Start Time: 6:00 PM Central
Location: Bobcat Stadium, San Marcos, TX
Radio: Texas State: 103.1 FM (Austin), 89.9 FM KTSW (San Marcos), 930 AM (San Antonio). Southern Miss: Here
Records: TXST 1-1, USM 1-1. TXST won last meeting, 22-15 (2013)
Live Stats: Here
Betting Line: TXST -3, O/U 68
Southern Miss Outlook
The numbers on offense are slightly skewed with a visit from Austin Peay, one of the worst FCS teams in the nation, that make things look excellent. The running game has been the Ito Smith (18/204/1TD) show in the first two weeks of the season. Smith, along with Jalen Richard (24/92/0TD), and Justice Hayes (15/66/1TD) give the Golden Eagles a three-headed monster in the backfield. A 5.2 yards per carry average as a team is due to an experienced offensive line that can get push on most running plays.
After an offseason of speculation, Nick Mullens (52-84/586/4TD) won the starting quarterback position. Mullens is a solid player but can make head scratching mistakes at the worst possible time, so that is a worry for USM fans. Casey Martin (12/87/0TD), Korey Robertson (8/127/1TD), and DJ Thompson (8/78/1TD) are the favorite targets of Mullens, but expect the tight end position to come back after an absence in week two. Ricky Parks (2/32/0TD) is a load of a tight end that can do just about anything asked of him on the football field.
The Golden Eagles have a defense that looked solid versus Mississippi State and like All-Americans versus Austin Peay. The run game is a bit of a worry for the defense with opponents averaging 4.0 yards per carry on 76 rush attempts. Again, numbers are a bit skewed due to competition, but Southern Miss is only allowing 315.5 yards per game, with the pass defense looking particularly solid.
Linebackers Brian Anderson (9 tkl, 3 tfl) and Anthony Swain (9 tkl, 1 tfl), as well as defensive lineman Dylan Bradley (9 tkl, 4 tfl, 2 sacks) are tied for the team lead in tackles. Nine different players have made six or more tackles on the year.
Texas State Outlook
Here's where the "real" season starts for Texas State. After two highly non-representative games against two extreme ends of the Division 1 spectrum - Florida State and Prairie View A&M - the Bobcats finally get a team that looks to be about on their level. And although it's only Week 3, this game is incredibly important for both team's bowl hopes.
Quarterback Tyler Jones has done an exceptional job limiting turnovers this season, with his streak of no interceptions going all the way back to November 8, 2014 against the reigning Sun Belt conference champs. We'll see if he can show the same pinpoint accuracy from last week against a solid USM defense, or if he'll revert to old (bad) habits.
Tandem running backs Robert Lowe and Chris Nutall (combined about 110 yards per game) have a tough task on their hands against a rush defense giving up approximately 150 yards per game, but they should get some production behind Texas State's solid o-line. The x-factors on offense are receivers Jafus Gaines and Brandon Smith--can they show off the same speed and route running that they showed last week, or will they continue to put in inconsistent performances against FBS foes?
The Bobcat defense, on the other hand, looks suspect after giving up almost 300 passing yards to Prairie View quarterback Trey Green. When your secondary is making the majority of your tackles as was the case both at FSU and against Prairie View, that's not a good sign that your front six can make much of an impact.
On the flip side, there's a possibility that senior hybrid linebacker/defensive end Jerrid Jeter-Gilmon could make an immediate contribution returning from academic suspension. Perhaps we'll also see some more aggressive blitz and coverage packages from DC John Thompson that weren't deployed against the Seminoles or Panthers and could knock USM off guard.
Southern Miss has looked good in the opening two games of the season, especially in pushing Mississippi State to the final minutes. This is not the the Southern Miss of the last few seasons with Todd Monken and company pushing hard towards a bowl berth. Texas State has been looked looked at in the offseason as one of the swing games that can determine bowl eligibility.
Ito Smith is the player to watch for Southern Miss as he has been electric with the football in both games. The biggest question mark becomes the play of Mullens at quarterback. He has the habit of passing to the wrong colored jersey in the most inopportune time, leading to losses. The USM defense will have a hard time slowing down Texas State with their myriad of options, but have the ability to make just enough plays for the win.
Southern Miss 35, Texas State 32
Texas State's defense probably isn't going to be much more than a bend-don't-break unit this year unless a true playmaker (Jeter-Gilmon?) can emerge within the front six. We'll find out just how much the falloff from last year's defense will be in this game. But David Mims II is due for an interception or two, and an occasionally inaccurate quarterback may be just the medicine he needs to make some big plays.
Dennis Franchione and the players have said that the team hasn't yet opened up the playbook despite plenty of (simple) deep routes against Prairie View. If that's true, then perhaps this offense has what it takes to dump 40+ on some talented but unproven USM athletes on defense. This game scares me much more than it did before the start of the season, but combine what should be a top tier offense with home field advantage and I'm inclined to take the 'Cats in a very close shootout.
Texas State 45, Southern Miss 42