College Football Pick: South Alabama vs. Bowling Green

Matthew Jordan

Tuesday, December 16, 2014 6:27 PM UTC

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2014 6:27 PM UTC

It's the first year of the Camellia Bowl in Montgomery, Ala., and it's the final bowl game Saturday, the first day of college football's postseason. South Alabama is a 3-point favorite vs. Bowling Green on Bovada NCAA football odds with a total of 54.

Historic Game for South Alabama
It's the first bowl game in the history of the South Alabama football program. This is just the Jaguars' sixth season of competition and their second as a full NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision member. It's the fastest an FBS program has been invited to participate in a bowl game. The Jaguars were eligible last year at 6-6 but weren't chosen. The game will be held at the Cramton Bowl in Montgomery, which holds only 25,000. Presumably most will be South Alabama fans.

South Alabama finished 6-6 overall and 5-3 in the Sun Belt Conference this year under Coach Joey Jones. The Jaguars didn't close the season very strongly, losing four of their final five. They were beaten by Navy 42-40 in the regular-season finale. USA did face two SEC teams during the season, losing 35-3 to Mississippi State on Sept. 13 and 37-12 at South Carolina on Nov. 22.

The Jaguars have an athletic, big quarterback who might get a look from some NFL teams in 6-foot-5, 235-pound senior Brandon Bridge, who is from Canada. In 10 games this season, Bridge completed 140 of 270 passes for 1,648 yards and 14 touchdowns. He also rushed for 256 yards and three touchdowns on 85 attempts to help the USA offense average more than 372 yards of total offense per game. Bridge has been invited to play  2015 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which features draft-eligible seniors.

USA runs for about as much yardage as it passes for with five guys rushing for at least 250 yards. The main guy, when Bridge doesn't keep it, is Kendall Houston, who has 652 yards on 134 carries. The Jaguars have already carried the ball more than any other season in program history, as their first rush attempt of the bowl game will be the team’s 500th of the year. The Jags also are two passing touchdowns shy of setting a new standard, which was 17 during the 2010 season.

In our college football odds, South Alabama is 4-8 ATS this season and 3-8-1 'over/under.'

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Falcons Slumping at Wrong Time
Bowling Green finished 7-6 overall and 5-3 in the Mid-American Conference under first-year coach Dino Babers. The Falcons won the MAC East Division but were blasted in the conference championship game 51-17 by Northern Illinois. It was BGSU's third straight defeat and second-worst loss of the year after a 68-17 rout at Wisconsin early in the season.

The Falcons lost star quarterback Matt Johnson to a season-ending injury early on. Sophomore James Knapke played rather inconsistent well in his place, completing just 57.4 percent of his passes for 2,805 yards, 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Knapke's favorite target was freshman receiver Roger Lewis, who caught 69 passes for 956 yards and five scores. He is the first freshman at Bowling Green since 1982 to earn first team All-MAC honors. Only seven other Falcons have had a 1,000-yard season and no freshmen have. Travis Greene is the Falcons’ leading rusher. He has 908 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Falcons could have three rushers with at least 500 yards for the first time in school history if Andre Givens has 26 vs. South Alabama. The Bowling Green offense is averaging 29.8 points and 427.8 yards per game this season.

Defensively, the Falcons are an opportune team as they led the Mid-American Conference with 29 takeaways on the season – 15 forced fumbles and 14 interceptions. Nick Johnson (five) and Clint Stephens (four) are the only two true freshmen in the nation to have at least four interceptions. However, Bowling Green ranks just 75th nationally in scoring defense (33.9 points per game).

It's the third straight bowl game for Bowling Green, but the Falcons haven't won a postseason game since 2004. They have never played South Alabama. BGSU is 4-8-1 against the spread at sportsbooks in 2014 and 6-7 'over/under.'

The schools do have a common opponent from the regular season: Kent State. South Alabama beat the visiting Golden Flashes 23-13 on Sept. 6. Bridge threw for 161 yards and a score and rushed for 41 yards. On Nov. 12, Kent State visited Bowling Green and lost 30-20. Knapke threw for 315 yards, a TD and an interception. BGSU forced five Kent State turnovers. It was the Falcons' final win of the year.

NCAAF Free Picks: Bowling Green -3 and 'under' 54 points at 5Dimes. South Alabama is 1-6 ATS in its past seven games. The 'under' is 4-1 in USA's past five non-conference games. The 'under' is 6-1 in Bowling Green's past seven after scoring less than 20 points in its previous game.

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