Louisiana vs. Miami (Ohio): LendingTree Bowl preview and picks against the spread

Louisiana (10-3) vs. Miami, Ohio (8-5)

Location: Mobile, Alabama | When: Jan. 6 (7:30 p.m.) | TV: ESPN | Line: Louisiana -14

HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE

Louisiana: Louisiana-Lafayette had a very strong season in its second year with Billy Napier as head coach. The Ragin’ Cajuns put a scare into Mississippi State in Week 1 but lost 38-28. From there, they won 10 of their next 11 games and finished the regular season with a 7-1 mark in Sun Belt play and won the Sun Belt West. The team’s only conference loss during the season came against Appalachian State. There was a rematch against App State in the conference title game, but the Cajuns lost once again, this time 45-38. 

Miami: Miami went 1-3 in non-conference play, losing to Iowa, Cincinnati and Ohio State. But once the RedHawks got into MAC play, the season turned around. Miami went 6-2 in conference play, including a five-game winning streak between Oct. 18 and Nov. 20. That stretch clinched the MAC East title and set up a matchup with Central Michigan in the conference title game. Miami won 26-21, clinching its first MAC title since 2010.

Louisiana-Lafayette running back Elijah Mitchell rushed for over 1,000 yards this season. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)

WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH

It’s the last bowl game of the season, with the only college football game left in the year being the College Football Playoff National Championship Game. And it’s a chance to watch a team that has not gotten its due nationally this season. Louisiana ranks No. 8 in the country in total offense, averaging more than 500 yards per game. The school just gave Billy Napier a two-year contract extension, but he’s already being mentioned as a possible replacement for the recently fired Joe Moorhead at Mississippi State.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Louisiana RB Elijah Mitchell: Louisiana has three all-conference running backs: Elijah Mitchell, Raymond Calais and Trey Ragas. While Calais and Ragas earned third-team all-Sun Belt honors, Mitchell led the team in rushing and carries. The junior enters the bowl game with 1,092 yards and 15 touchdowns on 187 carries. In three years, he has 2,334 yards and 32 TDs. 

Miami DL Doug Costin: Doug Costin, a 6-foot-2, 295-pound senior, has earned All-MAC honors the last two seasons. Costin was a second-team all-conference selection in 2018 when he put up 51 tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. Costin was a first-team All-MAC pick this year with 55 tackles, 12 tackles for loss and four sacks. For his career, Costin has 173 tackles, 31.5 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks. 

NFL DRAFT PROSPECT

Louisiana RB Raymond Calais: With OT Robert Hunt battling an injury, the top senior prospect in this game would appear to be Calais, a small but explosive runner as one part of a very good three-RB attack. The 5-9, 180-pound Calais has averaged nearly eight yards a run this season, has plenty of tread left on his tires, is a threat as a kick returner and has only one fumble in his four seasons. Still, he’s not useful in the passing game (as a blocker or receiver) and will try to hit home runs on runs when he should be swinging for singles and doubles.

- Eric Edholm

WHAT’S ON THE LINE

Louisiana: ULL won its first four bowl games between 2011 and 2014 but has lost its most recent two. The Ragin’ Cajuns lost to Southern Miss in the New Orleans Bowl and to Tulane in last year’s Cure Bowl. A win would snap that bowl losing streak and get ULL to 11 wins in a season for the first time in program history. Ten wins is already a program record. 

Miami: It has been quite a while since Miami won a bowl game. The RedHawks won the GoDaddy.com Bowl in 2010, knocking off Middle Tennessee 35-21. Since then, Miami has played in just one other bowl game, losing the 2016 St. Petersburg Bowl to Mississippi State. The 2010 season was also the last time the RedHawks won this many games in a season. 

Miami RedHawks head coach Chuck Martin is in his sixth season and has yet to win a bowl game. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

PICKS

Nick Bromberg: Miami +14

Sam Cooper: Louisiana -14

Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast

Pat Forde: Louisiana -14

Pete Thamel: Miami +14

Dan Wetzel: Miami +14

Sean Sullivan: Louisiana -14

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