New Orleans Bowl prediction, odds: Southern Miss vs. Louisiana-Lafayette
NEW ORLEANS (AP) — The New Orleans Bowl is Saturday (December 17, 2016) and its Southern Mississippi (6-6, Conference USA) vs. Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6, Sun Belt), 8 p.m. central.
TV channel: (ESPN)
Odds: Southern Miss by 5½.
Prediction: The Ragin’ Cajuns had gone to — and won — four straight New Orleans Bowls before missing last year’s. And it just was not the same without them … LOUISIANA-LAFAYETTE 30-24.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
Both teams had to win their final regular season games to get a post-season bid and don’t want to follow that with a loss that would doom them to end their 2016 campaign with losing record. Regional bragging rights are in play as well. Both campuses are less than a three-hour drive from New Orleans and these teams have played a lot over the years.
The ULL ground game, led by senior running back Elijah McGuire, vs. a Southern Miss defense that ranks in the top five nationally in terms of fewest first downs allowed and percentage of third-down stops.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Southern Miss: QB Nick Mullens is the Golden Eagles all-time passing leader with 11,648 yards. He is healthy after playing with an injured thumb earlier this season and then missing a couple late-season games with a concussion.
Louisiana-Lafayette: McGuire, a senior who has rushed more than 1,028 yards and seven TDs this season, has 4,213 yards rushing for his career, along with 1,376 career yards receiving.
FACTS & FIGURES
Southern Miss is in a bowl game for a second straight year under first-year coach Jay Hopson, but is trying to win a bowl for the first time since defeating Nevada in the 2011 Hawaii Bowl. … The Golden Eagles have played in the New Orleans Bowl four previous times, winning in 2004, 2005 and 2008 and losing in 2009. … Southern Miss needs a victory secure its 69th winning season in 100 years of football and to extend its winning streak over Louisiana-Lafayette to nine. … ULL QB Anthony Jennings is a former LSU starter who transferred last summer. He completed 61 percent of his passes this season for 2,083 yards and 11 TDs. … ULL senior WR Al Riles has a catch in 28 straight games since 2014. … UL Lafayette is playing in its fifth New Orleans Bowl in six years, and seniors are playing there for the third time. The Ragin Cajuns won the bowl game all four times, but had to vacate 2011 and 2013 victories because of self-reported NCAA recruiting violations. Officially, they remain 2012 and 2014 New Orleans Bowl champions.
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