College Football Picks: Bet Alcorn State +1.5 in Inaugural Celebration Bowl vs. North Carolina A&T

Jake Walker

Friday, December 11, 2015 6:30 PM GMT

The Alcorn State Braves will face the North Carolina A&T Aggies in the inaugural Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. North Carolina A&T is a 1.5-point favorite on 5Dimes' college football odds and the total is set at 51.5.

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College Football Pick: Alcorn State +1.5
Best Line Offered: at 5Dimes

 

Celebration Bowl: Alcorn State Braves vs. North Carolina A&T Aggies
Both teams will be making their first ever trips to a college football bowl game and they will kick off the 2015-2016 bowl season on December 19th. This will be a championship-style game between the SWAC and MEAC champions, historically black colleges and universities (HBCUs). The Aggies are favored by 1.5 points on the college football odds board at 5Dimes. The total is set at 51.5.

Alcorn State defeated Grambling State 49-21 in the SWAC Championship Game to earn the conference's lone bowl bid, while North Carolina A&T finished in a three-way tie in the MEAC along with North Carolina Central and Bethune-Cookman, advancing to this bowl game because they had the highest Sagarin rating of the three (Sagarin's ratings help distinguish between teams that have impressive win-loss records against strong competition and teams that have defeated weaker opponents).

 

Player to Watch for Alcorn State
Alcorn State (9-3) senior quarterback John Gibbs Jr. was the 2014 SWAC co-offensive player of the year, but an ankle injury on October 31 cost him the second half of this season. Sophomore Lenorris Footman took over for Gibbs Jr. and he tallied 303 total yards and accounted for four touchdowns in the SWAC Championship Game. Footman is an extremely balanced passer and rusher. He has 962 passing yards and 961 rushing yards this season. Gibbs Jr. will be a game time decision but North Carolina A&T will have their hands full no matter who is under center for Alcorn State.

 

Key Player for North Carolina A&T
North Carolina A&T (9-2) running back Tarik Cohen can be a difference-maker in this game. Cohen was named the MEAC Offensive Player of the Year after leading the conference in rushing with 1,248 yards (his third straight 1,000-yard season). He also became North Carolina A&T's career rushing leader with 3,736 yards. His average of 113.5 rushing yards per game ranks seventh in the nation among FCS players.

 

Motivation Level for Both Teams 
Alcorn State's motivation will be high because this is the inaugural Celebration Bowl and the first bowl game of the season. Also keep in mind that the Braves have a chance to win 10 games in back-to-back seasons. North Carolina A&T on the other hand wants to end the season the right way after a heartbreaking 21-16 loss to North Carolina Central and a victory will also give them their first 10-win season since 2003.

Must Read: A Brief Primer on Handicapping Bowl Games

Final Analysis 
Alcorn State knows how to put points on the board. As mentioned above, they notched their bowl bid with a 49-21 win over Grambling State, which avenged a high-scoring 35-34 mid-season loss. 

North Carolina A&T surrendered 53 points in a regular season matchup with North Carolina, but they held conference opponents to just 15.6 points per game.

Alcorn State is clearly the better offensive team in this game, as North Carolina A&T has struggled mightily to put up points in two of their last three games, including the 21-16 loss to North Carolina Central. 

Only having two weeks to prepare for this game may also help Alcorn State out with the rust factor, considering that North Carolina A&T hasn't played since November 21, so I'm taking Alcorn State +1.5 with one of my college football picks.