South Alabama Jaguars (6-6 SU, 3-8-1 ATS) vs. Air Force Falcons (9-3 SU, 5-7 ATS)
College Football Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Friday December 30th, 5:30PM (EST) 2016
Where: Arizona Stadium Tucson, A.Z.
by Jay, NCAA Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: SALA +13/AF -13
Over/Under Total: 57.5
The South Alabama Jaguars rocked the college football landscape earlier this year with the upset over Mississippi State in the season opener. The Jaguars were 28 point dogs in that game but overcame all odds to upset their SEC counterpart. A lot of time has gone by since that loss but that win helped South Alabama secure their postseason bowl berth. Now the Jaguars seek their first bowl victory in program history when they meet the Air Force Falcons on Friday December 30th at Arizona Stadium in the Nova Home Loans Arizona Bowl.
Since that notorious victory, the Jaguars suffered a rather disappointing season. They did not necessarily fail to meet expectations but I think the early victory over the Bulldogs had many thinking they could challenge more competitively in the Sun Belt this season. Instead, the Jaguars finished just 2-6 SU in the Sun Belt but they were perfect in out of conference games going 4-0 SU to help earn their postseason opportunity. The question now is can the Jaguars making it 5-0 in out of conference play?
The odds do not appear to favor the Jaguars chances as they will face off with a 9-3 SU Air Force team that has the chance to reach 10 wins for the 2nd time under Head Coach Troy Calhoun. The Falcons started and finished the season well. It was just a midseason 3 game stretch where they lost 3 games that resulted in their 3 losses this season. Still, Air Force had a good season as they captured the Commander in Chief Trophy thanks to their wins over both Navy and Army. Now the Falcons will be rather large 13 point favorites to earn their 10th win of the season.
If you are unfamiliar with these teams, Air Force runs the traditional military style triple option rushing attack where they have amassed 322 yards per game on the ground which ranks 4th among FBS teams. The Falcons mix up their running attack pretty evenly. The Falcons have 4 different rushers with at least 100 rushing attempts and over 600 yards rushing. Quarterback Nate Romine has been very inconsistent completing just 41% of his passes but they do not need him to throw the ball often so those numbers are unreliable. Ultimately this game comes down to Air Force's ability to sustain the power rushing attack and not have any setbacks.
On the other side of the ball, South Alabama has the potential to make this game interesting. Whether or not it happens, remains to be seen. Quarterback Dallas Davis is a decent passer with some really good talent to target in the passing game by way of receivers Gerald Everett and Josh Magee. The Jaguars also have a pretty decent running back in Xavier Johnson who has 747 yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Ultimately, I think that South Alabama's best chance in this game is to take shots down the field. Davis is a capable quarterback and his receivers will in plus matchups against an Air Force defense that ranks 93rd against the pass. Therefore, their best opportunity will be through the air.
Still, South Alabama has not been very good against the number this season going just 3-8-1 ATS. Neither team has trended well towards the 2nd half of the season. South Alabama is 0-4-1 ATS in their last 5 games while the Falcons are just 2-6 ATS in the last 8 games. However, when I look at comparable games. The South Alabama and Georgia Southern game stands out. The Jaguars were ripped by Georgia Southern's similar triple option style offense for more than 300 yards on the ground in a 24-9 loss the week after they upset Mississippi State. I know that was earlier in the year but I don't think this defense matches up well in this matchup against an even better option offense in Air Force. For that reason, I like the Falcons in a convincing win here.
Jay's Pick to Cover the Point Spread: Take Air Force –13
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