The No. 15-ranked Coastal Carolina Chanticleers are set to host the South Alabama Jaguars on Saturday night for a pivotal Sun Belt matchup. Despite residing in the same conference, this will be just the second meeting ever between the two schools. South Alabama won the first and only matchup in 2018 by a score of 31-28, ruining Coastal Carolina's chances for bowl eligibility.
South Alabama (3-3, 2-1 SBC) enters Saturday's matchup a little worse for the wear after suffering their first conference loss of the season against Georgia Southern on the road last Thursday night. The Jaguars held a 17-10 lead entering the fourth quarter, but the Georgia Southern ground game proved to be too much in the end, resulting in a 24-17 loss for South Alabama. It also snapped the Jaguars' seven-game win streak against the Eagles. The Jaguars will now try to regroup as they hit the road again, looking to play the role of spoiler against the heavily favored Chanticleers.
Coastal Carolina (6-0, 4-0 SBC) continues to flex its muscles after being picked to finish dead last in the Sun Belt East before the start of the season. The Chanticleers went on the road and completely dismantled division foe Georgia State last week in a 51-0 blowout. Coastal racked up 530 yards of total offense in the win, while the "Black Swarm" defense had a banner day, shutting down a Georgia State offense that entered the game leading the Sun Belt in scoring (42 ppg). The impressive victory also catapulted the Chanticleers into the top 15 in the national polls, the highest-ranking ever for a Sun Belt team. They will look to keep the momentum rolling into Saturday night's home tilt against South Alabama in a bid to keep their perfect season intact.
South Alabama at No. 15 Coastal Carolina
Kickoff: Saturday, Nov. 7 at 8 p.m. ET
Spread: Coastal Carolina -18
When South Alabama Has the Ball
The passing game is undoubtedly South Alabama's bread and butter on the offensive side of the football. The Jaguars have alternated between quarterbacks Desmond Trotter (69 percent completion rate, 944 yards, eight touchdowns, and two interceptions) and Chance Lovertich (56 percent completion rate, 607 yards, five touchdowns, and two interceptions), riding the hot hand throughout the season. Right now, that hot hand belongs to Trotter, who will likely be under center on Saturday night. Trotter will have a pair of talented wide receivers at his disposal in Jalen Tolbert (32 receptions, 524 yards, 5 touchdowns) and Kawaan Baker (32, 508, 6), both of which average more than 15 yards per catch. Pass protection has been an issue for a South Alabama offensive line that has surrendered 18 sacks, which doesn't bode well against a potent Coastal Carolina pass rush that has already generated 20 sacks this season. The Jaguars will face a stiff challenge through the air in general against a Chanticleers defense that is giving up just 163 passing yards per game (8th in FBS), with eight interceptions to their credit.
The Chanticleers can be vulnerable against the run, allowing 142 yards per game on the ground. Unfortunately, running the football isn't exactly South Alabama's strong suit. Feature running back Carlos Davis has been solid, rushing for team-high 513 yards and a pair of scores on 117 carries. However, the Jaguars are collectively averaging just 123 rushing yards per game (87th in FBS), at 3.2 yards per carry.
When Coastal Carolina Has the Ball
Quarterback Grayson McCall leads a high-powered Coastal Carolina offensive attack that is averaging 40 points and 442 yards per game. The redshirt freshman signal-caller has been nothing short of phenomenal so far this season, completing 69 percent of his passes for 1,184 yards with 15 touchdown passes to just one interception. He also ranks in the top five nationally in passing efficiency (201.80) and yards per attempt (10.7). Wide receiver Jaivon Heiligh (30 receptions, 515 yards, 6 touchdowns) headlines a solid group of pass-catchers. And the offensive line has done well to allow just five sacks this season. That group should hold up nicely again on Saturday against a South Alabama pass rush that has just eight sacks. McCall and Co. shouldn't have much trouble through the air against a Jaguar defense giving up 244 passing yards per game (65th in FBS).
The Chanticleers should fare well on the ground as well. Coastal Carolina is averaging 198 rushing yards per game, with 15 touchdowns on the ground through six games. They feature a dangerous four-pronged rushing attack, spearheaded by running back CJ Marable (93 attempts, 353 yards, 5 touchdowns). Completing the formidable foursome in the backfield are running backs Reese White (39, 228, 3) and Shermari Jones (43, 208, 2), along with McCall (48, 199, 4). They will be paired against a middle-of-the-road South Alabama run defense that allows 153 rushing yards per game. The Jaguars have already surrendered 15 rushing touchdowns this season as well.
The Jaguars' strength on offense lies in the passing game. The problem is that the Coastal Carolina defense isn't prone to giving up much through the air. And the South Alabama defense is going to have a difficult time slowing down a potent Coastal offense that seems to get better each week. South Alabama isn't a bad football team, but the Jaguars will likely be in over their heads on the road against the red-hot Chanticleers. Coastal Carolina keeps things rolling with an easy victory at home to preserve its unbeaten season.
Prediction: Coastal Carolina 38, South Alabama 17
Podcast: Week 10 Preview and Predictions
— Written by Rob McVey, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @Rob_UTVOLS.
(Top photo courtesy of goccusports.com)