Like so many around the country, I’ve gotten pretty immune to any excitement level when it comes to polls.
“Polls don’t matter.”
“Polls mean nothing.”
Me and an awful lot of other people have uttered such statements through the years.
With the injury to redshirt sophomore defensive tackle Zi’Yon Hill, the emerging depth on UL’s defensive line is going to be as important as ever.
For so many around the country, it’s largely true.
But what about for a program that’s not used to be included in one of the two major polls?
Two weeks ago, UL’s Ragin’ Cajuns got a vote in the coaches poll.
This week, the Cajuns’ total is up to eight votes in the Amway Coaches Top 25 poll, which, in effect, means UL is ranked No. 32 nationally.
It’s the first time in the program’s history it has received recognition in one of the two major polls since appearing three times during the 2013 season. The eight votes this year is the most since getting the seven in the coaches poll on Nov. 11, 2013. The Cajuns were in the AP poll on Oct. 21 and in the coaches poll on Nov. 4 that year as well.
The Cajuns are one of two Sun Belt teams in the poll with Appalachian State coming in at No. 22.
It was early in the fourth quarter.
Don’t tell redshirt senior Kevin Dotson it means nothing.
“I think it’s pretty amazing,” Dotson said. “We’ve always talked about it since we got here. It’s been on our minds since we got here, but this is the first time we actually get to do it. It’s coming at a perfect time, being our senior year.”
Dotson said it means something to former Cajuns players as well.
“This is even more important to people who have been here before us,” said Dotson, whose father Kelcy played for UL in 1995-96. “People contact me off social media all the time — people who played here, played here four or five years ago or six years ago — telling me, ‘Good job. Thank y’all for representing our team so well.’
“You just want to do it for them. You want to do it for the people who were here before you. So I think we’re going to be going as hard as we can to make those people proud.”
Sure, some will scoff. Others may say it’s not as significant as you might think.
But in the mind of senior linebacker Ferrod Gardner, it’s simply a positive sign on the direction the program.
“It’s just hard work finally paying off,” Gardner said. “It’s just a blessing for this team, blessing for this community and this program. It’s just a great feeling to know that we’re one of the top teams in the country and we’re definitely playing like it.
“The people are noticing it. We’re getting votes. We just have to keep doing what we’re doing and we’ll go lower on the list. That’s what we want.”
UL coach Billy Napier, as well as senior linebacker Jacques Boudreaux a week ago, were both quick to discuss how fleeting a ranking can be.
“All that’s going away if you get beat, so the only thing we can do is try to get our team ready to play, zero in on the things that are relative to playing winning football this week,” Napier said. “Certainly Troy, we’re going to have to be at our best.”
MOBILE, Ala. — At times this season, it’s been the offense that has shined the brightest.
Indeed, lose to Troy on Saturday or to UL-Monroe the following weekend and, sure, those votes will disappear.
For now, though, it means something to a program that was ranked by many as among the worst in the nation not all that long ago.
With the number of bowl invitations awarded these days, you can easily conclude that getting votes is actually a bigger distinction for a program like UL than going to a bowl game. Hailing from the Sun Belt Conference, a mere 8-4 record won’t do.
Programs like UL can’t have more than one loss and expect to be recognized.
However you slice it, climbing up a national poll is another positive sign of what’s going on in the program.
It’s been a constant flow of superlatives so far this season, from being among the nation’s top 10 in multiple rushing statistics to going undefeated on the road for the first time in 49 years.
“We went to Ohio, we went to Georgia Southern, Arkansas State, South Alabama, certainly those are all stable, consistent football programs,” Napier said. “They’ve done a nice job in this league, been some of the better teams in this league. That’s what I’m most excited about is we beat some good teams, they happened to be on the road.”
Now Napier’s club is one win away from wrapping up a second straight spot in the Sun Belt championship game.
It was supposed to be easy.
“I think that we worked really hard, quality controlled our routine on the road, things that we maybe could do better, and worked really hard just from every area — operations, strength and conditioning, pregame,” Napier said. “I mean any and every thing that we could do to try to make improvement. I think some of those slight tweaks and changes helped us.
“And then we just played better football, regardless of where we played. We played winning football and we found ways to win games in a lot of different ways. Certainly that’s the type of team that you’ve got to have in this league, certainly if you’re going to win a championship.”
Yes, the recognition will disappear if the Cajuns lose, but as long as players stay focused, there’s nothing wrong with enjoying it while it lasts.
Perhaps it’s a measure of success for UL’s football team, or a sign of respect the Ragin’ Cajuns are receiving, that there are higher expectat…