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Eastern Michigan vs. South Alabama game preview, odds, what to watch

Echo Sports Editor Blake McQueary gives some insight in a preview of the 68 Ventures Bowl showdown between the Eagles and Jaguars

Gone Bowling: Edition Six is officially underway for the Eastern Michigan University football team. The wings are up to Mobile, Alabama, for a matchup against South Alabama University in the 68 Ventures Bowl. 

The Eagles (6-6, 4-4 MAC) ended their regular season slate with two straight wins against Akron and Buffalo to qualify for bowl eligibility for the third consecutive season, which marked the most in program history. For the Jaguars (6-6, 4-4 Sun Belt) bowl eligibility came in week 11 with a win over Marshall, followed by a loss to Texas State to finish out the year. 

EMU continues to look at making history with the chance to secure back-to-back bowl game wins after their Famous Idaho Potato Bowl victory last season against San Jose State. South Alabama is attempting to make history as well as they are searching for their first bowl game victory in program history. 

The venue for the game just so happens to be at Hancock Whitney Stadium which stands as South Alabama’s home stadium, which holds a 4-2 record when playing at home. 

 Here is your full game preview, as well as how to watch and what to watch for: 

How to watch 

When: Saturday, Dec. 23 

Where: Mobile, Alabama at Hancock Whitney Stadium 

Time: 7:00 p.m. 

TV: ESPN/ESPN+ 

Odds 

Line: South Alabama -1100

Spread: South Alabama -17.5 

Over/Under: 45.5 points 

ESPN Analytics: South Alabama 83.3% chance to win 

Keys to success, what to watch 

EMU: If the Eagles want to avoid the most recent showing they displayed in Mobile at the LendingTree Bowl in 2021, the run game must be dominant while utilizing their star players on the outside. It’s no secret that starting quarterback Austin Smith entered his name into the transfer portal, which means the Eagles will turn to the next man up under center. Considering that, a Samson Evans legacy game appears to be brewing. The new career touchdown leader in EMU history will be playing his last game in the green and white on Saturday, so fully expect to see the ball in Evans’ hands a lot. 

Next to Evans is the speedster Jaylon Jackson who has totaled 795 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns this season, with wide receivers Tanner Knue, JB Mitchell, and Hamze El-Zayat lining up on the outside. If the Eagles can fill the gap of Smith’s absence by running the ball with success and utilizing their playmakers, they can make school history once again. 

South Alabama: The keys to success for the Jaguars on Saturday will be to utilize their balanced offensive attack, especially with the absences of EMU linebacker Chase Kline, defensive end Mikah Coleman, and defensive tackle Alex Merritt. Through the regular season this year, the Jaguars have averaged 264.9 passing yards and 160.0 rushing yards per game, as they’ve totaled 200+ in both passing and rushing yards in three different matchups. They’ve also totaled 200+ passing yards and 150+ rushing yards in two games. Additionally, this offense ranks 38th in the nation, averaging 424.9 total yards per game and 30.3 points per game. 

The star power is indeed intact for South Alabama as the Jaguars hold three players with at least 1,000+ yards. Quarterback Carter Bradley finished with 2,660 passing yards, running back La’Damian Webb docked 1,007 rushing yards, while wide receiver Caullin Lacy compiled 1,316 receiving yards. If the Jaguars shine on the offensive end, they will capture their first bowl game win inside their home stadium.