There’s one last opportunity to place college football picks Monday with the final bowl game of the season before next Monday’s College Football Playoff national championship game – the LendingTree Bowl between Louisiana and Miami (OH).
College football picks
LendingTree Bowl predictions: Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns (-14, 55 over/under) vs. Miami (OH) RedHawks, Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET (ESPN)
Game played at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, AL
Monday night’s LendingTree Bowl isn’t quite Monday Night Football, but we’ll take what we can get at this point.
Louisiana enters with an impressive 10-3 record this season. Their only losses came against SEC school Mississippi State and Louisiana also dropped two games against a 12-1 Appalachian State team that is going to end the season in the AP Top 25.
Ragin’ Cajuns head coach Billy Napier is a hot commodity. The Sun Belt Conference Coach of the Year has recently been tied to the opening at Mississippi State, although Napier says he is not a candidate. Either way, it’s just a matter of time before the former Dabo Swinney and Nick Saban assistant lands at a Power 5 school.
Napier’s offense is a good example of why programs want him. Louisiana was tied with Clemson for the best yards per rush average in the country (6.4), eighth in total yards (501.3), and 10th in points per game (38.8).
Running back Elijah Mitchell finished the season tied for 12th in rushing touchdowns with 15. Mitchell will be matched up against a Miami rush defense that is nothing special against the run.
The question Monday isn’t so much whether Louisiana will win, it’s whether they can cover when laying two touchdowns.
Miami finished with an 8-5 mark, including road losses against ranked opponents in Iowa, Cincinnati, and Ohio State. You can live with those losses, despite the lopsided scores, but this is also a team that lost to 5-7 Ball State and won by just three points against 0-12 Akron in MAC play.
The RedHawks were at their best when getting after the quarterback, tied for 13th nationally in sacks (38). Miami’s yards allowed per pass (6.5) was just a shade better than Louisiana’s (6.6).
However, this is also a Miami rush defense that finished just sixth in the conference in MAC-only games, allowing 177.0 rushing yards per game. Now they must face one of the more productive running backs in the nation.
Which brings us back to the most important question of the night: Can Miami cover +14?
When Miami stinks, they stink. You can ignore the 24-point loss to Iowa and the 22-point loss to Cincinnati, and you obviously don’t have to worry about the 71-point loss to Ohio State, because as good as Louisiana has been, they are not as good as those teams. What should be of concern is Miami lost by 22 points at Western Michigan and by 14 points to Ball State. Louisiana is absolutely better than those two teams.
It wasn’t all doom and gloom for the RedHawks, as they do own wins against every team in the MAC that finished above .500, aside from the loss to Western Michigan. Then again, no MAC team had more than eight wins this season.
When Louisiana wins, they win big – including a 20-point win at Ohio. For the sake of comparing common opponents, Miami won at Ohio by just three points.
There’s always some concern when laying 14 points, especially in a bowl game where you never know what to expect. The hope here is that a Louisiana team that won their 10 games by an average of 27.2 points takes care of business Monday against Miami in the LendingTree Bowl.