CFB: Part 1 of Michigan vs. Alabama comes in the 68 Ventures Bowl in Mobile

darren cooper
By:
Darren Cooper
05/12/2023/
NCAAF

Highlights

  • After finishing 6-6 this season, Eastern Michigan is in a bowl game for the third straight year.
  • The Eagles will technically be the home team as the representatives from the MAC, but the game will be played in South Alabama’s home stadium.
  • The 68 Ventures Bowl one of two post-season college football games pitting schools from Alabama and Michigan, this one has far lesser stakes.

There’s another Michigan vs. Alabama football battle coming up.

College football bowl season begins Dec. 16, and while most eyes are focused on No. 1 Michigan in the Rose Bowl Jan. 1 against the Crimson Tide, Eastern Michigan will be the first (and only other) Michigan college in a bowl game when it takes on South Alabama on Dec. 23 at 7 p.m. on ESPN.

It’s the 68 Ventures Bowl – they’re a home building company – that’s the latest name for the bowl game in Mobile, which includes the Mobile Bowl, GMAC Bowl, GoDaddy Bowl and Dollar General Bowl over the years.

Michigan sportsbooks already have odds and props on each one of the 43 college football bowl games (yes, that’s a lot). DraftKings lists the Eagles as 16-point underdogs, while BetMGM has them at 15.5.

A Road Bowl Game 

The Eagles drew the unfortunate straw of having to play South Alabama at its home stadium for the 2023 68 Ventures Bowl. This will be the Eagles six bowl game in last eight years. They are 2-5 all-time in bowl games, weirdly, both of those wins came over San Jose State, including a win in last year’s Famous Idaho Potato Bowl.

South Alabama has never won a bowl game in its history, but has never played a ‘home’ bowl game either. The Jaguars are 0-3 all-time in bowls, including a 44-23 loss to Western Kentucky in last year’s New Orleans Bowl.

Eastern Michigan played in Mobile (it was then called the Lending Tree Bowl) in 2021, getting dominated by Liberty, 56-20, in front of a crowd of 15,186.

How Did the Eagles Get Here? 

Eastern Michigan didn’t win the Michigan MAC trophy (Western Michigan did), but the Eagles did win its final two games of the season to get to 6-6 and qualify for a bowl. 

In his first year as a starter, Eagles quarterback Austin Smith has thrown for 1,775 yards and nine touchdowns this season, and running back Samson Evans leads EMU with 635 yards and 12 touchdown runs. 

But the strength of the Eagles is a defense that allowed 24 points a season and forced 18 turnovers. Linebacker Chase Kline is third in the nation with 143 tackles. 

Let’s Meet the Jaguars 

The Jaguars, who also go by U.S.A., joined the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012. Hancock Whitney Stadium, which seats 25,450, and is the home of the Jaguars and the 68 Ventures Bowl opened in 2020.

The Jaguars were 6-5 before losing to Texas State in their season finale. Quarterback Carter Bradley has thrown for 2,660 yards and 19 TD, and has a top target in wide receiver Caullin Lacy. Lacy had eight 100-yard receiving games and two touchdowns in the Jaguars shocking win over Big 12 conference finalist Oklahoma State.

The Eagles defense ranked 34st in the nation against the pass, but 111th against the run. South Alabama will have a distinct homefield advantage in this one.

Born and raised in Louisiana, Darren Cooper has a fond appreciation for bayous, Mardi Gras beads and the sports betting industry. Darren has worked for multiple print and online publications since 1998, primarily as a sports columnist in the Northeast. He’s covered a Super Bowl (it was a blowout), the World Series (same) and the NBA Draft (man, those guys are tall). For the last few years he’s dug deep into the sports gambling industry as it exploded across America, learning how the legal sausage is made and how while all the sportsbooks look the same, they all have different identities and styles. He’s learned to always bet within his means -- and take the under. When not in front of his computer creating, Darren spends time with his three boys. He runs, reads and is always looking for the next big thing to write about.