Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: New Orleans Bowl - S. Alabama vs. Western Kentucky (12/21/2022) - Taking Vegas

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Free Pick Breakdown, Odds & Prediction: New Orleans Bowl – S. Alabama vs. Western Kentucky (12/21/2022)

By Michael Savio
December 21, 2022

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers vs South Alabama Jaguars (12/21 @ 9:00 PM EST)

Spread: Jaguars -4.5
Money Line: WKU +152 / USA -180
Total: 56

Overview and Betting Info

The Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-5) and the South Alabama Jaguars (10-2) will face Wednesday night in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl. The meeting will be the second time these two teams have met, with the Jaguars winning the lone matchup 31-24 in 2013.

The Hilltoppers are 8-5 against the spread this season but have failed to cover in their last three games. They are 5-8 in favor of the under and have gone under in their previous 3 games.

The Jaguars are 7-5 versus the spread but have failed to cover their last two games. They are 7-4-1 in favor of the over, going over or pushing in their previous 4 games.

Western Kentucky Hilltoppers

The Hilltoppers own one of the nation’s most potent offenses, averaging 483.3 yards and 35.8 points per game. That’s the ninth-best yardage average in FBS, thanks to a passing game that averages 376.7 yards per game (2nd in FBS). They are led by quarterback Austin Reed who has 4,247 yards and 36 touchdowns, second in FBS in both categories. While Reed doesn’t rack up many rushing yards, he does have an impressive eight touchdowns on the ground. The quarterback is coming off a game that saw him throw for 410 yards and score a combined four touchdowns. He is supported by Malachi Corley, who is sixth in FBS with 1,179 yards and nine touchdowns. He joins Daewood Davis (872 yards, 7TD) and Jaylen Hall (731 yards, 5 TD) to form one of the most dangerous receiving trios in the country. Hall has been hot as of late, with 23 catches for 304 yards and three touchdowns over his last three games. Look out for Corley on the ground, as the receiver now has at least one carry in his previous four games.

WKU’s run game has struggled this year, thanks partly to an injury to Kye Robichaux. The running back leads the team with 496 yards and three touchdowns and is expected to be healthy for Wednesday night’s matchup. Kye was averaging an impressive 6.8 yards per carry before he was hurt earlier in November, and his return will be a massive boost to this offense. He’ll join Davion Ervin-Pondexter, who has 492 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been solid with Kye out and is coming off a game where he rushed for 108 yards.

The Hilltoppers’ defense allows 381.1 yards and 23.5 yards per game, making them a top-three defense in Conference USA. They are coming off back-to-back games where they struggled to contain opposing offenses, allowing 72 combined points. They have been led by Jaques Evans, with a team-high eight sacks and 101 tackles. He has five of those sacks in his last six games. He joins Derrick Smith (89 tackles, 3 sacks) to form a talented pass rush. The Hilltoppers’ secondary has been aggressive, with 12 players with an interception this season. The unit has been led by Upton Stout and Kaleb Oliver, who both have three interceptions. Keep an eye out for Kahlef Hailassie as well, as he leads the team with ten pass deflections.

South Alabama Jaguars

The Jaguars’ offense is averaging 424.7 yards and 31.9 points per game. They are led by quarterback Carter Bradley who has 2,976 yards and 25 touchdowns, with another six touchdowns with his legs. He has been struggling with his completion percentage recently, completing under 60% of his passes in three of his last four games. Reed has a set of three receivers he uses evenly, led by Jalen Wayne with 795 yards and nine touchdowns. Wayne has four touchdowns in his last five games, but he’s only totaled 234 yards during that span. He is supported by Devin Voisin (714 yards, 4 TD) and Caullin Lacy (756, 6 TD). Voisin seems to have taken over the lead role in the last two games, with 15 receptions for 251 yards and three touchdowns.

The Jaguars’ run attack is led by La’Damian Webb, who has 1,014 yards and 13 touchdowns. While his stats are impressive, they are a bit deceiving. The back had 409 yards and seven touchdowns in two of his games last month but has just 121 yards and no touchdowns in the two games since. The decline can be partly attributed to the rise of Freshmen Braylon McReynolds, who has 25 carries and 240 combined yards over their last two games. His emergence gives the Jaguars a pair of talented rushers that should test this Hilltopper defense.

The USA defense allows 304.5 yards and 19.4 points per game, putting them in the top three in the Sun Belt. They have held opponents to 21 or fewer points in five of their last six games. Jamie Sheriff leads the team with six sacks and joins Brock Higdon and CJ Rias (4 sacks apiece) to form an intimidating pass rush. Keep an eye on Higdon, as he has a three-game sack streak. The secondary is led by a pair of safeties in Yam Banks (5 INT, 1 TD, 10 PD) and Jaden Voisin (76 tackles, 2 INT). They will play a significant role in this bowl game as they face the second-rated passing attack in the country.

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