Start Time: 12:00 P.M. ET, Saturday, Sept. 26
Location: Memorial Stadium, Lincoln, Nebraska
Records: Southern Miss 2-1, Nebraska 1-2. Nebraska leads the overall series 4-1.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Southern Miss +21.5, Over/Under: 68.
Southern Miss Outlook: Southern Miss Golden Eagles are heading into this game versus Nebraska on a two game winning streak after losing to Mississippi State in the season opener.
The Golden Eagles offense has been one of the most explosive in the nation with 41.3 points scored per game. The rushing combination of Jalen Richard (6.3 ypc.) and Ito Smith (8.7 ypc.) has been one of the best in Conference USA. Richard is coming off of a career-high 230 yards in the win over Texas State. The rushing game, as a whole, has put up 207 yards per game and a 5.5 yards per carry average.
Led by quarterback Nick Mullens, the Golden Eagles have passed for just over 300 yards per game. Mullens loves to pass the ball to Casey Martin and D.J. Thompson. The duo has combined for 29 catches on 40 pass attempts in their direction. Passing efficiency could be an issue in the future as only two of the top six receivers for Southern Miss have a catch rate of over 75%.
The Southern Miss defense had their worst game of the season versus Texas State in giving up 50 points to the Sun Belt program. The defense is struggling versus the run game with opponents averaging 194 total yards and 5.2 yards per carry on the season. The defensive line has been pushed around a bit with only three of the top nine tacklers coming from the front four. Dylan Bradley has been a bright spot with six tackles for loss and three sacks. The Southern Miss pass defense has been solid in giving up only 213.3 yards per game in the air. Linebacker/safety hybrid D’Nerius Antoine is the team’s leading tackler and is second on the team in tackles for loss.
Nebraska Outlook: The Cornhuskers come into this game as the most heartbreaking 1-2 team in the nation. The team’s losses came on a hail mary and a field goal in overtime.
The Cornhuskers have been more than capable on offense to start the season with 489.3 yards per game. The running game was expected to be a rush by committee endeavor, but Terrell Newby has distanced himself since the opening week of the season. The duo of Newby and quarterback Tommy Armstrong Jr. has rushed for 425 of the team’s 584 rushing yards on the season. Armstrong has been much improved in the passing game this fall with 898 yards passing during the first three games. His completion rate of 56.9% is below average and points to a passing game that is not very efficient. Brandon Reilly and Jordan Westerkamp are the top two passing targets, but have only caught 29 of 47 passes thrown in their direction. Alonzo Moore is the only receiver with over 10 catches and a catch rate over 70%.
The Cornhuskers defense has been excellent versus the run, but gouged repeatedly in the passing game. The defense is giving up only 94.3 yards per game on the ground and a paltry 3.4 yards per carry on the season. Due to the ability of the Nebraska defense to stop the run, teams have gone a little pass happy in the opening three weeks. The defense is giving up an astounding 357.0 yards per game in the air, including 8.3 yards per pass attempt. Part of the reason for such a poor pass defense is the lack of a pass rush. On 133 pass attempts by opponents, the Cornhusker defense has only gotten to the quarterback for a sack on five occasions. Safety Nate Gerry and cornerbacks Joshua Kale and Daniel Davie account for nearly 30% of the team’s overall tackles.
Prediction: For a team that had high hopes for a turnaround, Southern Miss has hit every milestone in route to a 2-1 record early in the season. Mullens has been above average at quarterback, Richard and Smith have given them a two-headed monster at running back, and several receivers have stepped up to help Casey Martin in the passing game. Until week three, the USM defense could brag for their excellent play, but were demolished by a Texas State attack for 50 points. Nebraska is coming into this homecoming game mad at the world after losing their second game in heartbreaking fashion, this time in overtime to Miami. The Golden Eagles have been able to score at will in recent weeks, but do not have the weapons to upset Nebraska. Cornhuskers win 38-21.