RAYCOM MEDIA CAMELLIA BOWL STORYLINES
1. The inaugural Camellia Bowl marks the first ever bowl appearance for South Alabama, which started its football program in 2009. The Jaguars will travel to nearby Montgomery, Ala., to face Bowling Green, the Mid-American Conference East Division champions, who lost 51-17 to Northern Illinois in the MAC title game. The Falcons are making their third straight bowl appearance and 12th overall.
2. Both teams struggled down the stretch, with South Alabama losing four of its final five games and Bowling Green dropping three straight. The Jaguars recorded wins over Kent State, Idaho and Troy, but they ended the regular season with a 42-40 loss to Navy. Bowling Green’s best victory came against Indiana on Sept. 13, when the Falcons rallied for a 45-42 win.
3. Bowling Green allowed 68 points in a Sept. 20 loss to Wisconsin, which helps explain why the team ranks 106th nationally in scoring defense. South Alabama quarterback Brandon Bridge could have a big game against a Falcons defense that ranks last in the MAC in pass defense (292.4 yards per game). Bridge, a 6-5, 220-pound senior, has thrown for 1,648 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions.
TV: 9:15 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: South Alabama -2.5
ABOUT SOUTH ALABAMA (6-6, 5-3 Sun Belt): Offensive coordinator Robert Matthews was fired at the end of the regular season, and it’s unclear who will be calling plays in Montgomery for a unit that averages 22.1 points. Wide receiver Shavarez Smith has eight touchdown receptions for the Jaguars, who joined the Sun Belt Conference in 2012. Defensive end Theo Rich (eight sacks) and safety Terrell Brigham (101 tackles) lead the defense, which held opponents to 25.8 points per game.
ABOUT BOWLING GREEN (7-6, 5-3 MAC): The Falcons opened the season by allowing 569 passing yards in a 59-31 loss to Western Kentucky, but first-year coach Dino Babers’ squad responded by winning five of its next six games. Bowling Green entered the MAC title game against Northern Illinois averaging 30.8 points, but the Falcons were held to 287 yards and committed four turnovers in the 34-point loss. Freshman wide receiver Roger Lewis (956 yards) and running back Travis Greene (10 TDs) lead the Falcons’ fast-paced offense.
PREDICTION: South Alabama 27, Bowling Green 24