards, three TDs) expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, Kendall Houston (387 yards, TD) and Xavier Johnson (295 yards, TD) stepped up in a big way against Troy with a combined 285 yards on 33 carries.
Brandon Bridge has been a liability under center, completing less than 51 percent of his passes for 1,280 yards and nine touchdowns. He has some positives to his game, however. He's thrown just four interceptions in 204 pass attempts while adding solid rushing totals (282 yards, three TDs).
Shavarez Smith is Bridge's unquestioned go-to receiving option with 26 receptions, 396 yards and six touchdowns. No one else has more than 155 receiving yards.
South Alabama has emerged as one of the favorites in the conference thanks to its stout defense, which ranks first in the Sun Belt in points allowed (21.0 ppg) and second in yardage (369.1 ypg).
Terrell Brigham is a versatile defensive back with a team-best 54 tackles to go with 3.0 TFL, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, a sack and seven pass breakups. Theo Rich is an outstanding pass rusher with 9.5 TFL and 7.0 sacks, while Montell Garner has a pair of interceptions.
After underachieving for most of the first half of the season, the Cajuns' offense broke loose in their most recent win with 521 yards, 419 of those coming on the ground. The unit now averages 30.3 ppg and 428.6 ypg, with a stellar split between rushing (226.9 ypg) and passing (201.7 ypg) success.
Terrance Broadway has not lived up to the billing as the Preseason Sun Belt Player of the Year, as he's thrown for just 174.1 ypg with more interceptions (eight) than touchdowns (seven). His prowess as a rusher (382 yards, TD) has helped mask his inconsistencies as a passer.
In last week's track meet, Elijah McGuire (career-high 265 yards) and Alonzo Harris (107 yards) both shined with four touchdowns apiece. McGuire is the more dynamic of the duo with 660 yards (on 9.4 yards per carry) and eight touchdowns, while Harris (108 carries, 435 yards) has crossed into the end zone nine times.
With Jamal Robinson (15 receptions, 260 yards, four TDs) out for the season with a foot injury, McGuire (23 receptions, 243 yards, TD) and Al Riles (20 receptions, 227 yards) are the top receiving options, although as shown the last time out, the Cajuns' will turn to an even more run-heavy attack for the rest of the season.
Louisiana's defense has been suspect, allowing 32.1 ppg and 450.7 ypg while forcing a mere four turnovers.
Corey Trim and Trae Johnson are the team leaders in tackles with 38 apiece. Trim also has two interceptions. Christian Ringo has made his presence felt up front with 11.0 TFL and 6.0 sacks.
It'll be interesting to see whether or not South Alabama's stingy defense can slow down Louisiana's top-notch rushing attack. It should be a close bout, but the Cajuns will have the upper hand with the home crowd on their side.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Louisiana 28, South Alabama 27Game Date and Time
Saturday, November 1, 5 p.m. (ET)