The Orlando Sentinel has ranked all 120 Football Bowl Subdivision teams in the country. We’ll take a closer look at a new team daily, counting backward from No. 120 to our projected No. 1 team. We will not be including the four teams the
Today at No. 66:
Coach: Mark Hudspeth (9-4, entering second season)
2011 record: 9-4 (6-2 in Sun Belt, third place in Sun Belt)
Look back: New head coach Mark Hudspeth took Louisiana Lafayette by storm in 2011, helping the Ragin' Cajuns win their first bowl in school history in dramatic fashion and finish with better than a .500 record for the first time since 1993. Hudspeth, who previously spent two seasons as Mississippi State's receivers coach and posted a 66-21 record in seven seasons at FCS North Alabama, replaced Rickey Bustle, who went 41-65 in eight seasons at Louisiana-Lafayette.
The Ragin’ Cajuns opened the Hudspeth era with a 61-34 loss at Oklahoma State. However, the team bounced back in a big way and racked up six consecutive wins, doubling the previous season’s total victories and clinching bowl eligibility. The team rolled to a 20-12 win at Kent State, a 38-21 win against Nicholls State, a 36-31 win at FIU, a 37-34 win against
Louisiana-Lafayette finally stumbled, falling 42-23 at
The team faced off against
Offensive starters lost/returning: 3/8
Defensive starters lost/returning: 9/2
Key losses: TE Ladarius Green, DL
Top returnees: QB Blaine Gautier, WR Javone Lawson, OL Leonardo Bates, K/P Brett Baer, RB Alonzo Harris.
Strengths: Gautier is one of eight returning starters set to help lead Louisiana-Lafayette’s offense. He has thrived in Hudspeth’s system. Gautier set a school single season passing record in 2011 by racking up 2,958 yards, surpassing the previous mark of 2,901 set by
Gautier's top target, Javone Lawson, will be back. He ranked No. 35 nationally with 84 receiving yards per game.
Baer, who has proven to be a strong kicker and punter under pressure, also returns for the 2012 season. His long-range accuracy could help Louisiana-Lafayette continue to win close games.
Weaknesses: Louisiana-Lafayette loses all but two defensive starters. The defense struggled last season, ranking No. 84 out of 120 teams nationally in scoring defense (29.85 points allowed per game) and No. 75 in total defense (allowing 399.92 yards per game). While a fresh crop of talented recruits could eventually help turn around the defense, experience remains an invaluable skill in college football and the defense may end up taking another step back before it can move forward.
Outlook: Louisiana-Lafayette a strong enough offense to post another winning season, but it's unclear whether the new crop of defensive starters will thrive or hold the team back.
Sept. 1 Lamar
Sept. 8 At Troy
Sept. 15 At Oklahoma State
Sept. 29 FIU
Oct. 6 Tulane
Oct. 16 At North Texas
Oct. 23 Arkansas State
Nov. 3 At Louisiana-Monroe
Nov. 10 At Florida
Nov. 17 Western Kentucky
Dec. 1 At FAU