New Orleans Bowl Pick
This is the fifth time that both Louisiana-LAfayette and Southern Miss have been in the New Orleans Bowl, but it’s the first time the two will be playing each other. With both teams expected to Scoreplenty, the Golden Eagles are a -4 point favorite at 5 Dimes Sportsbook.
There’s no secret to why these teams always play in this bowl Game, both are roughly two hOurs from the stadium. LAfayette made it every year from 2011 to 2014 and won all Four Games, although had one of them vacated. Southern Miss hasn’t played in this bowl since 2009 and sports a 3-1 record.
Both teams come into this Game 6-6 with each of them having to win their final Game to guarantee a bowl berth. It’s been a rough season for Southern Miss, who started great with a win at Kentucky, but issues in Conference-USA play led to a 4-4 record and three-straight losses in the final month. However, they upset Louisiana Tech in the regular season finale to get here.
It was kind of the same situation for the Ragin’ Cajuns, although they never really had that one great non-Conference win. But through the back-to-back losses to Tulane and New Mexico State, they made it by winning three of their final Four Games including an upset of Arkansas State.
Needless to say, these teams have been marred by inconsistencies. The one thing separating them is that Southern Miss actually has a solid offense led by Four-year starter, senior quarterback Nick Mullens. He missed a couple Games, but returned in the finale for the Golden Eagles to upend Louisiana Tech by putting in a master-class performance, going 29-of-33 for 342 yards and Four total touchdowns (three passing). Coming off a huge junior season, this year was undoubtedly disappointing for Mullens, but when needed, he pulled his team out of the gutter from three-straight losses.
And ultimately that could be the difference as the Eagles also have running back Ito Smith to lean on who’s averaging 5.5 yards per carry with 1,774 total yards and 16 touchdowns.
LAfayette’s defense has picked it up as of late and only allows 25 points per Game, but again, they’ve been extremely inconsistent. It will likely depend on what the Ragin’ Cajuns can do offensively because Southern Miss can be scored on.
At quarterback for LAyafette, Anthony Jennings hasn’t been much better than his days at LSU. Jennings has 11 touchdowns compared to 12 interceptions and has struggled immensely at times. Even in their final 30-3 win, he attempted five passes, yet threw two picks. That more than likely won’t happen again. LAfayette has a decent ground Game behind Elijah Mcguire, but he hasn’t averaged more than Four yards per carry in Four of the last five Games.
Southern Miss’s defense hasn’t been good this year, but with its backs up against the wall, stopped a great LA. Tech offense to 24 points in the finale. They held the Bulldogs to eight rushing yards and had three interceptions. If that team shows up here, the Eagles get the advantage.
The Golden Eagles are 1-7 ATS in their last eight Games overall and 0-3-1 ATS in their last Four bowl Games. The Ragin’ Cajuns have covered in their last Four Games overall and their last Four bowl Games. Southern Miss has covered in the last six meetings between these teams, but the last time they played was in 2008.
Our Pick – Let’s see……when using yards per point to rank defenses, Southern Miss ranks dead last out of 128 college football teams. Then we take a glance at turnover margin and see Southern Miss at -16, 2nd worst in the nation. Oh, and Our model has UL LAf winning straight up when using only the 2nd half of the season stats and has the Game a toss up when using data from the entire season. Yeah, we’ll take the points in this one. UL LAff +4