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The non-conference schedule of the season can create a lot of interesting matchups and we’ve got a handful of them here in Week 1. One of the most intriguing is an early kick in Cajun Country between Boise State and Louisiana-Lafayette. The Ragin’ Cajuns host the Mountain West Conference favorites in what should be a sultry and humid environment for the road Broncos. Boise State is nearly a three-touchdown favorite for this one against a Louisiana-Lafayette team that went just 4-8 last season.

Boise State vs. Louisiana-Lafayette College Football Preview

Date/Time: Saturday September 3, 12:30 p.m. ET


College Football Betting Odds from MyBookie

College Football Betting Favorite: Boise State -20

Total: 63.5

Expectations are extremely high in the Idaho capital for this Boise State bunch and with good reason. In two years under Bryan Harsin, the Broncos are 21-6, including bowl wins over Arizona and Northern Illinois. The Broncos went 7-6 against the spread last year and are now 15-12 under Harsin’s leadership. This will be an interesting year for Boise, now that they are three years removed from Chris Petersen and his excellent recruiting classes. After four straight 9-4 seasons, Mark Hudspeth’s stock fell a bit last year during a 4-8 campaign. The Ragin’ Cajuns also went just 4-7-1 against the spread. The hope is for a bounce back year after an injury-plagued 2015 season. This is only the third time under Hudspeth that ULL is a home dog. They are 2-0 ATS thus far.

Boise State Broncos:

What’s not to like about this Broncos team? Brett Rypien got extensive experience as a true freshman and piled up the accolades. Brett, nephew of former NFL QB Mark Rypien, won freshman player of the year and also was a member of the Mountain West Conference first team. Jeremy McNichols had the big shoes of Jay Ajayi to fill, but he did so by running for over 1,300 yards and 20 touchdowns. Senior Thomas Sperbeck is back after catching 88 balls for over 1,400 yards last season. The offensive line does have third-round pick Rees Odhiambo to replace and that may take some time.

The defense lost its top player when Darian Thompson was plucked in the third round of the 2016 NFL Draft. The return of Gabe Perez, who was lost to shoulder surgery last season, should help in a big way. Perez had 14.5 tackles for loss over his first two seasons. Leading tackler Ben Weaver returns for his senior season and top cover corner Jonathan Moxey is also back. New defensive coordinator Andy Avalos has some pieces to work with and he’s been in the program for a long time.

Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns:

LSU transfer Anthony Jennings prevailed in a pretty heated quarterback battle for Mark Hudspeth’s team. The loss of Terrance Broadway set the offense back in a big way last season. When Broadway left, he was second to Jake Delhomme in career passing yards at ULL and he was also an effective runner. Jennings is a dual-threat type and he beat Jordan Davis, Jalen Nixon, and Chris Weaver out for the job. The star of this offense is running back Elijah McGuire, who has a great chance to play on Sundays. McGuire ran for 1,058 yards and hit paydirt 13 times last year. Top receiver Jamal Robinson is gone, so newly-promoted OC Jorge Munoz will have some work to do.

Seven starters are back from a defense that regressed in a pretty big way last season. Without a consistent passing game, the Lafayette defense had to play more and had shorter fields to defend. They went from 26 points per game to 31.6 points per game and gave up 15 more yards per contest. There’s a lot of hype for NFL prospect Simeon Thomas. The cornerback has been ineligible in each of the last two seasons, but he’s got plenty to prove here this season and could draw the Sperbeck matchup here. There’s some experience on this defense and the Ragin’ Cajuns could be a good buy-low candidate early in the year.

Burke’s Week 1 Best Bet: Louisiana-Lafayette +20

Astute bettors may want to wait for a +21 here just to be safe, but this is a brutal opening spot for Boise State. They’re making a long trip down to Louisiana-Lafayette, where it’s going to be 91 degrees on a hot, sultry, late summer day with 70 percent humidity. There’s no practicing for that in the Boise altitude. With a home opener the following week against Washington State, a must-have game if the Broncos want to entertain New Year’s Six Bowl Game hopes, the situational really favors ULL here and they could be better than people expect.

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