|No. 25 Louisiana looks to finish strong vs. Appalachian St.|
It still qualifies as a showdown, but there won't be as much on the line in this December game when Louisiana visits Appalachian State for Friday night's Sun Belt Conference game.
That's because it's a regular-season game in Boone, N.C. In this case, No. 25 Louisiana already has secured a spot in the conference championship game.
The Ragin' Cajuns (8-1, 6-1 Sun Belt) still have work to do as their stock rises, appearing in this week's College Football Playoff standings.
Appalachian State (7-2, 5-1), which will be in its second-to-last regular-season game, still has plenty at stake as it attempts to bolster its bowl stock. This will be the first Top 25 opponent to visit the Mountaineers.
Louisiana is fresh off Saturday's 70-20 pounding of Louisiana-Monroe, improving to 5-0 in road games.
The Ragin' Cajuns are trying to avoid distractions, particularly with coach Billy Napier's name surfacing as a potential candidate for higher-profile jobs.
"You know I'm not going to comment on those things," Napier said. "For us to be where we're at and have success and be recognized and be in those conversations, I think, if anything, it's humbling. That's what I think about it."
Napier had been in insolation after a positive coronavirus test before rejoining the team shortly before last weekend's game.
Louisiana quarterback Levi Lewis has thrown for 16 touchdowns and rushed for five touchdowns this year. Running backs Elijah Mitchell (40 career rushing touchdowns) and Trey Ragas (35 career rushing touchdowns) give the offense balance.
"They're very similar to the past with more playmakers," Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark said.
The Ragin' Cajuns are limiting opponents to 175.2 passing yards per game.
Appalachian State might have a counterattack for that kind of defense. Senior receiver Malik Williams is coming off a 113-yard game for his first time above 100 receiving yards in his career.
"He's so productive," Clark said. "All he does is catch and get open and make plays. I was really dumbfounded that he never had that much yardage in a game."
This is the third year in a row that Louisiana makes a December trip to Appalachian State. The Mountaineers won home games in the past two such matchups that came in Sun Belt Conference title games, including 45-38 last year.
This regular-season game was pushed back from earlier in the season because of coronavirus issues.
Appalachian State seemed to recover in fine fashion after losing to Coastal Carolina, but the loss meant it won't have a chance to defend its title.
The Mountaineers thumped visiting Troy 47-10 last week, with senior quarterback Zac Thomas matching his career high with four touchdown passes.
"When people counted us out, we came right back for the fight," Clark said. "It's good to be back on the winning side of things."
With the short turnaround, the Mountaineers benefited from using starters for only about three quarters in the Troy game.
Snow covered Kidd Brewer Stadium earlier this week, so the conditions could be a factor. Due to state pandemic-related restrictions, attendance will be limited to 2,170.
--Field Level Media