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Papa John's Bowl Preview
by Matt Fargo - 12/16/2007
Southern Mississippi will be playing its 10th bowl game in the last 11 years under head coach Jeff Bower who announced two weeks ago that he is stepping down after 17 years of leading the Golden Eagles. The season was a big disappointment as they came into the season as the favorites to win the C-USA East only to find themselves finishing fourth. Southern Mississippi won five of its final seven games to become bowl eligible but surprisingly, those two losses came at home.
Cincinnati quietly had a great season, going 9-3 with the three losses coming by a combined 16 points. Most of the wins were big as only two of the nine victories were by fewer than 21 points. So what are the Bearcats doing in the Papa Johns Bowl? Good question. Cincinnati could come out flat thinking they should be elsewhere instead of playing three days before Christmas. However, head coach Brian Kelly is a great motivator, and that is why his name is coming up in the Michigan vacancy talks.
Why Southern Mississippi Will Cover
This team will be highly motivated to send Bower out with a victory which would be the 4th straight bowl victory for the Golden Eagles. While the season can be considered a disappointment, a lot of the troubles were due to injuries at quarterback and now that Jeremy Young is healthy, the Golden Eagles have some consistency on their side. The rushing offense carried the team as they finished 22nd in the country led by Damion Fletcher who finished 14th in the nation with 119.3 ypg.
The passing game will be getting another weapon back as senior receiver Chris Johnson will be seeing action for the first time since breaking his right arm at Marshall on October 21st. This could greatly benefit the Golden Eagles considering that Cincinnati finished 105th in the country in passing defense. On the flip side, Southern Mississippi once again had a solid defense and although it wasnâ€™t as good as past units, it did a decent enough job to take the pressure off of the offense.
Why Cincinnati Will Cover
Cincinnati cannot be feeling sorry for itself. The goal was to reach the Sun Bowl, which went to South Florida, or the Meineke Car Care Bowl, which went to Connecticut but a bowl is a bowl and the Bearcats know it is still important for the program to take that next step. Cincinnati will be looking to win its 10th game which would be just the 2nd time, and 1st since 1951, in school history for that to happen. The Bearcats finished 14th in scoring offense so this team is capable of putting up a lot of points to cover the big number.
The goal is to stop the Golden Eagles running attack and Cincinnati has the ability as it finished 15th in the nation in rushing defense. Pittsburgh put up 260 yards while West Virginia put up 295 yards but no other FCS team was able to crack the 100-yard barrier. As good as the scoring offense was, the scoring defense was even better, as it finished 11th in the country, allowing 18.6 ppg. The Bearcats were also great with taking care of the ball as they finished third in the nation in turnover margin at +1.42 per game.
**Southern Mississippi is 0-6 ATS as an underdog over the last two seasons.
**Cincinnati is 12-2 ATS after one or more consecutive ATS wins over the last two seasons.