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2023 68 Ventures Bowl Game Preview: Eastern Michigan Eagles vs. South Alabama Jaguars

No matter how many times the name changes, the MAC/Sun Belt combo remains the same in this Montgomery-based matchup.

NCAA Football: South Alabama at Oklahoma State Bryan Terry-USA TODAY Sports

The Eastern Michigan Eagles (6-6) travel down to Mobile, Alabama this weekend, where they will face the South Alabama Jaguars (6-6) in the 68 Ventures Bowl. This will be the third bowl game in a row for the Eagles, and the fourth bowl appearance for the Jaguars in the program’s short history.

Last year, the Eagles got their second-ever bowl win by defeating San Jose State in a rematch reminiscent of their historic 1987 bowl victory. The Jaguars lost to Western Kentucky last year in the New Orleans Bowl. The Eagles will be looking for their first back-to-back bowl wins in program history. The Jaguars will be looking for their first bowl win in their program’s history.


Game notes

  • Time and date: Saturday, December 23rd at 7 p.m. Eastern time
  • Network: ESPN/ESPN+ (A valid subscription is required for viewing for both channels.)
  • Location: Hancock Whitney Stadium in Mobile, Alabama
  • Gambling considerations: South Alabama is favored by 17 points, with an over/under of 44.5, per DraftKings.
  • All-time series: First-ever meeting

The Eagles have scored an average of 20 points per game while they have given up an average of 24 points per game. The Eagles aerial attack is in question, as the team’s starter, Austin Smith, announced his intent to enter the transfer portal. The likeliest option to start under center is Ike Udengwu III (13-of-28, 100 yards, two interceptions), who made appearances in three contests in the 2023 season. The rushing attack is split between Samson Evans and Jaylon Jackson and each have around 50 yards per game. The receiving corps is split mostly between Tanner Knue, J.B. Mitchell III and Hamze El-Zayat. All three have around the same yardage.

The Jaguars have scored an average of 30 points per game while allowing an average of 22 points per game. They are led by Carter Bradley, who is a familiar face to the Eagles as he is a transfer from Toledo. He had a 68 percent completion rate and averaged 241 yards per game, throwing 19 touchdowns and seven interceptions. The Jaguar rushing attack is led by La’Damian Webb who averages around 90 yards per game. South Alabama has a clear leader in the receiving corps in the form of Caullin Lacy and he averages 110 yards per game.

The Eagles defense has allowed 178 rushing yards per game and 205 passing yards per game. They have averaged a turnover per game. They still have been fairly effective in scoring defense though. They average about two sacks per game. So the Eagle defense hasn’t been particularly flashy but effective if you boil it down to their true mission.

The Jaguars have allowed 117 rushing yards per game and 209 yards in the air. They have averaged about two turnovers per game and about 2.5 sacks per game. Again, they have been pretty effective in scoring defense.

Again, on paper these teams look pretty evenly matched. As a result, I think it is going to come down to the team that has better ball control.

On that side of the equation, the Eagles have given up the ball fewer times. But when you look at the team that has generated turnovers, that comes in the favor of the Jaguars. So that might end up being a wash. I think it is going to come down to the team that makes fewer mistakes. Given all that, I would say that since it is in fact a home game for the Jaguars, they will likely squeak by with the win but the Eagles have built a reputation as road warriors, so I will say it will be a roll of the dice.