Date: Saturday, October 13th, 2018
Kickoff Time: 2 p.m. EST / 1 p.m. CST
Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton, TX
Line: North Texas -8.5, O/U 66
Series Record: The all-time series is tied, folks, 6-6
Last Meeting: North Texas won 43-28 in 2017
There’s a lot of new North Texas traffic here on Underdog Dynasty, which tends to happen to any fan site when a team is doing well. But far more outspoken than any Mean Green fan is the dedicated, consistent, and shall we say... vocal fandom of the Southern Miss Eagles.
UDD loves all the fans, as they’re what makes this site great and keep it going. And while we do want to make fans— and fans of C-USA— happy, this game is also an opportunity to look at some hard truths for both teams.
The Preview Southern Miss wants us to write
The Eagles are having a great season. Though their record is currently 2-2, they had a game cancelled due to the hurricanes earlier in the season, but now look to come back stronger than ever to begin conference play.
Those two losses were heartbreakers, but nothing Southern Miss can’t come back from. The 21-20 loss to ULM was a fluke and the other, well, it was against Auburn, so what can you do?
The Eagles put up a good fight against a nationally ranked team, and Jay Hopson has things firing on all cylinders. This team has put up some great numbers and is poised to improve over its 8-5 record from a year ago.
The Hard Truth
While the ULM loss was a tough one, let’s look at the numbers from the Eagles lone FBS win so far this season, against Rice.
The Eagles crushed the Owls 40-22, due in no small part to QB Jack Abraham, who was playing out of his mind, tossing or a season-high 428 yards and four touchdowns. He finished that game 25/34 passing, which calculates to 12.6 yards a pass. He was flawless other than one interception, and essentially beat Rice single-handedly.
Abraham will no doubt match up well with Mason Fine, but what won’t match up well is the running game. Where Rice was clearly overmatched against the Eagles, those teams were dead even on the ground, 138 to 137 in USM’s favor.
And so we turn to the other highlight of USM’s season so far— the Auburn game, in which Abraham threw for 215 yards to Auburn’s 245, and the stingy Eagles defense held the Tigers’ ground game to a paltry 96 rushing yards. This would be big, but the Eagles backs finished the day with less than half of that, totaling only 45 yards. This, just a few weeks after racking up an embarrassing 58 yards total rushing offense against ULM in that one-point loss.
Coming out of their bye week, the Eagles have played two fewer games than this weeks opponent. That’s a lot less to analyze or even prepare heading into conference play, but one thing’s for sure: They couldn’t ask for a better way to kick things off than North Texas, who are having similar rushing problems of their own.
The Preview North Texas wants us to write
The Mean Green are having a great season. They’ve dominated every opponent and had a few bad breaks, particularly the two missed field goals (one blocked) against Louisiana Tech.
Mason Fine is breaking records, and averaging 320 passing yards a game so far this season, and will come roaring back after that disappointing La Tech game, in which they were most definitely robbed.
This is a historically good season, the team has improved all around the field, and even with the hiccup against the Bulldogs, no one can beat this team again, not the way they’re playing. Littrell is a lock to be snapped up by a Power Five team and UNT will compete for conference championships every year until we’re all old and gray.
The Hard Truth
Does any of that sound familiar? After the Arkansas game, it was hard not to get lost in the hype, but some very clear weaknesses have arisen, and been exploited, since conference play began (and arguably during their match-up with Liberty).
Much like the Eagles, the Mean Green didn’t have a strong running game to begin with, but then their top rusher Loren Easly was lost for the season after the La Tech game. The one-two punch of DeAndre Torrey and Nic Smith was enough to get it done against UTEP, but USM will be a whole other animal.
UTEP is much improved this season, and it’s always difficult to prepare for a backup QB (just ask Virginia Tech), as usual starter Kai Locksley was out and Ryan Metz threw for 313 passing yards to Mason Fine’s 294. Granted, the North Texas defense remains strong, but that UTEP game was undoubtedly closer than UNT would have liked.
Things will only be harder for the Mean Green as the season progresses, and these past two games show how far they still have to go. All those dreams of national recognition, big-time bowl games and conference titles were in full swing after the Razorbacks. But if this team is for real, they’ve got to keep the streak alive and show they can beat the Eagles a third year in a row.
Southern Miss fans will point out the strengths of this team, and they’re not wrong, there’s a lot to like about these Eagles. North Texas fans will do the same, and truthfully both these teams have almost identical strengths and weaknesses. With a different schedule, and better weather, it’s USM that could be 5-1.
In spite of this, and in spite of the underwhelming ground game on both sides of the ball, Littrell has beat Hopson two years in a row, and the larger deficit was just a year ago. In Hattiesburg.
Final Score: North Texas 34, Southern Miss 24