Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns open 2021 football season ranked in USA TODAY Sports AFCA Coaches Poll
The Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football team will start this season like they finished the last: nationally ranked.
It is the first time the Cajuns will open a season nationally ranked in a major poll, according to a UL spokesman.
UL, 10-1 in 2020 with a First Responder Bowl win over Texas San Antonio, ended last season 16th in the USA TODAY Coaches Poll,15th in the Associated Press Top 25 and the 19th in the College Football Playoff, all program highs.
The 2021 preseason AP poll has not yet been released.
UL, which opened preseason camp Friday with all but two starters back, opens its season Sept. 4 at Texas, which is ranked No. 19.
The Cajuns and Coastal Carolina
UL is the second-highest ranked Group of Five program. Cincinnati is No. 10.
UL’s only loss last season was to fellow Sun Belt Conference member Coastal Carolina, which is ranked No. 24.
The Cajuns and Chanticleers were set to play in the 2020 Sun Belt championship game, but it was canceled because of a COVID-19 outbreak within Coastal Carolina’s program.
Polls don't matter to UL
Preseason polls, and what happened last season, however, don’t seem to mean much to the Cajuns these days.
“It’s important that we realize nothing that’s happened in the past is gonna significantly affect what happens this season, right?” coach Billy Napier said before the poll was released. “This is (an) entirely new organization and team.
“These seasons almost have a life of their own, right? They’re their own individual entity, right? You’ve got so many new faces, new roles, new responsibilities. The competition’s different; their roster is different.
“So we’re a one-year-at-a-time approach, and certainly that’s the challenge, right?”
Napier, who has a coaches poll vote, is more concerned about his team’s quality of play.
“Who ranks us where, how many games we win and all that doesn’t necessarily matter, right?” he said Monday. “We’re evaluating, ‘Are we getting the absolute most out of each individual player, each position group, the unit and certainly the team?’
“That’s our job as coaches, and that’s our total focus at the moment in time.”
Napier’s message seems to have resonated with his players.
“(Being ranked) doesn’t matter to us at all,” said running back T.J. Wisham, also speaking before the poll was released. “What only matters is starting 1-0 and going 1-0 every week from there.”
“The ranking thing is always a big part of football, you know?” defensive lineman Zi’Yon Hill added Monday. “But I feel like as a team that’s in the back of our mind. I feel like we like going out every week and just winning. We don’t really care about the rankings.”