The Armed Forces Bowl starts at 10:30 a.m. in Fort Worth, Texas on Saturday January 4. That doesn’t leave much time for the fans that did travel to the game to tailgate and many of them will probably be hungover from Friday night. The players will have to create their own energy, so the onus is on the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and Tulane Green Wave to make something of this one.
Tulane is laying a touchdown with a total of 56.5 for this Conference USA vs. AAC clash. Tulane rolled over Louisiana last year in the Cure Bowl for the program’s first bowl triumph in 16 years. Despite a lot of reported interest in head coach Willie Fritz, he will still be there for the bowl game unless something changes between when this was written (Dec 21) and this game on January 4.
Southern Miss should be motivated here. The Eagles won six games last season, but were bypassed for a bowl game as there were more six-win teams than bowl spots. The Eagles went 6-5 and had a game cancelled by a hurricane against Appalachian State that could have gotten SoMiss into a bowl. Of course, the more likely outcome is that App State would have won and Southern Miss would have been 6-6 anywhere. Nevertheless, they didn’t get to go bowling last year, so being back in one should spark some joy.
It had better because defending Tulane is tricky. The Green Wave did throw a little more often this season than they did last season, but that was because they trailed more often. The ground and pound was still the preferred method of moving the chains for the Wave and they did that with 5.3 yards per carry. QB Justin McMillan threw for 2,229 and rushed for another 704 over the course of the season. He did throw 10 interceptions, however, and got sacked 25 times for 173 yards of loss.
Corey Dauphine ripped off 8.1 yards per carry on his 70 attempts and had 121 more yards than primary running back Darius Bradwell had on 101 carries. Dauphine started to get more touches late in the year, as he set a season high with 11 against UCF and had at least 10 in three of the last four games. He should be a big part of the offense for the bowl game. On the strength of that running game, Tulane was 37th with 6.19 yards per play.
Southern Miss was 44th with 6.13 yards per play and that was even with a turnover-prone year from QB Jack Abraham. Abraham threw 15 interceptions to go along with his 18 touchdowns. He also completed 67.5% of his passes to his own team for over 3,300 yards. Quez Watkins is a name you could very well hear on Sundays. He has 55 catches for 1,024 yards. He also missed the first two games of the season. For now, he’ll play in the bowl and he hasn’t announced anything about his future, but he was close to being academically ineligible for the season, so he may head for the NFL.
Tim Jones and Jaylond Adams also combined for 114 catches for over 1,300 yards. This is a well-oiled passing machine and Tulane’s pass defense will be tested. USM only rushed for 3.6 yards per carry, though Kevin Perkins and De’Michael Harris combined for over 1,000 yards. The pass should be the focus for Southern Miss and Tulane here. Tulane’s pass defense ranked in top 40 in yards per pass attempt allowed.
The Southern Miss defense gave up some big plays, but also tied for 18th in the country in sacks with 36 over their 12 games. On the whole, the Eagles allowed 5.7 yards per play, but they were barely outside the top 20 in yards per carry allowed. Tulane allowed 5.51 yards per play, so their YPP diff is bigger than Southern Miss’s, which is why this line hasn’t really come down at all. It is also the reason why Tulane was a pretty popular sharp team throughout the season, despite that pedestrian record.
One huge difference between the two teams is that Tulane played the 62nd-ranked schedule per Sagarin, while Southern Miss played the 111th-ranked schedule.
Throw all of that in the hopper, plus some power ratings, and you get Tulane -7. Quite frankly, that might even be light when bettors start to hone in on that game. My line is 7.5 here for this one. It is a tough game to bet, though, because it could very well come down to turnovers. Southern Miss was -9 in turnover margin with 24 giveaways. Tulane was -4 with 18 giveaways.
Tulane is better at avoiding turnovers and has a great chance to control the line of scrimmage and the flow of this game. Both of these coaches are solid, but I’d likely give a slight nod to Fritz and his staff. With that in mind, it’s Tulane for me.
Pick: Tulane -7