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Location: New Orleans, LA
Date: Saturday, December 17
Time: 9:00 pm EST
TV: ESPN

Game Preview

Courtesy New Orleans Bowl and CFP
December 15, 2011

The 11th annual R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl matchup will feature the San Diego State Aztecs of the Mountain West Conference and Louisiana’s Ragin’ Cajuns of the Sun Belt Conference on December 17, 2011 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

It will be the first-ever bowl game for Louisiana-Lafayette, which accomplished its task under first-year head coach Mark Hudspeth. The Ragin’ Cajuns won 5 more games than a year ago and turned in their best campaign (8-4) since going 8-3 in 1993.

Virtually every preseason prognosticator had them finishing last in the Sun Belt, but they wound up just 2 games out of first with a 6-2 conference mark that trailed equally surprising Western Kentucky (7-5, 7-1) and outright champion Arkansas State (10-2, 8-0).

This is San Diego State’s 7th appearance in a bowl game, and its first time ever making back-to-back bowl appearances. The Aztecs defeated Navy last year in their hometown Poinsettia Bowl. That was just the Aztecs’ second-ever bowl win and first since beating Boston University in the 1969 Pasadena Bowl.

Making SDSU’s two-bowl appearance streak more amazing is that they accomplished it with two different head coaches. Brady Hoke led the team to a 9-4 record last year, and Rocky Long can do the same this season with a victory in this game. San Diego State was projected to finish 9-3 by the preseason Congrove Computer Rankings.

New Orleans Bowl Chairman Ron Gardner said, "We are thrilled to have two brand new teams, with first-year head coaches coming New Orleans for this year’s game. Both the Aztecs and the Ragin’ Cajuns have played a lot of exciting football this year, and we know both of these teams will continue that momentum for this year’s game."

The Ragin' Cajun’s appearance in the 1970 Grantland Rice Bowl is not counted as an FBS bowl game. Nonetheless, Hudspeth referenced it in his remarks after accepting the New Orleans Bowl invitation. "This is a great day for Ragin Cajun football," said Hudspeth. "I am very proud of these players, students and fans that are going to be going to a bowl game for the first time in 41 years."

"I’m just excited for the development of the program," Jim Sterk, Director of Athletics for SDSU said. "It’s a great reward for the hard work that our coaches, our players and all the support that our fans have given us all year long to be rewarded with this game. I’m excited about this year and the future and what this program is doing and what we have to do yet."

The 2011 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will kickoff at 9pm (EST) on ESPN.

The Congrove Computer Rankings project San Diego State as a 9.46-point favorite in the first-ever meeting between the two teams.