Alabama vs. Louisiana-Monore may not look exciting at first glance, however, it was the Warhawks that defeated the Crimson Tide inside Bryant-Denny Stadium 21-14 in 2007.
Louisiana-Monroe is coming off a 4-8 season last year. The Warhawks were guided offensively by quarterback Pete Thomas and running back Centarius Donald last season. Thomas threw for 3,181 yards with 14 touchdowns and six interceptions on a 60.1 percent completion rating. Donald led the team in rushing, totaling 606 yards and six touchdown on 153 attempts.
Rashon Caesar, now a senior, led Louisiana-Monroe in receiving yards last season with 872. He tallied three touchdowns on 77 receptions. Wide receiver Ajalen Holley put in 57 catches for 863 yards and seven touchdowns (team-high). Both players had 10+ catches for 20+ yards.
Defensively, Louisiana-Monroe was able to generate a pass rush in 2014.
Linebackers Michael Johnson and Hunter Kissinger anchored Louisiana-Monore on defense. Johnson, a senior, led the team in tackles for loss (16) and sacks (8.0) last season.
The 6-foot-2, 232-pound linebacker finished fourth on the team in tackles with 83. Kissinger recorded 85 tackles, 10.5 tackles for loss and five sacks in 2014.
Offense: This season the Warhawks will look to either Brayle Brown or Earnest Carrington, both of whom are seniors, to lead the offense. Both quarterbacks have played limited roles in their careers having less than 500 passing yards and only one touchdown pass between them.
Fortunately for Brown and Carrington, they will have the explosive duo of Caesar and Holley, who received All-Sun Belt preseason honors.
As for the Warhawks rushing attack, it will look to improve after a dismal season in 2014. Louisiana-Monroe rushed for 834 yards all of last season, the third worst in college football.
The projected starter for the Warhawks will be Kaylon Watson, who has nine carries for 31 yards in his career. The Warkhawks second leading rusher from last season is Tyler Cain.
The 5-foot-8, 187 pound Cain, who rushed for 214 yards on 63 carries will be placed back at his natural position of wide receiver this season. However, look for the Warhawks to move Cain back to running back, if Watson does not transition into a starter.
Defense: Defensively, Louisiana-Monore will enter the 2015 season with a lot of experience on its defensive line. It returns a rotation that has a combined 50 starts. As for the linebackers, the Warhawaks return the duo of All-Sun Belt Conference players in Hunter Kissinger and Michael Johnson.
Along with the front six, the defensive backfield for the Warhawks comes highly acclaimed as well, with two All-Sun Belt defensive backs, corner Tray Caldwell and safety Mitch Lane.
Lane led the Warhawks in interceptions with three, and was second on the team with 91 total stops. Tray Caldwell finished last season with 42 tackles and one interception, and was voted as a second-team All-Sun Belt for the preseason.
On defense, the Warhawks were successful in non-conference games, allowing 265 yards per game. Louisiana faced three opponents in the Southeastern Conference last season, so it’s not a stranger to prime time matchups.
Game Preview: For the Crimson Tide, some could call this a trap game.
Alabama will be facing Georgia the following week in Athens. However, look for head coach Nick Saban and the rest of his staff not to over look the Warhawks.
Preparation will be crucial for Alabama against Louisiana-Monroe. The Warhawks will be out matched in talent and size, but it will play with nothing to lose.
Look for Alabama to use its run game to set up the play action more for the quarterback, and to also take advantage of a team that does not create many interceptions.
On defense, look for the Crimson Tide to play more so in coverage, rather than blitz.
Look for the defense to limit Louisiana-Monroe’s ground game, as it will try to make sure that Watson has a difficult time transitioning into a starter.
In this contest, look for the Tide to show how dominant it can be. Offensively, Alabama looks to minimize mistakes and protect the football. Defensively, it looks to overpower the Warhawks.
Score Prediction: Alabama 42, Louisiana-Monroe 10
Ivan L. White is a contributor for Touchdown Alabama Magazine. You can “like” him on Facebook or “follow” him on Twitter, via @ilwhite1.