Someone making a case there are too many bowl games could easily point to this matchup as evidence. These teams come in a combined 13-12, Bowling Green rides a three-game losing streak and South Alabama has lost four of five. Don't worry though, there are plenty of reasons to watch this game. It's a brand-new bowl, USA's first-ever postseason game, the only college football contest on TV at the time and, well I'll tell you more in a minute.
Start Time: 9:15 P.M. ET
Location: Cramton Bowl stadium, Montgomery, Alabama
Streaming: WatchESPN.com/WatchESPN App
Records: USA (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt) BGSU (7-6, 5-3 MAC)
Live Stats: Call it Southern Hospitality
Betting Line: USA -3. Over/Under of 54
South Alabama Outlook: First off, just watch this. Don't ask questions. It's USA punter Corliss Waitman:
I think I've watched it about 30 times. Maybe the coolest thing I've seen all season.
Anyway, this is a big game for USA. It's the team's first bowl game in only its sixth year of existence and they'll want to start a winning bowl streak. The program has only had one coach in its history in Joey Jones.
The big news for the program of late, aside from the bowl berth, is the firing of offensive coordinator Robert Matthews. In his place will be former UAB offensive coordinator Bryant Vincent, who will call the plays on Saturday.
Prior to UAB, Vincent spent two years as quarterbacks coach for USA. The team's quarterback numbers have gone down this year from the previous two, while the quarterback at UAB was near the top of the nation in completion percentage (thanks to South Alabama writer Brian Wright for the info BTW.) Nice to see some former UAB guys already finding work.
The Jags need the help as the offense has scored 12 points or less five times this season, losing each time, and average 20.2 points per game overall.
Still, South Alabama's big quarterback, 6-foot-5 Brandon Bridge, is a threat as he's thrown 11 touchdowns to just two interceptions during the second half of the season. The running game is led by Kendall Houston and Xavier Johnson.
Bowling Green Outlook: Bowling Green has also drawn non game-related press in recent days, just not the same kind.
First, a defensive lineman named Jhalil Croley was charged with aggravated drug trafficking and resisting arrest.
According to the police report, police were called to Croley's off-campus apartment in response to a loud music complaint. At the door, officers detected an odor of marijuana and asked to enter. Once inside, police found marijuana packaged for sale as well as scales and other paraphernalia.
Yea, none of that is good. But it gets weirder. Starting quarterback Matt Johnson was lost for the season in the first game of the year. Apparently not one to shy away from the spotlight, we went and got himself some charges too:
According to a police report, Johnson's roommate, Ryan Burbrink, had $1,500 stolen. Johnson told police he saw a suspect leave their apartment Sunday afternoon, then saw the suspect appear later in the evening, and police were called.
Johnson said he recovered $1,000 Sunday evening when the suspect appeared to throw something, then found the remaining $500 outside the apartment.
Police questioned Johnson about inconsistencies in his story, and Johnson admitted he was playing a practical joke on Burbrink that had gotten out of hand.
Not smooth bro.
So why is this a team to watch? For one, they claim a transitive property SEC East title. Bowling Green beat Indiana this year, who beat Missouri, who won the SEC East. Beat that, other mid-major bowl games.
The Falcons look to finish the season strong after a decided loss to NIU in the MAC title game, and also hope to snap a four-game bowl losing streak.
BGSU doesn't have the strongest defense as they've given up 40 points or more six times this season. Sophomore quarterback James Knapke has led the team since Johnson's injury, performing well early on but fading down the stretch. Some think backup Cody Callaway might see some action Saturday.
Running back Travis Greene can pass the 1,000-yard mark with a strong game, as can freshman receiver Roger Lewis.
Prediction: This one opened with Bowling Green as a 1.5-point favorite. That's moved a full four points and South Alabama is now favored by three. To give you an idea how tough this one is to call, both USA and Bowling Green played Kent State this year, and both won by exactly 10 points.
Overall, USA -3 sounds about right. I'm not sure how effective the Falcons will be on offense with either of the two quarterbacks, especially considering the off-field issues.
USA, on the other hand, has to be pumped for their inaugural bowl game and playing in their home state. Getting the old coach back on staff should provide another boost. I say take South Alabama and the points.
Also, I'll be watching this one in person so if you're from the area let me know some cool stuff to do in Montgomery.