You saw the preview and prediction; now here are three keys for SDSU and Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl on Saturday:
San Diego State (8-4)
1. Run, Ronnie, run. The best running back in the country whom you’ve never heard of (but should know) is Ronnie Hillman. If he played for a bigger school, he would have gotten Heisman buzz. He rushed for 1,656 yards and 19 touchdowns, and is the focal point of SDSU’s offense. He gets stronger as the game goes on, and once he gets going, he’s almost impossible to stop.
2. Start fast. The Aztecs have trailed in the first half of their past three games. They rallied to win two of them -- UNLV and Fresno State. Against a balanced, high-scoring Ragin’ Cajuns team, early points (or early stops, for that matter) would be helpful.
3. Free the beast. Miles Burris might be one of the most underrated outside linebackers in the nation. He is fast, ridiculously strong and eighth in the country in tackles for loss. When he makes it into the backfield, havoc usually follows.
1. Find pressure. The Ragin' Cajuns are pretty good at getting to the quarterback -- tied for 30th nationally in sacks. San Diego State is one of the best in the country at keeping its quarterback, Ryan Lindley, clean. Getting defensive linemen such as Bernard Smith active and making sure the Aztecs don’t get into a run/play-action rhythm is the best way to disrupt Lindley’s timing.
2. Shake it off. The Ragin' Cajuns enter this game on a two-game losing skid -- having dropped their final two to Arkansas State and Arizona. This also is the first bowl game in 41 years for Louisiana-Lafayette. The fact that the Ragin' Cajuns are playing in their home state should calm some nerves and make it feel like a home game. But to be successful, they have to stay poised and not let the gravity of the moment weigh on them.
3. Smart decisions. Since officially winning the starting quarterback role, Blaine Gautier has continued to evolve as a runner and a passer. He's done a better job staying in the pocket and letting plays develop, but he also knows when to cut and run (second on the team with 630 yards). Facing an unconventional defense such as SDSU's 3-3-5, Gautier will have to make some split-second decisions. If they are the right ones, he'll have success. If they aren't, he and the aforementioned Burris might become very close.