DEC. 20, 9:15 P.M. ET, MONTGOMERY, ALA., CRAMTON BOWL (ESPN)
SOUTH ALABAMA BREAKDOWN
Season highlights: There was no South Alabama football program for seven decades. So to be here today, readying for a bowl game after just five seasons of preparation, is astounding. Coach Joey Jones started out small in the FCS for three years before jumping to the FBS in 2012. Now he’s 6-6 with wins against Kent State, Idaho and Troy. Though it’s hard to think of losses as highlights, it was impressive to see South Alabama enter the second half against South Carolina down only a touchdown. That the Jaguars came back in the final game of the regular season with two touchdowns in the final six minutes and lost to Navy by just two points is even more so.
Season lowlights: No matter how you slice it, finishing the season 1-4 is a tough pill to swallow, even if two of those losses came against established programs like South Carolina and Navy. Failing to score more than 11 points against Louisiana-Lafayette or Arkansas State was disheartening for Jones. The toughest loss was to reigning Sun Belt champ Louisiana-Lafayette, when South Alabama gave up 13 unanswered points in the second half and lost.
Player to watch: You don’t know quarterback Brandon Bridge's name, but chances are you will soon. The NFL already does, as a matter of fact. The under-the-radar Canadian prospect has the prototypical build at 6-foot-5 and 235 pounds. He’s athletic, too, with a 40-yard dash in the neighborhood of 4.6 seconds. He struggles with accuracy, completing just 51.9 percent of his passes, but he’s thrown for 1,648 yards, 14 touchdowns and six interceptions in an offense that leans toward running the football. The Jaguars notched 124 more carries than pass attempts.
Motivation factor: When it’s a first, you better be ready. Such is the case for South Alabama as it makes its first bowl appearance, despite being bowl-eligible last season. That the Jags were snubbed in 2013 should play a role in how the team comes out this time around. -- Alex Scarborough
vs.BOWLING GREEN BREAKDOWN
Season highlights: James Knapke's touchdown pass with nine seconds remaining gave the Falcons a 45-42 upset win against Indiana in the third week of the season. The win looked even better for Bowling Green when the Hoosiers beat Missouri seven days later. The MAC East champs started October with another thrilling finish against Buffalo, a 36-35 victory that included a score with just over two minutes remaining. The Falcons' best conference win of the season came against Ohio.
Season lowlights: Dino Babers' career at Bowling Green got off to a rocky start when his team allowed 69 points in a season-opening loss to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers set a school record with 569 passing yards against the Falcons. Bowling Green ranks 101st nationally in scoring defense this season -- a number that was also weighed down by giving up 68 points to Wisconsin (and five touchdowns to Melvin Gordon) in late September.
Player to watch: Freshman wide receiver Roger Lewis was on the receiving end of Knapke's game-winning touchdown at Indiana. He’s been one of the bright spots for the Falcons’ offense. He finished the regular season with 69 catches for 956 yards and five scores.
Motivation factor: This will be Baber’s first bowl game as a head coach. He did take FCS Eastern Illinois to the playoffs in his two seasons coaching the Panthers. The young Falcons offense will get another chance to shine on a bigger stage, and perhaps prove it can hang with a Power 5 program like it did against Indiana. -- Dan Murphy