Game Preview: South Alabama

Texas State will travel to Alabama to face an equally matched Jaguars team in what looks like a duel to possibly secure the third and final Bowl spot for the Sun Belt. Here's our "Game Preview."

South Alabama comes into the match-up with one of the top ranked defenses in the Sun Belt and a Quarterback that is being evaluated to play on Sundays. The only question is which USA team will you see Saturday? The team that held a nine to three lead on Louisiana-Lafayette until the fourth quarter, or the team that was blown out by Arkansas State, 45-10

The Jaguars run a spread offense with multiple variations between shotgun and under center. Look for them to come out and try and establish the run, to make way for a few home run balls throughout the game. USA averages 376.1 yards of total offense per game along with 21 points.

The pass offense has struggled to be consistent this year for the Jaguars, ranking in the bottom three of the conference with 191.7 yards through the air per contest. USA is dead last in the Sun Belt in pass efficiency at 107.5 resulting from a low completion percentage (49.6).

Rushing the ball, South Alabama has done pretty well even after losing their lead back to an ACL tear in week 6 against Georgia State. The Jags are averaging 184.4 yards per game on the ground, now running a three headed system between two backs and their quarterback.

Defense is where USA has been able to hang their hat as they rank near the top in the conference in every defensive category minus interceptions. The Jags have the second best scoring defense (23.4), fourth ranked total defense (377.3 ypg), and the third ranked pass defense (201.3). USA operates out of a 4-2-5, with two very solid LB's holding down the middle, a great rusher off the edge, and two very solid players in the secondary.

Key players to watch

QB Brandon Bridge (Sr.) is a 6'5 205-pound dual threat quarterback who's bread and butter is the deep ball, but his long strides can hurt you if you give him a lane to run. Bridge has taken a hit in his completion percentage (51.5) as he takes so many shots down field, but still shows very impressive arm strength and good accuracy on the deep ball. One of his best characteristics is his strong legs in the pocket, and even looks Ben Roethlisberger-esque at times, shaking off would be tacklers and making plays down-field. He's thrown for ten touchdowns and only four interceptions on the season. He is coming back after missing a contest and a half with an ankle injury, he's been limited in practice all week but is expected to give it a go against Texas State.

WR ShaVarez Smith (Sr.) is a 6'1 210-pound threat on the outside that leads the team in scoring with 6 touchdowns. Look for Bridge and Smith to try and connect on some deep routes down the field as he has been able to break open for plays of 40 plus yards in four games this season. Smith uses his speed, decent height and strong frame to stretch the field and be a home run threat for the Jaguar offense.

MLB Maleki Harris (Sr.) is a 6'1 210-pound sideline to sideline type of player, who excels in pursuit, hitting the hole in a hurry, then punishing the ball carrier with his momentum. Harris recorded 14 tackles and two forced fumbles against Mississippi State earlier this season, so Bobcat ball carriers will have to beware.

DE Theo Rich (Sr.) is a 6'2 260-pound beast off the edge who leads the team in sacks (7) and TFL (10). Rich has the ability to play all over the line, and uses his good combination of strength and athleticism to get into the back field and disrupt opposing offenses.

S Terrell Bringham (Sr.) is a 6'0 195-pound ballhawk, who leads the team in tackles (71) and is tied for PBU's (7). Bringham uses speed and awareness to put himself in the right position to make plays.

Keys to Victory

Although the Bobcats started to show some promise through the air last week, this pass defense of USA looks really good, with 4 players in the Sun Belt's top ten for passes defended. Tyler Jones must avoid Theo Rich, and when he is asked to throw, make quick smart reads and protect the football. Texas State must remain balanced and get the option game going again that was so successful in previous weeks. This game will be up to the Bobcat offensive line and their ability to create holes and buy time for Tyler Jones.

Texas State defense is coming off of by far their most impressive showing this season, holding the number one offense in the Sun Belt to nearly half of their totals in points and yardage. The Bobcats must carry the intensity over to Mobile and get after QB Brandon Bridge. The game plan for the defense should be to pressure Bridge and contain Shavarez Smith. If Defensive end Michael Odiari and the rest of the Bobcat defense can get pressure on Bridge and bring him to the turf a few times this game, then the Bobcats have a strong chance at earning Bowl eligibility on Saturday.

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