New Orleans Bowl: Jacksonville State vs. Louisiana Expert Pick and Prediction – December 16, 2023
NEW ORLEANS BOWL: JACKSONVILLE STATE VS. LOUISIANA EXPERT PICK AND PREDICTION – December 16, 2023 — The knock on Jacksonville State has been clear from Week 1: if you want to beat the Gamecocks, you do it by throwing the football.
And that’s not what Louisiana does well.
The Ragin’ Cajuns have struggled down the stretch because their quarterbacks got hurt, leaving them to turn to Chandler Fields. Fields played admirably in a win over Louisiana-Monroe and losses to Troy and Southern Miss, but ULM and USM are two of the weakest pass defenses in the Sun Belt.
The Cajuns’ strength is on the ground, where Jacksonville State’s defense excels. The Gamecocks only give up 113 rushing yards a game, second in C-USA to only Liberty.
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On the other side, Louisiana features a stout pass defense that makes it difficult for anyone to throw. And in this game, that won’t be any help; Jacksonville State runs it so often it might as well be a service academy. There are three schools in the nation that average more than 200 rushing yards and fewer than 200 passing yards: Army, Air Force and Jacksonville State (Navy just missed at 194 rushing yards per game).
Throw in that this marks the first bowl game in the Gamecocks’ history, and this looks like a bad matchup all the way around for Louisiana, even in New Orleans.
(8-4 SU, 8-3-1 ATS)
(6-6 SU, 5-7 ATS)
When: Saturday, December 16th at 2:15 p.m. EST
Where: Caesars Superdome, New Orleans
Public Bets: 90% on Jacksonville State
Public Money: 96% on Jacksonville State
Odds courtesy of DraftKings, as of December 13th, 2023.
Jacksonville State vs. Louisiana In-Season Trends
Louisiana fell apart down the stretch, losing five of seven and going just 4-4 ATS in its final eight games. The Cajuns needed a win over rival ULM just to qualify, and they’ve allowed at least 30 points in three of their final four games.
That’s why the total’s as high as it is, because Jacksonville State’s been more of an under team. The Gamecocks played to the over five times, but all five of those opponents are home for the holidays. Against the five bowl teams on Jacksonville State’s schedule, the under cashed every time. The Gamecocks have also excelled at meeting expectations: they covered in five of their final seven games.
The Superdome won’t see any effect from the weather.
If college prop plays are a thing in your location, stay away from Malik Jackson. Jackson leads Jacksonville State’s rushing attack by the numbers, but he is a feast-or-famine back, rushing for 193 yards against Louisiana Tech and going for 117 in the other four of Jacksonville State’s past five games. Anwar Lewis is far more consistent, getting at least eight carries per game and usually in the double digits.
Is Elijah Davis for real? The Cajuns’ freshman back looked the part against Louisiana-Monroe with 109 yards and two scores, but so does everybody. Jacksonville State will offer a much stiffer test than the Warhawks did.
This couldn’t be a much worse matchup for ULL. If its top two quarterbacks were healthy, Louisiana would represent an intriguing test for Jacksonville State. The Cajuns were able to put up pass numbers at one point, which would have made for an offensive show.
That’s not the case now. This Louisiana team doesn’t have the explosive playmakers needed to exploit Jacksonville State’s biggest weakness, and the things the Cajuns do well line up with the things Jacksonville State does well.
This game will likely be won or lost in the trenches, and that’s exactly what the Gamecocks want.
Jacksonville State -2.5