Southern Miss vs. South Alabama
Line: Southern Miss -13.5
Where: M.M. Roberts Stadium
When: Thursday, 9/3, at 8:00 p.m. ET
The first FBS game of the season kicks off tonight to officially get college football underway in 2020. Southern Miss is set to face South Alabama as a 13.5-point home favorite.
As you can see here with the odds history from our friends over at VegasInsider, the Golden Eagles were favored by 15 to 15.5 earlier in the week. However, the number dropped below the key number of 14 Wednesday afternoon. Also, the total moved from 53 or 53.5 up to 55.5 (and there are even a few 56s on the board) this morning.
The Golden Eagles are coming off a 7-6 season, while the Jaguars went 2-10 in 2019. So. Miss is favored by seven for first-half wagers, while gamblers can back South Alabama as +425 money-line underdogs to pull the outright upset.
The Jaguars performed well as double-digit ‘dogs last season, going 5-1 against the spread in six such spots. They went 3-1 ATS in their last four games started by quarterback Desmond Trotter, who is now a redshirt sophomore. He completed 56-of-97 passes for 820 yards and eight touchdowns, only throwing two interceptions.
South Alabama is having to replace running back Tra Minter, who was the school’s career leader in all-purpose yards and led the Sun Belt in yards per game in 2019. Redshirt-sophomore RB Carlos Davis will move into the starting role in 2020. He averaged 4.3 yards per carry on 60 attempts last year, scoring two touchdowns.
Redshirt sophomore Jared Wilson is also expected to play a key role after carrying the ball 49 times for 176 yards last season.
The Jaguars were one of the worst offensive teams in college football last season, ranking No. 115 in total offense (330.3 ypg) and No. 122 in scoring (18.4 points per game). Offensive coordinator Kenny Edenfield is in his third season on the job.
The offense scored at least 27 points in three of its final four games (with the ‘over’ cashed at a 3-1 clip) of the 2019 season after Trotter took over at QB. They return four of their five starters along the offensive line and six of the top seven wide receivers.
Southern Miss had four key players decide to opt out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns. Linebacker Racheem Boothe, defensive end Jacques Turner, wide receiver Jaylond Adams and running back Steven Anderson will all be out.
Turner was a First-Team All-Conference USA selection in 2018 and has made 22 career starts. Boothe has made 31 starts and was a third-team All-CUSA selection last season. Turner had 13 tackles for loss in 2019 and Boothe recorded 49 tackles in nine games.
The Golden Eagles’ defense lost their two best defenders to graduation, as D.Q. Thomas and Patrick Whittington were both seniors. Their pass defense was their biggest deficiency on that side of the ball, ranking No. 122 in yards allowed per pass attempt.
Jack Abraham will start at QB for Southern Miss. He completed 67.9 percent of his passes last season for 3,496 yards, but the fifth-year senior had a mediocre 19/15 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The Golden Eagles also return a veteran at the RB position in Kevin Perkins. He rushed for 547 yards on 103 attempts, finding the end zone three times.
Leading wide receiver Quez Watkins is now a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and Adams is sitting out this season, so senior Tim Jones will be a key weapon in the passing game. Jones caught 73 balls for 902 yards and three touchdowns in 2019.
Southern Miss has covered the spread in its last five season openers. The Golden Eagles have won seven of their last eight home games and the total has gone ‘under’ in their last six games.
The Pick: South Alabama +14 (-120 buying the hook)
South Alabama was a completely different team in the final four games of the 2019 season after it made the move to Trotter at QB. Southern Miss lost a ton of experience and talent on the defensive side of the ball and will be replacing some key pieces on offense as well.
The Jaguars bring a veteran offensive line and a talented young quarterback into this game. They were money makers as double-digit ‘dogs last year, as we previously noted. I think they’ll do enough to hang around and cash for us in the first FBS game of the year.