The Southern Miss Golden Eagles have won a total of four football games in the last three years. After an 0-12 season, Southern Miss went 1-11 in 2013 and 3-9 in 2014. The idea of making a bowl game after this three year drop off is quite a stretch for even the most optimistic of fans.
Luckily, we are playing the optimistic route today and saying that Southern Miss goes through the 2015 schedule with a 6-6 overall record and chance at a bowl invitation. This puts forth the belief that Southern Miss would have to defeat Austin Peay, North Texas, UTSA, Charlotte, Old Dominion, and one of the three between UTEP, Rice and Texas State while losing to Mississippi State, Nebraska, Marshall, and LA Tech. This is entirely conceivable for the upcoming season although that sixth win will be a huge hurdle for a program that was on top of Conference USA as recently as 2011.
So, Southern Miss is 6-6 on the year and there is hope that a bowl chooses the Golden Eagles for a post season clash. Here are the bowl games currently tied in with Conference USA for the 2015 season: The Bahamas Bowl versus MAC (WKU), The St. Petersburg Bowl versus American UCF-NC State), The Boca Raton Bowl versus MAC (Marshall), The Heart of Dallas Bowl versus Big Ten (La. Tech), The New Mexico Bowl versus Mountain West (UTEP), The Arizona Bowl versus Mountain West (N/A), and The New Orleans Bowl versus Sun Belt (Louisiana vs. Nevada). The Independence Bowl has a backup agreement with Conference USA and the American that would allow a team from one of the two conferences to fill an unused slot if ACC or SEC does not fill its slot.
Bahamas Bowl: A bowl that started in 2014 with an ending for the ages between Western Kentucky and Central Michigan, this is a bowl that is not as worried about the number of fans traveling for the game. With a 6-6 record, Southern Miss could easily put themselves on the radar for this game and it would be a good return to the postseason. No one can complain about spending the holiday season in the Bahamas.
St. Petersburg Bowl: This bowl is affiliated with the American Conference versus a representative from either Conference USA or if needed, an ACC program. Last season, Central Florida faced North Carolina State with the Wolfpack winning. East Carolina (2013) and UCF (2012) recently played in the game as Conference USA members. Southern Miss has a history with this bowl, playing in the 2010 game versus Louisville. Very unlikely due to a higher ranked CUSA team will be in line for this game.
Boca Raton Bowl: Must have a much better record than 6-6 to be invited to this bowl. Heart of Dallas Bowl: This matchup versus a higher profile Big 12 team would be a great game for Southern Miss but it will take a much better record than 6-6 to be invited.
Heart of Dallas: This game would need a much better record than 6-6 to receive an invitation. Maybe in the future but this version of Southern Miss will not play in this bowl.
New Mexico Bowl: This could be an interesting landing spot for the Golden Eagles but the seems like a team like Louisiana Tech would be invited before Southern Miss. The second or third place team in the CUSA West Division seems like the top choice for this bowl.
Arizona Bowl: This is one of two bowls that I believe Southern Miss would get serious consideration for an invitation. Going out to Tuscon could be a bit of a stretch but with this game being in its first year, they may be willing to take anyone. Old Dominion has even been kicked around as projected for this game. It is a distinct possibility for the Golden Eagles to have a reasonable shot at this bowl game with a 6-6 record.
New Orleans Bowl: The Ragin' Cajuns classic will almost certainly see whoever is invited from Conference USA play Louisiana. This would be the most likely bowl for the Golden Eagles as they have played in the game three times with a 2-1 record. The Golden Eagles could guarantee a large crowd with the hometown Ragin' Cajuns as an opponent. No Bowl: The Golden Eagles could be in the same situation as MTSU in 2014 with a 6-6 overall record but no bowl berth. Much of Southern Miss' fate with bowl committees is how well the fan base can travel and fill up a stadium. Very few bowls, like the Bahamas Bowl, ignore the traveling fan base question.
Overall, the consensus seems to be that the Golden Eagles would have the best shot at a trip to the New Orleans Bowl with a 6-6 record. It is by far no guarantee but the most likeliest of scenarios with a chance at the Arizona Bowl or Bahamas Bowl also in the realm or possibility.
Southern Miss Bowl Appearances: 1953 Sun Bowl, 1954 Sun Bowl, 1957 Tangerine Bowl, 1958 Tangerine Bowl, 1980 Independence Bowl, 1981 Tangerine Bowl, 1988 Independence Bowl, 1990 All-American Bowl, 1997 Liberty Bowl, 1998 Humanitarian Bowl, 1999 Liberty Bowl, 2000 GMAC Bowl, 2002 Houston Bowl, 2003 Liberty Bowl, 2004 New Orleans Bowl, 2005 New Orleans Bowl, 2006 season GMAC Bowl, 2007: Papa Johns Bowl, 2008 New Orleans Bowl, 2009 New Orleans Bowl, 2010 Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl, and the 2011 Hawaii Bowl.