It has been an exciting 24 hours for the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns. On Saturday of course, they won their first game against a ranked team since 1996, and today they made their first appearance in a Top 25 poll since 1943.
So who exactly was this 1943 Southwestern Louisiana team? After two decisive wins – 20-7 against Fort Benning and 27-6 against Southwestern Texas, the Fighting Bulldogs appeared in the October 25th AP Poll at #15.
The glory was short-lived as the Bulldogs played Arkansas A&M to a 20-20 tie in their next game and subsequently exited the polls. However, Southwestern Louisiana finished the season strong with a 75-7 shellacking of Lake Charles Army Air Force, and a hard-fought 6-0 win over Randolph Field.
A strong 4-0-1 record in that five-game slate earned them a birth in the Oil Bowl on New Year’s Day, where awaiting them was the Arkansas A&M team that gave them their lone blemish. The Bulldogs avenged the tie, with a 24-7 win to end the season at 5-0-1.
Starring in the game was Alvin Dark, of MLB managing fame, who threw and ran for a score and kicked a field goal in the win. This Oil Bowl victory would be Louisiana’s lone bowl win until the 2011 New Orleans Bowl.
Back to today’s Ragin’ Cajuns. So many parallels emerge between the two teams. The presence of military base teams on the 1943 team’s schedule shows the smaller scope of the game due to the war. The pandemic has caused only 76 FBS schools (at the moment) and a few FCS schools to play this fall, diminishing the pool for the AP Poll to choose from.
Louisiana is in a position their program has never been in before. With a win over a team perceived as a Big 12 contender and an early top-25 ranking the Cajuns might be in the driver’s seat for a New Year’s Six bid if the best in the American Athletic Conference have down years. It might not even take that as much as teams mismanaging the virus as Memphis and some ACC schools have done.
2020 has already been a weird college football season, and the Cajuns’ first ranking since 1943 shows this. Yet, Louisiana just may have the last laugh at the end of all the chaos.
Huge thanks to this link and the Louisiana media guide for being the only sources on this 1943 team as well as Sports Reference for the plethora of AP Poll data.