Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

    Raycom Media Camellia Bowl South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6) Dec. 20, 9:15, ESPN Here’s The Deal: Not every bowl game can be the Rose Bowl. This

    December 18, 2014

    Raycom Media Camellia Bowl

    South Alabama (6-6) vs. Bowling Green (7-6) Dec. 20, 9:15, ESPN
    Here’s The Deal: Not every bowl game can be the Rose Bowl.

    This might not be the most scintillating matchup on the board, but the potential is there for this to be a fun and entertaining game with plenty of energy considering South Alabama should be playing home game. It’ll also help the try-hard level that this is the program’s first ever bowl appearance.

    South Alabama football didn’t exist until 2009 and didn’t get into the FBS until 2012, but building with a good defense over the last few years, and lots of wins over miserable teams in the first half of the season, getting to 6-6 and a bowl is impressive no matter how it happened. However, with four losses in the last five – bad things happened once the schedule improved – it’s been a rocky road down the stretch, but for a program that’s building getting the school’s first bowl is a huge step forward.

    Bowling Green fought hard in last year’s loss to Pitt in the Little Caesar’s Bowl, but it’s lost its last four post-season appearances going back to the win over Memphis in the 2004 GMAC Bowl. Coming off a 51-17 thumping from Northern Illinois in the MAC Championship, the Falcons have lost their last three games and four of the last six with a defense that’s having a massive problem and an offense that lost the pop it showed at the beginning of the season.

    So get ready to create a new tradition with the inaugural Raycom Media Camellia Bowl. You never know – sometimes the best bowl games come from the unlikeliest of places.

    Why South Alabama Might Win: The Jaguars don’t have a passing game, but now is the time to start looking for one. The Bowling Green pass defense has been among the worst in the nation, allowing 292 yards per game and getting bombed on by everyone. The D has been picked clean by everyone with the ability to snap the ball – except for Akron and Ohio – and it gives up yards in chunks.

    – The Bowling Green run defense isn’t a prize, either, allowing 334 rushing yards to NIU and 325 to Toledo a few weeks ago. In the last three games, the Falcons have been pushed around for over six yards per carry with ten scores. USA should be able to move the offense however it wants to.

    – USA safety Terrell Brigham is having a whale of a season with 101 tackles including ten or more in five games with ten against Navy and 12 against Texas State. One of the Sun Belt’s premier open-field tacklers, he’ll help keep the big plays to a minimum.

    – The Jaguar running game has done a good job of overcoming the loss of top back Jay Jones with senior Kendall Houston and freshman Xavier Johnson forming a good rotation. Johnson missed time late, but he’s still a decent part of the attack, while Houston has taken over the duties allowing him to carry the attack at times.

    – USA should have the ball for most of the game. Bowling Green is miserable in terms of time of possession, keeping the ball for just 25:34 a game. USA isn’t great on third downs – it’s actually awful – but it should be able to control the game at times.

    Why Bowling Green Might Win: South Alabama might not have the offense to take advantage of the Bowling Green defense. The Jaguars have a painfully inefficient passing game and it just doesn’t move the chains easily enough. The offense is balanced, but it’s not as explosive as it might need to be.

    – Can James Knapke get hot? The sophomore quarterback was lights out early in the season with 395 yards against Indiana and 443 against UMass, and he has had just enough good moments over the rest of the year to think an offensive blowup might be coming. The South Alabama secondary doesn’t come up with enough big plays and can be beaten by a passer who’s in a groove. However …

    – This should be a game for Travis Greene. The Bowling Green running back was all but taken out of the equation early on against Northern Illinois – the Falcon offense had to do something to try keeping up the pace – but he might have a big day against a USA run defense that’s allowed 200 yards or more in three of the last four games. Granted, one of the games was against Navy, and another South Carolina, but the Falcons have to try to get Greene moving.

    – USA is woefully ineffective in the red zone converting just 78% of the time. The placekicking has been relatively solid, but the offense just doesn’t get into range often enough with just 37 trips inside the 20. Bowling Green is one of the MAC’s leaders in red zone defense allowing teams to score just 44% of the time.

    – Can the Jaguars keep up? When the USA offense doesn’t work, it really doesn’t work scoring 12 points or fewer five times this year, all losses. Bowling Green has only dipped below 20 against the better teams on the schedule – Wisconsin, Western Michigan and NIU.

    What’s Going To Happen: Can Bowling Green break the bowl hex? Will South Alabama step up and shine close to home in its first bowl appearance? The Jaguar defense will rise up and do a solid job against the Falcon passing game while also bottling up Greene. It won’t be a pretty game, it’ll be a tough watch at times, but the effort will be there.

    Prediction: South Alabama 27 … Bowling Green 20

    Line: South Alabama -3 o/u: 54


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