Analysis: Almost from the outset, sharp money flooded the betting market in favor of South Alabama, moving the Jaguars from 1-point home underdogs to 2.5 to 3-point favorites. The concern now for the Jaguars is the fact that they are a money-burning 0-5 ATS in their last five conference games as favorites and are coming off an emotionally draining 24-point comeback win over Idaho last week. Let’d also note that South Alabama is 5-17 ATS in its last 22 home games, 1-8 ATS in its last nine conference affairs, 0-7 ATS following a win, 1-11 ATS in weeks ten though thirteen and 3-13 ATS in its last sixteen games overall.
Despite the above-referenced trends, the smart money continues to support the Jaguars. South Alabama takes the field with a subpar offense that is averaging 26.7 points and 381 total yards per game at 5.6 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 6.0 yards per play. The Jaguars’ ground game has been completely ineffective, averaging 4.2 yards per rush attempt against teams that would combine to allow 4.8 yards per rush play. However, the Jaguars’ attack has shown some signs of life recently, averaging 33.7 points at 4.7 yards per rush play and 5.8 yards per play over their last three games.
Overall, South Alabama’s offense is 0.6 yards per play worse than average from the line of scrimmage, which is not goof enough to exploit a bad Louisiana Lafayette stop unit that has been 0.3 yards per play worse than average in 2015 (5.8 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.5 yards per play). The concern for Lafayette investors is its defense on the road, which has been abysmal. Specifically, the Ragin’ Cajuns are yielding 35.2 points and 422 total yards per game at 6.3 yards per play and 12.0 yards per point on foreign soil this season. I still give Louisiana Lafayette’s defense a nominal advantage over the Jaguars’ attack.
Like Louisiana Lafayette, the Jaguars’ stop unit has been 0.3 yards per play worse than average this season (5.7 yards per play to teams that would combine to average 5.4 yards per play. Surprisingly, the Jaguars are just 2-2 SU and 1-3 ATS at home this season where they are giving up 41.0 points and 433 total yards at 5.8 yards per play. South Alabama’s defense has also been susceptible to giving up the big play as evidenced by the fact that opposing teams are averaging 10.6 yards per point at Cajun Field, including 9.7 yards per point over the last three weeks and 10.3 yards power point in conference play.
The good news for South Alabama is the fact that Louisiana Lafayette does not possess an offense that can exploit its weakness on the defensive side of the ball. Indeed, the Ragin’ Cajuns are averaging just 5.7 yards per play against teams that would combine to allow 6.3 yards per play, thereby giving the Jaguars an advantage from the line of scrimmage when they have the ball. South Alabama also has superior special teams and is looking to avenge last year’s 19-9 loss at Cajun Field. With a line under three points, I will give a modest lean to South Alabama in this game, although there are much better investment options over the weekend.
Start Time: 7:30 PM on ESPU
Where: Ladd-Peebles Stadium, Mobile, Alabama
Free College Football Pick: South Alabama (-2.5) (-110) over Louisiana-Lafayette Ragin’ Cajuns