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Jacksonville State vs. Louisiana: Picks, best bets for New Orleans Bowl on Saturday

The Gamecocks and Ragin Cajuns will meet in the Superdome for this annual CUSA vs. Sun Belt bowl. Jax State enters its very first bowl game as a slight favorite.

Syndication: USA TODAY Dave Hyatt / USA TODAY NETWORK

The 2023 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl will take place this afternoon as the Jacksonville State Gamecocks will take on the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns in the Caesars Superdome. This bowl will kick off at 2:15 p.m. ET and will air on ESPN.

Jacksonville State (8-4, 6-2 CUSA) had a successful first season in FBS this year, holding its own in the newly restructured Conference USA. The offense ran through running back Malik Jackson, who racked up 860 rushing yards and seven touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, defensive lineman Chris Hardie led the way with 56 tackles, 8.5 sacks, and an interception. The Gamecocks were initially barred from postseason play due to FCS to FBS transition rules, but were able to become bowl eligible due to a shortage of six-win teams.

Louisiana (6-6) had an up-and-down season, but were able to get bowl eligible with a season-ending victory over Louisiana-Monroe. Quarterback Zeon Chriss was the triggerman for the Cajun offense before suffering a broken fibula in early November, opening the door for Chandler Fields to take over for the final month of the season. They also got plenty of production from running back Jacob Kibodi, who ran for 729 yards and seven touchdowns.

SP+ Rankings

Jacksonville State: 67 overall, 77 offense, 52 defense
Louisiana: 64 overall, 37 offense, 103 defense

List of injuries and players opting out of game

Jacksonville State

No injuries or transfers to report

Louisiana

QB Zeon Chriss - Out (Fibula)
RB Dre’Lyn Washington - Questionable (Personal)
S Cejae Caesar - Out (Transfer Portal)
LB Kendre Gant - Out (Transfer Portal
QB Chandler Fields - likely starter
RB Dre’lyn Washington - (undisclosed, did not play in last game)

ATS/Total

Against The Spread in 2023

Jacksonville State: 8-3-1 ATS
Louisiana: 5-7 ATS

Total in 2023

Jacksonville State: Over 5-7
Louisiana: Over 7-5

Team Pace

Jacksonville State: 2.82 plays per minute of offense
Louisiana: 2.21 plays per minute of offense

Odds at DraftKings Sportsbook

Spread: Jacksonville State -2.5
Total: 58
Moneyline: JSU -130, Louisiana +110

Opening line: Louisiana -1.5
Opening total: 57.5

Weather

Weather not a factor inside of the Superdome

Our Best Bet for the New Orleans Bowl

Jacksonville State -2.5

The New Orleans Bowl is practically the Ragin’ Cajun invitational as this is the program’s seventh appearance in the game since 2011. They always bring a large crowd to the Superdome to create a de-facto home environment.

With that being said, I think Jax State gets the job done in it’s very first bowl appearance. The Gamecocks are more balanced on both sides of the ball than the Cajuns and they are dealing with far less injuries/transfers. Plus head coach Rich Rodriguez has been to several bowl games, and should have his guys ready for this showdown.