The 2018-19 college football bowl season starts at noon on Saturday, Dec. 15 as North Carolina A&T plays Alcorn State in the Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl. The game will be played at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta and will be carried by ABC. Our 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl pick has North Carolina A&T at -7.0. The over/under on this game sits at 48.0.
The North Carolina A&T Aggies (9-2) make their third appearance in this bowl in four years. The Aggies’ two losses this year were to Morgan State and Florida A&M. Both losses were by three points or less. They scored a FBS victory when they beat East Carolina 20-17. The Alcorn State Braves (9-3) earned their way into this contest by beating Southern University for the SWAC title. The Braves have won four of their last five games. Here’s our pick for this game. Make sure you connect with all of Betting Brain’s 2018-2019 college football bowl free picks.
North Carolina A&T Analysis
The Aggies are a running team. The 34th ranked FCS for scoring offense, which is averaging 30.6 PPG, relies on RB Marquell Cartwright to get the job done. This season, Cartwright has rushed for 1,002 and scored seven TDs. With a running game that’s ranked 43rd in the FSC and a passing game that comes in ranked 88th, you can expect this team to keep the ball on the ground.
QB Lamar Raynard has thrown for 1,373 passing yards and 16 touchdowns, while tossing five INTs. This year, he’s been good on 54.9% of his passes. WR Zachary Leslie leads the team with 40 receptions for 512 yards and eight scoring catches.
The North Carolina A&T has been very tight, as they have given up just 13.5 PPG. That stat ranks them fifth amongst FCS clubs. Their rushing defense, which is giving up 72.6 YPG, has been exceptionally stingy. That the best running D in the FCS. The team’s pass defense is allowing just 181.6 YPG. Junior defensive lineman Darryl Johnson leads the team with sacks. He’s notched 10.5 sacks this season
Alcorn State Analysis
In making our 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl pick, we believe that Alcorn State will be helped by it productive offense. This season, the Braves scored on average 33.5 points per game. With a rushing attack ranked third in the FCS (282. YPG), they could rush their way to victory. Running back De’Shawn Waller has covered 1,067 yards and scored 12 touchdowns this season. Quarterback Noah Johnson has run for 1,060 yards and nine scores.
Johnson, who has a 64% pass completion rate, has tossed 15 TD passes and thrown for over 2,000 yards. Raidarious Anderson, Chris Blair and Dayall Harris are his top three pass catchers. Anderson has caught three TD passes and has over 500 receiving yards on the season. Still, the Braves’ passing offense is averaging merely 129.2 YPG.
On the other side of the ball, Alcorn State offers the 19th best scoring defense in the division. They’ve allowed opponents just 21.3 points per game. They are giving up rush 95.7 YPG to the rush and 193 YPG in passing. Two defensive linemen top the team in sacks. Trey Whittingham has accumulated nine and Sterling Shippy eight.
Five Keys to the Game
Here are our keys to the game for our 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl pick:
- Aggie rush attack needs to be productive
- Aggie D must stuff Alcorn State rush attack
- QB Johnson needs to lead the Braves on ground and in air
- Alcorn D-line has to play big
- Bears offense can score while Aggies D could dominate
Our 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl Pick
We like Alcorn State’s depth on both sides of the ball. But we do think that this team will be frustrated by what is a top-notch Braves’ defense. With two sound defenses and some limited offenses, we do like the under at 48.0. We also find that the spread pick is slippery. In the end, our 2018 Air Force Reserve Celebration Bowl pick is North Carolina A&T at -7.0.