The Steve Sarkisian era is set to begin on September 4 as Texas returns to DKR for the start of the 2021 season. An offensive mastermind, the Longhorns new head coach is expected to bring that Tuscaloosa-type magic to Austin with a chance to build a College Football Playoff contender.
When scheduled, the Longhorns likely thought nothing of playing Louisiana to open the season. How things have changed since the hiring of Billy Napier down in Lafayette.
Last season, the Cajuns found themselves inside the The Associated Press poll for the first time since 1943. For anyone wondering if they belonged in the Top 25, they proved that with a 10-1 finish, including a 31-10 upset win over then-No. 10 Iowa State.
Led by All-Sunbelt quarterback Levi Lewis, the Cajuns have a chance to prove that last season wasn't a one-year wonder. Napier also has a chance to boost his opportunity to land in the conversation for a Power 5 job.
And Texas won't be the only opponent Louisiana faces to prove they belong as a consensus Top 25 team for years to come. They Cajuns will also face Liberty and Appalachian State, both of whom received votes to finish inside the rankings.
Since arriving, Napier has transformed the team into a consistent challenge for opponents. He's 28-11 as a head coach and comes from an offense that thrived during his time as Arizona State's offensive coordinator.
Much like Sarkisian, he too is under the Nick Saban coaching tree, having been the wide receivers' coach with the Crimson Tide from 2013-16.
The Cajuns will have to replace the production of Elijah Mitchell, who currently is a member of the San Francisco 49ers. As the lead back, Mitchell tallied 878 yards on the ground and recorded eight scores.
Lewis will have both star receivers at his disposal against the Longhorns' secondary. Last year, Kyren Lacy and Jalen Williams recorded four touchdowns. They also tacked on averages of over 13 yards per play.
Lewis also will be tough to handle in the open field as he recorded 356 yards on the ground to go along with five rushing touchdowns.
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This will be a prove-it year for Napier, who elected to turn down offers at bigger programs to return to Lafayette. He believes there still is work to be done with the program. A lone Top 25 appearance won't cut it.
The Longhorns can take a thing or two from watching the Cajuns win over the Cyclones last September. A slow start from Matt Campbell's squad allowed Iowa State to hold just a four-point lead entering halftime.
By the time the whistle blew, the Cajuns were victorious and Napier was an emerging name in the head coach circuit.
Texas has won its last two season openers. Tom Herman though dropped the ball in his first season on the Forty Acres, falling to unranked Maryland at home.
The Cajuns have the right coach. They have a returning quarterback. The defense is returning nine starters from a season ago. Anything less than the "All Gas, No Brakes" motto could cost Sarkisian an early loss to begin his time in Austin.
The Longhorns will be favored, but sleeping on Louisiana might be a terrible mistake.
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