How will Louisiana football do in its first year without Billy Napier?

Louisiana football is coming off of an outstanding 2021 run, but Billy Napier is no longer at the team’s helm. How will 2022 treat the Cajuns?

Some programs, regardless of how successful they may be, will never be much more than a stepping stone for a coach on the come-up, and that is exactly what the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns were for former head coach Billy Napier.

While under Napier last season, the Cajuns were an unstoppable force for everyone but Texas, as their loss to the Longhorns was followed by nothing but victories — an astounding 13, to be exact.

Such a respectable run earned them a Sun Belt Conference title (a league that they’ve been a premier force in over the past several seasons), along with the 16th spot in last season’s final AP Top 25 poll.

However, Napier has since moved on to the Florida Gators, and the future of the Ragin Cajuns has taken a hit of uncertainty as a result, especially with other Sun Belt powers such as Coastal Carolina and Appalachian State still lingering around. So the question has to be asked: Will Louisiana survive in its first year without Napier at the helm?

Unless Napier was the only one at ULL that knew anything about football in 2021, the team shouldn’t see some unusually steep collapse. The team is still well-built (especially by Group of Five standards), so they should be able to hold their own against the bulk of their upcoming competition. But just how tough is Louisiana’s 2022 slate from a statistical standpoint?

There is no way for me to possibly say this without showing a severe lack of professionalism, so I will just let the SOS rankings do the talking: The Ragin’ Cajuns are tied with UMass for the weakest schedule in the entire FBS. Yes, you read that correctly.

For reference, only one team in their Fall stretch saw more than seven wins last year: Southeastern Louisiana (9-4). The Lions play at the FCS level and still walked away with four losses in 2021, so the admirability of that previous record means virtually nothing.

Beyond that “challenge,” some of the tougher games on the horizon include hosting Eastern Michigan, along with traveling to both Marshall and Florida State.

The Eagles and Thundering Herd each saw only seven wins last year, with the latter losing to Louisiana in the New Orleans Bowl by two scores. When it comes to the Seminoles, the combination of their talent and atmosphere could be a lot to handle regardless of their unflattering 5-7 record from last season.

But, if Jacksonville State can escape Tallahassee with a win, surely the Ragin Cajuns can.

Even if Billy Napier’s first year with the Gators isn’t impressive, he’s still a very smart coach whose absence will certainly be noticed at Louisiana. However, if 2022 ULL can’t manage to push forward with the cotton candy schedule that it has, then its problems run far deeper than a coaching change.