There was a time when the college football bowl season culminated–and ended–on New Years’ Day. That is no longer the case. This year there are five post New Years Day bowl games not counting next Saturday’s FCS Championship Game in Frisco, Texas and the National Championship Game between Clemson and LSU on Monday, January 11. That makes the Alabama Bowl the final ‘real’ bowl game of the year and one that exists only because there’s no other football on the docket for Monday Night.
Unlike many of the ‘early’ bowl games that often feature entertaining matchups between competitively matched teams the Alabama Bowl has all the makings of a blowout. The 10-3 Ragin’ Cajuns of Louisiana-Lafayette will take on the 8-5 Miami-Ohio Red Hawks at Ladd-Peebles Stadium in Mobile, Alabama. Assuming that some LA-Lafayette fans will be willing to make the nearly 4 hour trip along the Gulf Coast on a post holiday Monday to attend the game the venue sure looks to favor the Ragin’ Cajuns. At the very least, they have much easier travel logistics than their opponents do traveling from Oxford, Ohio. There’s not going to be many Red Hawks fans willing to make the 11 hour trek down I-65 to attend the game live.
The pointspread definitely suggests a non-competitive matchup. Louisiana-Lafayette is a -14 point favorite over Miami-OH making them one of only five double digit chalk teams this bowl season. That doesn’t necessarily mean a blowout will actually transpire and it could end up as a surprisingly entertaining game. Double digit bowl favorites are just 2-2 this year but there’s little to suggest that the Red Hawks have the competitive tenacity necessary to cover this margin. Miami-OH started the season 2-4 SU/ATS but won 6 of their last 7 SU going 5-2 ATS including an upset victory as a +5.5 point underdog over Central Michigan in the MAC Championship game.
The ‘glass half full’ view is that the Red Hawks are a team with momentum but their early season struggle is a very salient component of this handicap. They have been beyond awful in non-conference games going 1-3 SU/ATS this year and 2-10 SU/ATS during the past three years. Another potential harbinger–they’ve been a decent underdog going 7-4 ATS in the role this year and 13-8 ATS L3 years. Now the bad news–they’ve been an awful double digit underdog going 0-4 SU/ATS in that role during the last three seasons. Miami-OH played three ‘Big Five’ opponents this year losing by a combined margin of 149-32 or an average of 39 PPG for those of you scoring at home.
The statistical ‘tale of the tape’ is pretty ugly as well. Miami-OH has the #92 ranked scoring margin in FBS and the #122 ranked total offense. They’ve got the #96 ranked scoring offense (24.7 PPG) and the #114 ranked passing offense. Louisiana-Lafayette averages 38.8 PPG (#9 nationally) and ranks #8 in total offense and #7 in rushing offense. Miami-OH had a decent defense by MAC standards but there’s not much reason to think they’ll be able to shut down the Ragin’ Cajun offensive attack.