Game to be played at Arizona Stadium, Tucson, Arizona
South Alabama came out strong with a win at Mississippi State in its season opener but did not win another road game the rest of the way and had to scramble to become bowl eligible. The Jaguars picked up a victory in their regular-season finale over New Mexico State to earn a spot in the Arizona Bowl against Air Force on Dec. 30 in Tucson, Ariz. The Falcons won five straight to close out the regular season, including a 27-20 triumph over then-No. 19 Boise State in the finale.
South Alabama is making the second bowl appearance in school history and is looking for its first win after falling to Bowling Green in the 2014 Camellia Bowl. The Jaguars showed an ability to get up for big games this season with the win over Mississippi State – the Sun Belt’s lone triumph over an SEC team in 2016 – and a 42-24 thrashing of then-No. 19 San Diego State at home on Oct. 1. Each of South Alabama’s final three losses and four of the six came by seven or fewer points.
Air Force hit a lull with three straight losses at the beginning of conference play but churned out the yards on the ground in the final five games. The Falcons are third among FBS teams with an average of 322.8 rushing yards and are averaging 34.3 points. Air Force is appearing in a bowl game for the ninth time in the last 10 seasons under head coach Troy Calhoun and is searching for its fourth win in that span.
TV: 5:30 p.m. ET, American Sports Network.
LINE HISTORY: The Falcons opened as 12.5-point favorites and that number wasn’t high enough for bettors, betting the line up another full point to 13.5. The total opened at 57.5 and has yet to move off that number. Check out the complete line history here.
WEATHER REPORT: The forecast for Arizona Stadium is calling for cloudy skies with a touch of rain in the evening and temperatures in the mid-50’s at kick off. Winds gusting out of the southwest at 5 mph and gusts as high as 10 mph.
South Alabama – S Kalen Jackson (probable, ankle), OL Curtis Williams (questionable, knee), OL Troy Thingstad (questionable, hip)
Air Force – QB Nate Romine (questionable, ankle)
ABOUT SOUTH ALABAMA (6-6 SU, 3-9 ATS, 5-6-1 OU): Head coach Joey Jones led the Jaguars’ transition to the FBS in 2012 and is confident despite being an underdog against Air Force. “We’re going out there to win a bowl game, first and foremost,” Jones told reporters. “Yes, we’re going to have some great dinners and we’re going to do some sightseeing, and that’s a great experience, but we have to get the guys to understand it’s time for business, and when we get away from those events we have to be ready to practice and ready for meetings.” Jones, whose team already beat one Mountain West opponent this season in San Diego State, will lean on junior running back Xavier Johnson, who collected career highs of 154 yards and three touchdowns in the regular season finale.
ABOUT AIR FORCE (9-3 SU, 5-7 ATS, 7-5 OU): The Falcons excel at the option attack and totaled 35 rushing touchdowns in the regular season from eight different players. Jacobi Owens led the team with 785 yards but was one of four rushers to total at least 600 on the season and tied for fifth with three TDs as Timothy McVey paced the team with 10 rushing scores. Air Force is led on defense by senior safety Weston Steelhammer, who became the first player in school history to be named first-team All-Mountain West three years in a row after leading the team with 75 tackles and boosting his career total to 17 interceptions with six more this season.
* Jaguars are 3-13 ATS in their last 16 games following a straight up win.
* Over is 6-1-1 in Jaguars last 8 vs. a team with a winning record.
* Over is 4-1 in Falcons last 5 neutral site games.
* Over is 8-2 in Jaguars last 10 non-conference games.
For a full list of hot and cold trends click here.
COVERS CONSENSUS: Bettors are firmly behind the double digit favorite, with 64 percent of wagers on Air Force. As for the total, 62 percent of the wagers are taking the Over. Check out complete consensus data here.