Arizona Bowl Pick
Not as many people will be paying attention to the Arizona Bowl on December 30th as teams like Michigan and Florida State play on the same day. The Falcons were -14 point favorites as of this writing, as seen at 5Dimes Sportsbook for the Game in Tucson.
Playing in their second bowl Game ever in the second Arizona Bowl Game, South Alabama comes into this after an oddly inconsistent season. The Jaguars finished with just two wins playing in the Sun Belt, but beat Mississippi State in the opener, which doesn’t make sense. Their other big win came over MWC’s San Diego State and that wasn’t close in a 42-24 result. While they finished with six losses, at least none of them were truly terrible. Then again, all six of their losses came in the Sun Belt and they needed to beat lowly New Mexico State in the finale to make this bowl. They won that Game by a touchdown after being down in the Fourth quarter.
Air Force is a bit more consistent, hence why they’re such large favorites. The Falcons racked up some good wins in non-Conference play as well (Navy), but struggled in the early MWC season. At the least, all three of their losses came against bowl teams, and they beat solid teams such as Army, Colorado State and Boise State to close the season with five straight wins.
In similar opponents, USA beat Georgia State 13-10 and Air Force beat GSU 48-14 earlier in the season. USA beat San Diego State, but Air Force never faced the Aztecs, which won the Mountain West.
While South Alabama only seemed to get up for large Games, none of their losses were all that bad. Five of their six losses came by 10 points or less and that is a decent reason to back them in this Game. Air Force’s defense can be beat, it’s just a matter of whether the Jaguars can score, which isn’t a guarantee.
Quarterback Dallas Davis has been in and out of the lineup this year and has just 10 TDs and 11 INTs. USA’s biggest threat comes in the ground Game led by Xavier Johnson, who had 787 yards and 10 touchdowns for the season. He’s gone for at least 83 yards in the last five Games, but when he struggles, this offense does, as seen in Davis’s passing numbers.
The problem is that Air Force excels against the ground Game, allowing just 118 rushing yards per Game, one of the best rates in the nation. There’s no question South Alabama will need to Scorein this Game, and all the numbers point to them having some difficulty here.
With that being the case, the Jaguars will need to show up on the defensive side, which may be problematic. Their weakness is stopping the run, at just 98th nationally allowing 212 rushing yards per Game. That’s not an ideal stat to stopping the triple-option.
Nate Romine should be back at quarterback after an ankle injury, but it’s not like he’s vital to this offense’s success as seen in Arion Worthman’s starts at the end of the season. They have Four guys with at least 600 rushing yards and another with 475. And that’s exactly what the triple-option is supposed to do. Jacobi Owens (785 yards, 3 TDs) leads the way, while Timothy McVey (667 yards, 10 TDs) has been the most explosive. In the receiving Game, all Air Force really needs is Jalen Robinette, who has 33 catches for 835 yards and five touchdowns. That’s 25.3 yards per reception.
None of the numbers back South Alabama in this Game, but again, they came to play in their toughest matchups this season. Will that be the case in this bowl or will the triple-option be too much?
The Jaguars are 3-9 ATS vs. a team with a winning record and 8-24 ATS in their last 32 Games overall. The Falcons are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 non-Conference Games and 2-6 ATS in their last eight overall.
Our Pick – South Alabama +14