Sun Belt College Football Picks: Can Jaguar's Defense Rise To The Ocassion?

Willie Bee

Thursday, December 3, 2015 2:20 PM GMT

Thursday, Dec. 3, 2015 2:20 PM GMT

South Alabama has its back to the wall looking for bowl eligibility as 18 point underdogs on the college football odds this Saturday night at home vs. Appalachian State.

Lost amidst all of the hoopla surrounding league championship games in the Power 5 conferences are several key contests in the Sun Belt. It's just a shame those contests can't grab a little more of the spotlight this week, especially since a couple of them can still impact upcoming bowl games.

One of those matchups is the Saturday night battle in Mobile where the Appalachian State Mountaineers visit the South Alabama Jaguars. ESPN3 will stream the match from Ladd-Peebles Stadium beginning at 7:30 PM (ET), and the Mountaineers are pronounced favorites on an 18 point spread after the college football odds started a point and a half lower.  There has been a little movement downward on the total; Bookmaker opened the proceedings at 59½, the scoreboard tally now sitting at 58.

Saturday's scrap is just the second time the schools have met, the first coming just last year in Boone, NC. The Jaguars closed as 4 point road favorites, easily covering the spread with the 47-21 decision. Three Mountaineers turnovers played a key role in South Alabama's win, the Jaguars scooting out to a 20-0 lead in that game behind quarterback Brandon Bridge who threw for 339 yards and three scores.  The final was an easy winner for bettors holding 'over' tickets on a 52½ point total.

 

Mountaineers Can Reach 10 Wins In Just 2nd FBS Season
The pressure should be off Appalachian State (9-2 straight up, 6-5 against the spread) in this game since the Mountaineers have already accepted a bowl invite. Scott Satterfield's squad is heading to the Camellia Bowl just up I-65 from this game, the first-ever bowl appearance for the school after rejoining Division-I football a year ago, not bad for a team that dominated the FCS with three consecutive national titles (2005-07).

That doesn't mean Appalachian State doesn't have anything left to play for, not by a long shot.  The Mountaineers still have a chance to share in the Sun Belt Conference crown with a win over South Alabama and a Arkansas State loss to Texas State. Even though that is not likely, Appalachian State can still reach the 10-win plateau this weekend, which would mark a new high for the school at the FBS level.

Statistically, the Mountaineers are the very best the Sun Belt has to offer. They rank tops in the conference in total defense (313.7 ypg) and total offense (471.3 ypg), and are sixth nationally averaging almost 266 yards a game on the ground. Featured tailback Marcus Cox has six 100-yard efforts on his scorecard this season, one of which came at top-ranked Clemson back in Week 2.

 

Can Jaguar Defense Rise To The Occasion?
After appearing in its first bowl game a year ago, South Alabama (5-6 SU, 4-7 ATS) would love to get back to another this time around. We know that at least two teams with 5-7 records will go bowling, so the Jaguars could still get an invite with a loss to Appalachian State, but head coach Joey Jones would rather not risk that.

They appeared headed to a second straight bowl just a few weeks ago when the Jaguars stood 5-4 with three games to play. That was before consecutive losses on the road to Georgia State and Georgia Southern, each game as the underdogs and failing to cover either defeat. Georgia Southern, with the nation's top-ranked ground attack, ran roughshod over South Alabama last week, amassing nearly 490 yards rushing.

Sloppy field conditions won't be an excuse for either side; the forecast is calling for a nice autumn day in Mobile with clear skies and the thermometer in the upper-50s when they tee things up. I'm clearly worried about South Alabama stopping the Appalachian State offense, which is why my college football pick is laying the points on the visitors.

College Football Pick: Appalachian State -18 at Bookmaker

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