Why the New Orleans Bowl would love to have Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns football
An official announcement cannot be made until Sunday.
But there’s no doubt that if all falls into place the No. 21 Cajuns would be welcome guests at the Superdome on Dec. 18, for the sixth time in 11 years.
First, UL (11-1) puts its 11-game win streak on the line against Appalachian State (10-2) on Saturday (2:30 p.m. CT, ESPN) in the Sun Belt Championship game at Cajun Field.
But the Cajuns – who’ve gone to the 2018 Cure Bowl in Orlando, the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile after the 2019 season and the 2020 First Responder Bowl in Dallas – could soon be packing again for New Orleans.
It’s a UL team that has made its first appearance of the season in the College Football Playoff rankings on Tuesday, appearing at No. 24.
RAGIN' CAJUN CANDIDATES:19 options to replace coach Billy Napier
“It would be huge, especially for the fact they haven’t been here in what will be five years now,” New Orleans Bowl executive director Billy Ferrante told The Daily Advertiser.
UL’s last New Orleans Bowl appearance was a 2016 loss to Southern Miss.
The Cajuns also went each year from 2011-14, beating San Diego State, East Carolina, Tulane and Nevada. The victories over San Diego State and Tulane later were vacated due to recruiting-related NCAA sanctions.
Athletic director Bryan Maggard previously said there’s a “decent indication” UL will play in the New Orleans Bowl, but it’s “not final.”
“We’re still working through that … with, obviously, all of our bowl partners, and, obviously, ESPN … so I don’t think we’re really going into the championship with anything set in stone,” Sun Belt commissioner Keith Gill said.
Ferrante, however, is hopeful those penciling UL into New Orleans will be proven prophetic.
“Especially with what everybody went through last year, where we had limited attendance (due to COVID-19), it just wasn’t right,” Ferrante said. “It didn’t feel like the big experience, the big game, the big event we have become accustomed to.
“We’re hopeful that with (the Cajuns) not having been here for the last (few) years, that their fan base, their team, their administration, have the same excitement and enthusiasm we saw the first couple years they were at the game.”
An announced 42,841 attended UL’s 2011 game against San Diego State. A year later, announced attendance was 48,828. In 2013 against Tulane it was a bowl-record 54,728.
Each year since 2017, the New Orleans Bowl has attracted fewer than 25,000 – including a COVID-restricted 3,000 for Georgia Southern’s 2020 win over Louisiana Tech.
Under Napier, UL lost to Tulane at Cure Bowl, beat Miami (Ohio) at the LendingTree Bowl and beat Texas-San Antonio in last year’s First Responder Bowl.
A UL-LSU matchup would be fun for New Orleans, but highly unlikely due to SEC bowl obligations.
UL’s likeliest opponent will come from among a trio of Conference USA members – Western Kentucky, UTSA and Marshall.
UTSA (11-1), coming off a loss at North Texas, plays host to Western Kentucky (8-4) on Friday (6 p.m., CBS Sports Network) in Conference USA’s Championship game. Marshall (7-5) has completed its regular season.
A UL-UTSA rematch between seems unlikely, leaving the Hilltoppers and Thundering Herd.
Seven of eight bowl prognosticators have UL headed to New Orleans.
Two predict the Cajuns will play Western Kentucky (College Football News, Yahoo), two (Action Network, CBS Sports) predict UTSA, two (Athlon Sports, ESPN’s Mark Schlabach) predict Marshall and one (The Sporting News) predicts UAB.
“If we’re able to have (the Cajuns), given their record and the season they’ve had,” Ferrante said, “it becomes incumbent on us to provide the best, most-appealing matchup on the opposite side.
“We want to do everything we can to motivate their fan base … and I think the opponent goes a long way to doing that.”
UL bowl projections
Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Dec. 18 New Orleans Bowl vs. UAB
Kyle Bonagura, ESPN: Dec. 28 Birmingham Bowl vs. LSU
Nick Bromberg, Yahoo: New Orleans vs. Western Kentucky
College Football News: New Orleans vs. Western Kentucky
Steve Lassan, Athlon Sports: New Orleans vs. Marshall
Brett McMurphy, Action Network: New Orleans vs. UTSA
Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: New Orleans vs. UTSA
Mark Schlabach, ESPN: New Orleans vs. Marshall