Everything You Need to know for the 68 Ventures Bowl between Eastern Michigan and South Alabama

darren cooper
By:
Darren Cooper
21/12/2023/
NCAAF

Highlights

  • Eastern Michigan plays South Alabama Saturday in the 68 Ventures Bowl in Mobile on ESPN. Even though the game is at the Jaguars home stadium, as the MAC representative, the Eagles are listed as the home team.
  • Both teams went 6-6 this season and both teams have lost multiple key players who have opted out of playing.
  • Eastern Michigan is seeking back-to-back victories in bowl games for the first time in school history.

College football bowl game season ramps up this weekend and Michigan sportsbooks have turned their eyes to Dixie for the 68 Ventures Bowl (they are a home-building company) as Eastern Michigan takes on Sun Belt Conference representative South Alabama.

Have they ever played before? No way.

Has the transfer portal changed the way both teams will look since the regular season finale? Absolutely.

Will it still be a memorable experience and plenty of fun? No doubt.

Since this match-up was announced, the betting line hasn’t shifted much. BetRivers has the Jaguars as 16.5-point favorites with EMU +540 on the moneyline. Caesars has the Jaguars 17-point favorites. Four of the Eagles six losses have been by more than 17 points.

Who’s Out?

In 2023, the big part about bowl games – and betting bowl games – is knowing who is playing and who is not.

Eastern Michigan has lost more guys total, but South Alabama has lost more key dudes.

The Jaguars lost leading wide receiver Caullin Lacy to the transfer portal. He’s taking his 1,136 yards to Louisville (he’s legit). Jaguars lead running back La’Damian Webb, who started at Jones College, then went to Florida State, then back to Jones, then maybe Troy, then South Alabama, won’t play with an injury.

Eastern Michigan lost star LB Chase Kline who wants to prep for the NFL Draft, starting quarterback Austin Smith entered the transfer portal, starting offensive lineman Zack Conti (portal to Southern Miss) and edge rusher Mikah Coleman (portal to Cincinnati).

So Who’s In? 

The Eagles will likely turn to quarterback Ike Udengwu III behind center. It won’t be his first action of the season. Udengwu played in three games and threw for 100 yards. That’s not much, but it’s something. Eastern Michigan still has its two top running backs in seniors Samson Evans and Jaylon Jackson.

But offense is not the Eagles strength. They rank 114th in the nation in scoring.

South Alabama quarterback Carter Bradley will play. He threw for 2,660 yards and 19 touchdowns. The Jaguars offense scored 30.9 points this season, but remember, has lost its top wide receiver and running back.

Making The Prediction 

South Alabama went 4-8 against the spread this season, while Eastern Michigan was 6-5-1. Both teams were 6-6 over/under.

Bowl games now really are like this strange netherworld for college football teams, almost like preseason games where there are players who get to play who ordinarily won’t. It becomes a test of your back-ups and honestly, who’s still interested in playing football.

This usually leads to plenty of points being scored, because it’s easier to change up offense than defense, so I like the over, also Evans has scored seven times in the Eagles last eight games. He’s +125 to score on Saturday, but if they get close to the end zone, he’s the man. South Alabama should roll, they’re playing at home and they have a clear advantage at QB.

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.