Air Force vs. South Alabama prediction and game preview. Projecting who wins the NOVA® Home Loans Arizona Bowl between the Falcons and Jaguars.
Air Force vs. South Alabama – NOVA® Home Loans Arizona Bowl Preview
When: Friday, December 30 – 5:30 p.m. ET
Where: Arizona Stadium, Tucson, AZ
Broadcast: Campus Insiders
Air Force and South Alabama meet for the first time in the NOVA® Home Loans Arizona Bowl. It’s been another outstanding season for Troy Calhoun, who’s won at least eight games in seven of his 10 years at the Academy. The Falcons will head into Tucson on a tear, winners of five straight, capped by a season-ending upset that denied Boise State a shot of playing in the Mountain West Championship Game. Air Force is also this season’s winner of the Commander-in-Chief’s Trophy by virtue of beating rivals Navy and Army.
It sure has been a strange year in Mobile. South Alabama has defeated the SEC’s Mississippi State and Mountain West champ San Diego State … yet went 2-6 in Sun Belt play. By beating New Mexico State on Saturday, the Jags qualified for their second bowl in school history.
What To Know About Air Force
This is a typical Calhoun team—fourth nationally in rushing, rugged defensively and disciplined in all phases. And the offense didn’t skip a beat after starting QB Nate Romine was lost for the year in early November. The Arion Worthman era is off to a fine start, aided by the power running of backs Jacobi Owens, Timothy McVey and D.J. Johnson. However, Worthman is less polished as a passer than Romine.
On defense, the Falcons can be beaten over the top, allowing 22 touchdowns. But the run defense gets a ton of help from all-league safeties Weston Steelhammer and Brodie Hicks, and DE Ryan Watson and OLB Haji Dunn will spend a lot of time in the South Alabama backfield.
What to Know About South Alabama
There’s some star power in Mobile. However, consistency has eluded Joey Jones’ team, which is fittingly straddling the .500 mark. The hit-or-miss offense strives for balance. RB Xavier Johnson handled his role in the Week 14 bowl clincher, rushing for 154 yards and three scores. But turnover-prone QB Dallas Davis, who’s thrown more picks than touchdowns, has failed to fully utilize the talents of steady receivers Josh Magee and Kevin Kutchera and next-level TE Gerald Everett.
South Alabama won’t win games on defense, and allowing 4.9 yards a carry will be a particular worry against Air Force. Plus, top defender Randy Allen, who leads the Sun Belt with 18.5 tackles for loss, won’t do much upfield pursuing in Tucson.
Offense: Air Force. The Falcons are averaging 34 points per game, and the depth of their backfield keeps legs fresh and opposing defenses on their heels.
Defense: Air Force. The corners can be vulnerable, but will Davis be able to take advantage? The Falcons are physical and solid in the front seven, yielding just 3.4 yards per carry.
Special Teams: Air Force. The Falcons will have a big edge in special teams, led by McVey in the return game and all-league PK Luke Strebel, who has nailed 19-of-22 field goal attempts.
Coaching: Air Force. Calhoun is one of the steadiest, most underrated head coaches in America. The Academy has been fortunate to keep him aboard for the past decade.
Intangibles: Air Force. Unfamiliar with postseason games, South Alabama could be happy to just be here. Air Force, conversely, travels well and will treat the NOVA® Home Loans Arizona Bowl like just another business trip.
Matchup To Watch
Worthman vs. South Alabama LBs Roman Buchanan and Darrell Songy
Worthman has played very well, winning all of his starts and rushing for 603 yards and six scores in only five games. And the extra practice time this month will hasten his development running the offense. The onus falls on Buchanan and Songy, a Belgian-born Oregon State transfer, to quickly fill running lanes and wrap up the agile sophomore quarterback when he gets into space.
Air Force vs. South Alabama Betting Odds
Spread: No line as of post
Over/Under: No line as of post
Air Force vs. South Alabama Prediction
South Alabama has a lot of time to prepare for the Air Force triple-option. However, time and practice aren’t enough to address the Falcons’ advantages in physicality or system know-how. They’ll pound the USA front wall with a steady diet of Worthman and his bevy of north-south backs. The Jaguars will also struggle on offense, especially if Davis is forced to rally the troops in comeback mode. Air Force will roll, without too much resistance, to its second 10-win season in the last three years under Calhoun.
Air Force vs. South Alabama Score Prediction: Air Force 38, South Alabama 17
Campus Insiders Staff Picks
Brian Stultz: Air Force
Jeff Bartl: Air Force
Rich Cirminiello: Air Force
Robert Judin: Air Force
Jordan Cornette: Air Force