Louisiana-Lafayette knows the perils of playing in a conference with just one automatic bowl tie-in.
In four of the past five seasons, the Ragin’ Cajuns have had the requisite six wins for bowl eligibility, but not played in the postseason.
It’s a tough pill to swallow for coach Rickey Bustle, who fought off rumors that he would be fired after the 2009 season. But because of the extreme circumstances, Bustle was given two more years to break through.
And Bustle knows that has to be the end result or he'll be looking for new work.
“Our conference doesn’t have the luxury of having three or four or five tie-ins,” Bustle said. “We have been sniffing there at the door for four or five years and we’ve got to take it beyond. We have a challenging schedule this year and we’re going to have to be ready to come out of the chute and play well.”
Louisiana-Lafayette plays six bowl teams this season, including a season opener at Georgia. The Ragin’ Cajuns do have the benefit of starting conference play earlier than any other time in Bustle’s six seasons. After Georgia, the Ragin’ Cajuns will play three consecutive conference games before hosting Oklahoma State on Friday, Oct. 8.
With several players returning, Louisiana-Lafayette once again has the potential to become bowl eligible, it’s just pushing beyond that sixth win that’s the challenge. But for the first time in Sun Belt Conference history, there will be two automatic bowl berths available -- the New Orleans Bowl and GMAC Bowl -- as well as a couple of potential secondary bowl options.
“When you look at our schedule, it’s going to be very demanding, probably the toughest schedule we’ve had since I’ve been here,” Bustle said. “But we’ve got to stay focused and hopefully maybe it’s time for the injury bug to go to someone else. We’ve had our share of it the last two years. But if we concentrate and we stay focused ... in order to be somebody, we’ve got to beat somebody.”