As we head into bowl season, MTS’ cadre of experts will be previewing the best matchups on tap for college football’s postseason. We’ll also look at the San Diego County Credit Union Poinsettia Bowl because it exists and you can bet on it. So stick with us all the way from the AFR Celebration Bowl on Dec. 17 to the national championship game on Jan. 9.
Let’s take a closer look at …
The New Orleans Bowl: Louisiana-Lafayette vs. Southern Mississippi (-3.5)
Sat. Dec. 17, 2016 (9:00 PM Eastern) at the Superdome, New Orleans, LA.
The New Orleans Bowl is one of the lowest-paying bowl games each year. (Yes, teams get money just for showing up.) The schools will each take home less than $500,000, according to CollegeFootballPoll.com. The most lucrative non-CFP bowl, the Citrus Bowl, pays out almost $4.5 million apiece. (The CFP games are based on revenue. Those numbers will be a lot higher. It pays to be good.)
A Closer Look at Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6 SU, 8-4 ATS)
Louisiana-Lafayette battled back from a 2-4 start to finish at .500 and become bowl-eligible. They lost two OT games this year (to Tulane and New Mexico State) and also have quality losses to Boise State and Georgia on their resume. They came up huge on the road down the stretch, winning their last four away games, but they still boast a negative point differential on the year (25.1 points-for per game; 25.8 points-against).
The team now finds itself in the New Orleans Bowl for the fifth time in six years. Though two of the Ragin’ Cajuns victories were retroactively vacated, they have won each of their New Orleans Bowl appearances on the scoreboard, and the wins have come by an average margin of more than 10 points. The last two have been particularly lopsided: 16-3 over Nevada in 2014; 47-28 over Arkansas State last year.
Coach Mark Hudspeth went 66-21 at North Alabama before arriving at Lafayette. If you don’t factor in the Cajuns’ vacated games, his record is 46-30-1, including a 41-33-2 mark against the spread, since taking over.
A Closer Look at Southern Mississippi (6-6 SU, 3-8-1 ATS)
First-year head coach Jay Hopson is hoping to guide the Golden Eagles to their first postseason victory since 2011. Hopson took over a sputtering program at the beginning of the year. The team was 0-12 in 2012, followed by a 13-25 record over the next three years with Todd Monken at the helm.
Hopson went 32-17 in four years at Alcorn State, including 28-10 over his final three campaigns.
The Eagles began the season with a statement win, beating Kentucky 44-35, and parlayed that into a 4-1 start. Then the soaring Eagles came crashing back to earth, losing five of their next six, including three straight to Charlotte, Old Dominion, and North Texas. They snapped the losing streak and managed to get back to .500 with a win over Louisiana Tech in their final game.
The Eagles come in with the more potent offense, averaging 33.4 PPG. But they also have a leakier D, giving up a shade over 30 per game.
Who Should You Back?
Though both campuses are around two hours from New Orleans, coach Hudspeth has a proven track record at the New Orleans Bowl and his overall mark against the spread is very strong. Meanwhile, Hopson struggled during the back half of his first campaign.
Southern Miss has won and covered each of the six times these squads have gotten together throughout the last two decades. I expect that to change, particularly since the Ragin’ Cajuns are catching three-and-a-half points in a game that has become an annual W.
Photo credit: Jcarriere (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.