Bowl season continues on Wednesday with the New Orleans Bowl. The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-5) face the South Alabama Jaguars (10-2). Action kicks off at 9 pm ET. Below we continue our College Football odds series with a Western Kentucky-South Alabama prediction and pick.
Western Kentucky is 8-5 and finished in third place in Conference USA. The Hilltoppers are 8-5 against the spread while 62% of their games have gone under. South Alabama is 10-2 and finished in third place in the Sun Belt. The Jaguars are 7-5 against the spread while 64% of their games have gone over. South Alabama has the travel advantage as they are just 150 miles compared to Western Kentucky’s 600 miles.
Here are the Western Kentucky-South Alabama college football odds, courtesy of FanDuel.
New Orleans Bowl Odds: Western Kentucky-South Alabama Odds
Western Kentucky: +3.5 (-104)
South Alabama: -3.5 (-118)
Over: 56.5 (-114)
Under: 56.5 (-106)
Why Western Kentucky Could Cover The Spread
Western Kentucky put together a solid season thanks primarily to their explosive offense. The Hilltoppers rank 18th in the entire country in scoring (35.8 PPG) and ninth in total offense (483 yards per game). Their defense has been adequate, ranking 44th in points allowed (23.5 PPG) and 69th in total defense (381 yards per game). That being said, Western Kentucky played the 89th-ranked strength of schedule and lost both matchups with power-five conference teams.
Western Kentucky’s elite offense has a clear identity: they throw the ball, a lot. The Hilltoppers attempt the fourth-most passes per game and rank second in passing offense, averaging 339 yards per game. Senior quarterback Austin Reed put up video game numbers all season long as he threw for 4,247 yards and 36 touchdowns. Reed amassed three 400-yard games including their most recent game against FAU when he threw for 410 yards and three touchdowns. Reed is also a strong threat on the ground, having ran for eight touchdowns. This won’t be a cakewalk, however, as South Alabama ranked 51st in passing defense, allowing 216 yards per game.
The Hilltoppers have a number of weapons on the outside that Reed utilizes early and often. Western Kentucky rosters four players with at least 49 receptions, with three of those receivers amassing over 700 receiving yards. Sophomore Malachi Corley leads the way as he built on a strong freshman season to become one of the best receivers in College Football. Corley caught 90 passes (seventh in College Football) for 1,179 yards (sixth) and nine touchdowns (16th). Corley has 4.4 speed and is as strong of a bet as anyone for an anytime touchdown.
Why South Alabama Could Cover The Spread
South Alabama narrowly missed out on the Sun Belt championship game but still put together an outstanding 10-2 record. The Jaguars feature a solid offense that ranked 41st in scoring (31.9 PPG) and 40th in total offense (425 yards per game). Their real strength came on the other side of the ball, however, as they harbor an elite defense. South Alabama ranked 14th in points allowed (19.4 PPG) and 11th in total defense (305 yards per game). The Jaguars have an up-and-coming defensive back who could potentially shut down WKU’s star receiver Malachi Corley. Sophomore Yam Banks intercepted five passes this season (eighth in College Football) and was named to the all-Sun Belt first team.
Offensively, South Alabama features a balanced attack that excels on the ground. The Jaguars ranked 57th in rushing offense, averaging 166 yards per game. Contrary to most programs, South Alabama utilizes a clear number one back in junior La’Damian Webb. Webb amassed 1,014 yards this season, averaging 5.1 yards per carry. He punched in 13 touchdowns as well – 19th in the country. He projects for a big day against a Western Kentucky defense that ranked 75th in rushing defense, allowing 156 yards per game.
While Webb will likely be a focal point against WKU’s weak run defense, quarterback Carter Bradley will need to be on his A-game if they want to cover. The senior passed for 2,976 yards (28th) and 25 touchdowns. He did throw 10 interceptions, however, and threw five interceptions in their final four games. Bradley has a number of weapons on the outside as three Jaguars’ receivers caught at least 50 passes this season. Senior Jalen Wayne serves as the preferred red zone option as he caught nine touchdowns in addition to his 56 receptions and 795 yards. Junior Devin Voisin developed into a strong option down the stretch, catching 15 passes for 251 yards and three touchdowns in their final three games.
Final Western Kentucky-South Alabama Prediction & Pick
In what could be one of the more entertaining bowls of the season, I like South Alabama to cover thanks to their strong rushing attack and elite defense.
Final Western Kentucky-South Alabama Prediction & Pick: South Alabama -3.5 (-118)