Louisiana vs. Marshall New Orleans Bowl Odds and Free Picks

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Levi Lewis #1 of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns hands off. Tim Warner/Getty Images/AFP

Louisiana-Lafayette plays Marshall in the New Orleans Bowl and top sportsbooks have released their odds for the match.

The Ragin’ Cajuns had an amazing regular season, going 12-1 and earning its first Sun Belt title in program history by defeating App State 24-16 in the conference championship game. Marshall’s regular season was a lot humbler. The Thundering Herd went 7-5, concluding with a 53-21 thumping at the hands of Western Kentucky.

To be fair, Marshall was up 14-0 in that game. But then starting quarterback Grant Wells suffered an injury and the game changed completely when he left. It has been confirmed that he will be ready to play in the New Orleans Bowl.

For reasons that I will explain, you should play the spread for this game.

Marshall Thundering Herd vs. Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns 

Saturday, December 18, 2021 – 09:15 PM EST at Caesars Superdome

Louisiana's Coaching Situation 

Now former Ragin' Cajun head coach Billy Napier accepted an offer from the University of Florida to become the next Gator head coach. He will therefore not coach Louisiana in Saturday's upcoming bowl game.

Moreover, he is taking some other coaches with him, ultimately creating a messy transitional situation in Louisiana's current program. Now former Louisiana defensive coordinator and outside linebackers coach Patrick Toney is following Napier to Florida, along with the following other now-former Louisiana assistants: offensive analyst Ryan O'Hara, running backs coach Jabbar Juluke, and strength and conditioning coach Mark Hocke.

It is unclear who Louisiana's full-time coaches will be next season except Louisiana has already hired a new head coach, Michael Desormeaux, to replace Napier. Desormeaux was the team's tight-end coach and co-defensive coordinator.  He has merely named interim coaches for this game. Tim Leger will serve as interim offensive coordinator. Leger has already been with the program for a few years.

Wes Neighbors, however, is a completely new face. The former safeties coach at South Florida will be the interim defensive coordinator. Understand for your sports betting that coordinators, offensive and defensive, are crucial to the functioning of a team.

This situation reminds me of the 2016 Alamo Bowl between Colorado and Oklahoma State. Ahead of that game, Colorado's defense had been hugely successful. The Buffaloes lost their defensive coordinator, however, when Jim Leavitt accepted a job at Oregon. Leavitt was not Colorado's defensive coordinator in the Alamo Bowl and the Buffaloes' defense looked accordingly hapless.

After allowing 182.5 passing yards per game all season, the Buffaloes allowed a single Oklahoma State wide receiver to amass nearly as many yards all by himself by the third quarter before he happened to leave the game with an injury. Oklahoma State won that contest, nearly dropping 40 points in the process.

Motivation 

Besides dealing with a messy coaching situation, I think Louisiana is also disadvantaged by having nothing to gain from this bowl game. After enjoying a 12-1 season, having to play a 7-5 Conference-USA team must seem like a huge slap in the face. In terms of team profile, Marshall is rather lame. It surely disappointed Ragin' Cajuns to have to face the Thundering Herd in the New Orleans Bowl.

Conversely, this bowl game presents a great opportunity to the Thundering Herd, who will look to upset a team that made a big splash in the Group of Five this season. Motivation is a well-known factor in bowl games. Louisiana's disadvantage in this respect adds to the disadvantage it suffers by having key coaches, especially on defense, depart ahead of this game.

Ali and Wells 

Louisiana's regular-season stats lose a lot of meaning in this game because of its situation in terms of coaching staff and motivation. I suspect we'll see something similar to the Colorado defense in the 2016 Alamo Bowl where a strength suddenly becomes a weakness.

The Ragin Cajuns' difficult situation provides a great opportunity for running back Rasheen Ali. Marshall's running back amassed 1,241 yards on the ground and 20 rushing touchdowns on 5.4 YPC. For all of his youth, Ali shows great patience and vision as a runner. He will allow lanes to develop in front of him before taking advantage with an agile cut or other skillful movements. Grant Wells' return at quarterback will be huge for this team, as evident in the 360-degree turn that his departure generated in the team's season finale.

This duo will outpace a Ragin' Cajun offense that will be run-heavy with mobile quarterback Levi Lewis and a committee of running backs going against a Marshall defense that, ranking 32nd nationally in pass defense, is strongest against the pass.

The Verdict

Bowl game intangibles -- the transitional coaching situation and the motivational aspect -- strongly favor Marshall yet, because of what's on paper, the Thundering Herd are underdogs for this contest. With Wells back at quarterback, Marshall will enjoy a two-dimensional attack, spearheaded by its superb running back, that will outpace Louisiana.

For the above reasons, invest in Marshall with your NCAAF Picks.


NCAAF Pick: Thundering Herd +6 at -105 with BetOnline (visit our BetOnline Review)

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Thundering Herd +6 (-105)
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*The line and/or odds on picks in this article might have moved since the content was commissioned. For updated line movements, visit BMR’s free betting odds product.