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Western Kentucky vs South Alabama Prediction, Odds and College Football Betting Picks for New Orleans Bowl

There is only one college football bowl game scheduled for Wednesday, but the matchup is a doozy. Two of the toughest Group of 5 teams will go head-to-head in the New Orleans Bowl, as the Western Kentucky Hilltoppers face the South Alabama Jaguars. Both teams figure to be fired up to play after falling just short of reaching their respective conference title games. The Western Kentucky vs South Alabama odds and college football betting picks give a small edge to the Sun Belt Conference representative.

The following game preview provides the college football betting odds, trends and FEI Index ratings before sharing our official Western Kentucky vs South Alabama prediction for the New Orleans Bowl matchup.

Western Kentucky vs South Alabama Prediction | College Football Betting Picks

New Orleans Bowl
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (8-5, 6-2 CUSA) vs. South Alabama Jaguars (10-2, 7-1 SBC)
Date: Wednesday, December 21, 2022
Time: 9 p.m. EST
Venue: Caesars Superdome — New Orleans, LA
Coverage: ESPN

Early in the season, Western Kentucky failed to score a Power 5 upset over Indiana despite taking an 11-point lead into the fourth quarter. In many ways, that result foreshadowed the Hilltoppers’ conference finish. Although WKU finished tied for second in the league standings, an ugly home loss to North Texas kept the ‘Toppers out of the Conference USA title game. After initially entering the transfer portal, quarterback Austin Reed opted to return to the program. He is expected to play in the New Orleans Bowl.

South Alabama also nearly pulled off a major upset in non-conference play, ultimately losing to UCLA by a single point. The Jaguars’ only other loss this season came at the hands of eventual Sun Belt Conference Champion Troy. That setback was all that prevented USA from winning the West Division and reaching the title game. The Jags’ offense certainly packs a punch. QB Carter Bradley was second in the Sun Belt in passing while La’Damian Webb surpassed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground.

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Carter Bradley Western Kentucky vs South Alabama prediction odds college football betting picks New Orleans Bowl game predictions
Credit: Bobby McDuffie/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Western Kentucky vs South Alabama College Football Betting Picks and Odds

All college football betting odds for Western Kentucky vs South Alabama can be found at BetOnline Sportsbook.

Moneyline: WKU: (+160) | USA: (-180)
Point Spread: WKU: +4 (-110) | USA: -4 (-110)
Total: 57 — Over: (-110) | Under: (-110)

College Football FEI Ratings

The following table shares the Fremeau Efficiency Index rankings for both teams involved in this New Orleans Bowl matchup. The purpose of the FEI ratings is to represent the per-possession scoring advantage that a team would be expected to have on a neutral field against an average opponent. The rankings for offense and defense are out of 131 total FBS-level teams.

Fremeau Efficiency Index (FEI) ratings are froFootball Outsiders

TeamOverall FEI (Rk)OFEI (Rk)DFEI (Rk)
Western Kentucky.09 (62).15 (55).09 (56)
South Alabama.09 (61)-.10 (73).26 (40)
  • Hilltoppers are 5-0 ATS in their last five games against teams with a winning record.
  • The UNDER is 6-1-1 in the Hilltoppers’ last eight games overall.
  • Hilltoppers are 6-1 ATS in their last seven games following an ATS loss.
  • Jaguars are 4-0 ATS in their last four non-conference games.
  • The OVER is 3-0-1 in the Jaguars’ last four games overall
  • Five of the Jaguars’ last six non-conference games have gone OVER the total.
  • Jaguars are 0-2 both straight up and ATS all-time in bowl games.

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Western Kentucky vs South Alabama Prediction | College Football Betting Picks

At one point, the Western Kentucky vs South Alabama odds climbed north of a full touchdown in the Jaguars’ favor. However, once Hilltoppers’ quarterback Austin Reed removed his name from the college football transfer portal, the spread came back down closer to the opening line of USA -3.5.

Given the season that Reed had, it’s easy to see why his status has swayed the New Orleans Bowl college football betting picks. After winning a national championship at Division II West Florida, Reed transferred to Western Kentucky last spring. The junior signal-caller stepped right into head coach Tyson Helton’s offense and thrived. Reed finished second in the country in passing yards (4,247) and fourth in touchdowns (36).

Unfortunately for the Hilltoppers, there are a number of other personnel challenges that will need to be overcome in Wednesday’s bowl game. Reed will be without one of his top targets as wideout Daewood Davis has already declared for the NFL Draft. The same can be said of Kahlef Hailassie, one of the top corners in Conference USA. WKU also lost its starting tight end and a pair of starters along the offensive line to the transfer portal.

Meanwhile, South Alabama’s roster has largely stayed intact heading into the bowl game. Given that the Jaguars are winless in two previous trips to the postseason (2014 and ’16), head coach Kane Wommack undoubtedly has his team buying into the mission that is to win the first bowl game in program history.

South Alabama is littered with experience on both sides of the football. This includes a defensive secondary that figures to be one of the tougher opponents Reed and WKU have gone against this season. The Jaguars’ offensive trio of Carter Bradley, La’Damian Webb and receiver Jalen Wayne is always a pleasure to watch and should be able to get the better of a shorthanded Hilltoppers’ defense.

SOUTH ALABAMA COVERS will be our official college football betting Western Kentucky vs South Alabama prediction for the New Orleans Bowl.

For what it’s worth, the ESPN Matchup Predictor gives Western Kentucky a 58.2% chance to win this game outright.

Bet: South Alabama -4 (-110 at BetOnline Sportsbook)

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