South Alabama vs. Eastern Michigan Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for 68 Ventures Bowl

Sep 9, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Eastern Michigan Eagles running back Jaylon Jackson (28)
Sep 9, 2023; Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA; Eastern Michigan Eagles running back Jaylon Jackson (28) / Matt Krohn-USA TODAY Sports

Eastern Michigan won its final game of the regular season to qualify for a bowl game and will be the second biggest underdog of the 2023 bowl season against South Alabama.

The Eagles struggled for much of this season on offense, but Chris Creighton guided his team to another bowl game as the team faces South Alabama, who had an up-and-down season after being a Sun Belt contender in 2022. The team has a lofty ceiling, will it realize it in postseason play?

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South Alabama vs. Eastern Michigan Odds, Spread and Total

Eastern Michigan vs. South Alabama Betting Trends

South Alabama vs. Eastern Michigan How to Watch

  • Date: Saturday, Dec. 23
  • Game Time: 7:00 PM EST
  • Venue: Hancock Whitney Stadium
  • How to Watch (TV): ESPN
  • South Alabama Record: 6-6
  • Eastern Michigan Record: 6-6

South Alabama vs. Eastern Michigan Key Players to Watch

South Alabama

Carter Bradley: Bradley is the engineer of the Jaguars offense, which checked in 21st in EPA/Pass this season. He is an efficient passer, completing more than two-thirds of his passes with a 19-7 touchdown-to-interception ratio. South Alabama has been an elite Group of Five offense, 42nd in yards per play all with Bradley at the helm.

Eastern Michigan

Ike Udengwu III: No, this is not the primary starter for the Eagles, but Austin Smith is in the transfer portal and likely not playing in this one, which means the run-first Udengwu will take over. He has appeared in two games and isn't a threat as a passer, completing 46% of his passes for 100 yards (28 attempts), but can be a dynamic runner as he was used in certain packages during the season. The EMU offense struggled all season, 117th in EPA/Play, so the drop-off can't be too dramatic.

South Alabama vs. Eastern Michigan Prediction and Pick

This point spread is massive, which typically lends itself to the underdog. Double digit underdogs are 54-40 against the spread dating back to 2005, and I think there's some credence to the dog in this case.

South Alabama has the upside to smash teams, but also has shown it can lose to anybody. As noted above, the team is 4-3 straight up as a double digit favorite this season. The Jaguars have been regularly lined with an expectation to win big, and it's lost games outright to teams its expected to dominate.

While Eastern Michigan is one of the worst teams in bowl season, I believe the move to Udengwu may help the team stay close. The team plays at a slow pace, bottom 10 in terms of play per minute and can keep the ball on the ground and lean on its special teams unit that is 17th in Pro Football Focus' special teams grading.

Further, South Alabama likely won't have its top wide receiver in Caulin Lacy, who is in the transfer portal, who caught 91 passes this season. Can Eastern Michigan hang around in this one? Possibly. The defense is built on its bend don't break principles, top half of the country in explosive play rate and 28th in red zone touchdown percentage allowed.

I'll take the Eagles at a big number to keep this score line manageable.

Game odds refresh periodically and are subject to change.

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