Could South Alabama Be Big Easy Bowling?
The emergence of the Ragin' Cajuns could have the New Orleans Bowl looking for a new team
The Sun Belt bowl scene received quite the shakeup this weekend as Georgia State beat Coastal Carolina for their first-ever win over a ranked opponent. The win also took Coastal Carolina out of the conference title race in all likelihood, with App State controlling their own destiny.
For much of the year, many thought that the Chanticleers would be the first team selected from Sun Belt pool. However, losses to App State and Georgia State have the Chanticleers seemingly destined to stay at home and play in the Myrtle Beach Bowl.
For reference, one of the several ESPN-owned and operated bowls has the first pick of Sun Belt teams. Following them is the New Orleans Bowl. Once the crown jewel of the Sun Belt postseason, the bowl no longer has first choice, but is still one of the more tenured bowls in the Group of Five.
ESPN is likely to pick Louisiana or Appalachian State first depending on who wins the conference title game. Jaguars fans hoping for an excuse to go to the Big Easy will root for Louisiana in the Sun Belt title game.
If Louisiana wins, it's likely that the Camellia Bowl picks Louisiana who have never made an appearance at the venerable Cramton Bowl. If App State wins, the Mountaineers may be Sunshine State-bound for the Cure or Boca Raton bowls.
For Louisiana fans, Montgomery is a manageable trip at around six hours, making it a logical destination. This is where the Jaguars come in. Mobile is two hours away from New Orleans and the Jaguars have never made a trip to the New Orleans Bowl.
Jaguars fans probably desire a closer bowl destination as their last bowl appearance was in Tucson's Arizona Bowl. The opponent, 10-3 Air Force, was optimal, the location, at 1528 miles away was not.
South Alabama has only played in New Orleans in 2013 against Tulane, which was also in the Superdome. The game only drew 19, 414 in the cavernous stadium, but was on par with Tulane's other home games that year.
South Alabama's resume would not be on par with past New Orleans Bowl teams as in the 20 year history of the bowl, the Sun Belt champion or a division champ has played in the game all but once. South Alabama currently sits at 5-5 and is nowhere near contention for the league crown.
Yet, in bowl season, travel and geography play just as much a role as team prowess. Without Louisiana to pick from, South Alabama would likely draw just as much as the rest of the Sun Belt's bowl eligible teams. The Jaguars are way closer to the Big Easy than other bowl eligible teams like Troy and Georgia State.
This year has been a banner year for the South's best Jaguars, (sorry, Jacksonville) and it could have a memorable end in one of the country's most iconic venues. There is perhaps no better place for South Alabama to potentially win their first-ever bowl game.