South Alabama v. Bowling Green
Cramton Bowl — Montgomery, AL
December 20, 2014 — 9:15 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
It’s the nightcap of the opening day of the college football postseason… and if you’re still awake after watching the games from New Orleans, Albuquerque, Las Vegas, and Boise, you should reward yourself with one more bowl game. This is your chance to say that you saw the inaugural Camellia Bowl live from Montgomery. The name mimics previous bowl games that were held decades ago in Lafayette, Louisiana and Sacramento, California, but it is one of five new bowl games starting up this season. It’s your chance to get a dose of nighttime #MACtion along with the opportunity to witness a team that recently transitioned into the FBS playing in its first-ever bowl game.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
After two transitional seasons where they went 2-11 and 6-6, South Alabama repeated last year’s record to reach bowl eligibility in their first season as a full FBS member. Only one of their six losses were by less than 10 points… as were only two of their six victories. This is a team that either blew out opponents or was blown out by opponents. The Jaguars ended the regular season respectably on defense, allowing less than 26 points per game. It was on offense where South Alabama struggled, scoring on average three and a half points fewer per outing than they allowed. The passing attack was anemic, but the run game piled up 180 yards per contest despite their top running back carrying for only 652 yards. The Jaguars aren’t a great team, necessarily, but they’re a great story.
Bowling Green regressed mightily from its run last season as the 2013 MAC champion. The Falcons made it back to the MAC Championship Game, but once in Detroit they were blown out 51-17 by Northern Illinois. It didn’t help that redshirt junior quarterback Matt Johnson was lost for the season with a hip injury in BGSU’s 59-31 defeat at Western Kentucky. Replacement James Knapke threw for 2800 yards, but he had a 13-12 touchdown-to-interception ratio as the Falcons regressed to 7-6 this year. Running back Travis Greene fueled the ground game with 900 yards and 10 touchdowns. The real sore thumb for this team was its defense, which allowed nearly 34 points per game and was ranked 109th nationally.
What is Likely to Happen
Will Bowling Green be deflated after missing its chance at a second straight MAC title? South Alabama will be fueled by the novelty of playing in its first bowl game, and in its home state nonetheless. A partisan crowd should be on hand in Montgomery to watch the Jaguars take on the Falcons, and the statistics lean toward a victory by the local side. South Alabama has a better defense but a worse offense than BGSU, meaning that this should likely be a close contest. This one should be close at halftime, with Bowling Green’s defense falling apart in the second half as South Alabama does enough to emerge with the first bowl victory in school history.
South Alabama 34, Bowling Green 24