Location: M.M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Date: Saturday, October 17
Time: 6 p.m. CDT
Records: UTSA 1-5; USM 3-3
Betting Line: USM -9, O/U 58
All-Time Series: UTSA leads 1-0
Last Meeting: UTSA 12, Southern Miss 10 (Nov. 13, 2014)
Southern Miss Outlook: The Golden Eagles aren't back yet but they're getting closer. Todd Monken has the program back on the right track after toiling through some truly horrifying years for a proud, tradition-rich program. Monken has elevated the talent level in the program by stocking up on transfers and revitalizing recruiting success within local high schools.
Nick Mullens leads the spread attack on offense with efficient passing. Mullens is completing 62% of his passes, totaling 2,005 yards of passing and a 15-4 TD:INT ratio. Very good, Mr. Mullens. The Golden Eagles are armed with several playmaking options on offense. Ito Smith is an explosive utility player that averages nearly 150 yards of total offense per game while lining up at both wide receiver and running back.
Senior Michael Thomas is one of the most consistent receivers in the conference. He's good for an average of 89 yards per game as a deep threat. A typical catch from Thomas is good for 18 yards of offense. Whew.
Dylan Bradley is the man to watch on defense for the Golden Eagles. Bradley has dominated weak offensive lines (UTSA has one of those) to the tune of 27 tackles, 7.5 TFLs, four sacks, and three quarterback hurries from the defensive end position. If UTSA allows Bradley to generate pocket pressure then the rest of Southern Miss's defense might not have much to take care of.
UTSA Outlook: With Blake Bogenschutz still recovering from a concussion suffered against UTEP, sophomore walk-on Dalton Sturm will be making his second start. After surrendering a pick six on his first attempt against Louisiana Tech, Sturm settled in during the second half and nearly orchestrated a UTSA comeback win against the best team in the division.
Despite Sturm's promising second half showing, this will be the first time an opponent has a full game's worth of film on Sturm. His weaknesses will be identified and the Golden Eagles will seek to exploit them. How he responds will determine whether or not UTSA wins this game and begins a bowl run this fall.
UTSA suffered a big blow to their defense this week after emerging standout Nate Gaines suffered a knee injury in practice. It was a tragic blow not only for the young man but also for the team as a whole as they enter the more manageable portion of their schedule. In his place sophomore Justin Chavez will make his first start. Chavez has seen some spare snaps this season but nothing really noteworthy. UTSA may seek to simplify the defense in order to decrease the amount of reads Chavez will be tasked with.
Prediction: This one is tough to pick. Southern Miss just had an awful showing against Marshall as their offensive line was dominated in the trenches. UTSA nearly upset a strong Louisiana Tech squad last week but will a walk-on quarterback be able to string together impressive performances?
I hate when football writers try to psychoanalyze teams but I can't shake the feeling that UTSA will come out on fire. This game is very important for both teams but at 1-5, UTSA really has their back on the ropes. The Roadrunners have played tough throughout most of the season but mental lapses and bad luck have kept UTSA from hitting their stride.
I'm predicting that UTSA finally fires on all cylinders for four quarters this week by generating a speed rush to get after Nick Mullens and taking advantage of USM's lack of defensive speed with some huge offensive gains.
UTSA 31 USM 27