South Alabama vs Air Force Arizona Bowl Odds, Expert Pick & TV Info
When: Friday, Dec. 30, 5:30 PM ET
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson
TV: American Sports Network
Opening NCAA Football Lines: AFA -13.5 (57.5)
Why Bet on South Alabama?The season started on a great note with USA beating Mississippi State 21-20 in Starkville. It’s only the eighth time a Sun Belt team has beaten an SEC team. That win, unexpected at the time, ended up being huge for Coach Joey Jones and the Jags as they finished 6-6 with a 2-6 record in Sun Belt Conference play. A 5-7 record doesn’t get USA a bowl game. South Alabama has played in only one other bowl game in school history, losing 33-28 to Bowling Green in the 2014 Raycom Media Camellia Bowl.
The Jags’ victory over San Diego State on Oct. 1 — ranked 19th in the Associated Press poll at the time — was not only USA’s first-ever against a nationally-ranked opponent but the only one by a Sun Belt school out of conference in 2016.
Since falling to Troy, 28-21, each of the Jags’ last five outings against an NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision opponent have been decided by seven points or fewer. The Jaguars have outgained the opposition five games in a row — the first time that has happened since accomplishing the feat against four-year schools in 13 straight outings from Nov. 12, 2009-Sept. 10, 2011 — after posting a season-best 521 yards in the regular-season finale.
In addition to averaging 484.5 yards per contest in the last month-plus, USA’s offense has gained 6.50 yards per snap after recording 5.22 yards per play the first two months of the campaign. South is allowing just 171.9 yards per game passing, its lowest figure since moving to the NCAA FBS level in 2012 and currently the second-lowest in the program’s record books.
The defense is led by Randy Allen. The senior end has wreaked havoc in opposing backfields all season and is among the Sun Belt leaders with 14.5 tackles for loss and 8.5 sacks. He also has forced three fumbles, and he blocked a field goal against Presbyterian. Senior tight end Gerald Everett was the go-to target in the passing game for South Alabama with 49 receptions for 717 yards and four touchdowns. Everett’s touchdowns were sliced in half from last season, but he set a career-high in yards.
Why Bet on Air Force?Air Force closed the season with five straight wins to finish 9-3. All three of Air Force’s losses came in a three-game stretch in the middle of the season to divisional opponents — Wyoming, New Mexico and Hawaii. AFA came out of the 2016 season with the Commander-in- Chief’s Trophy. It’s the fourth time since 2010 the Falcons have won the trophy with outright wins against Army and Navy, and win No. 20 overall, the most in the series.
Air Force is playing in its 26th bowl game. The Falcons have earned a bowl bid nine times in head coach Troy Calhoun’s 10 seasons. Air Force has an 11-13- 1 all-time bowl record, including a 3-5 mark under Calhoun. Running the football has been the identity for Air Force this season, as Jacobi Owens leads four Falcons rushers with at least 600 yards with 785 of his own and three touchdowns. Owens forms a formidable backfield quartet for the Falcons with Timothy McVey (667 yards, 10 touchdowns), D.J. Johnson (617 yards, two touchdowns) and Arion Worthman (603 yards, six touchdowns).
Defensive back Weston Steelhammer was named first-team All-Mountain West for the third straight year. He pulled down six interceptions (No. 6 in FBS), making him the NCAA active career leader with 17 picks. He’s listed as a strong safety but plays all over the field and leads the team in tackles (75).
Air Force and South Alabama are meeting for the first time. Air Force is 3-0 all-time vs. the Sun Belt Conference. Air Force is 31-19 against non-conference opponents under Calhoun. The Falcons are 20-3 at home, 7-11 on the road and 4-5 in neutral site games. Air Force is 4-0 this season following a 37-21 win over Abilene Christian in the season opener, a 48-14 win vs. Georgia State Sept. 10, a 28-14 win over Navy Oct. 1 and a 31-12 win at Army Nov. 5. The Falcons have gone undefeated in regular season non- conference games twice in the last three years (2014).
South Alabama vs Air Force Arizona Bowl Expert Pick: Air Force
Falcons are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games.
Over is 8-2 in Jaguars last 10 non-conference games.
Take Air Force and the over on NCAA Football odds.