Date: Saturday, November 17, 2018
Kickoff Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Stadium: M. M. Roberts Stadium
Series Record: Southern Miss leads 34-15
Last Meeting: Southern Miss won 34-27/2OT in 2017
Betting Line: EVEN
The Golden Eagles have dominated this rivalry and have won the past three games. However, the last Bulldog win came in Hattiesburg, where this game will be played.
Tech comes into this game at 7-3, while USM is 4-5. But that hasn’t stopped USM before, so go ahead and throw away the records for this one. The last time they met in Mississippi, Tech had already won the west division crown while USM was 5-6. The Eagles won.
Since UAB has already won the west, this year’s game won’t have as much at stake as in some prior years. However, Tech desperately wants to avenge the past three years, and Southern Miss has to win out to get bowl eligible. Go ahead and expect both teams to leave it all on the field.
Louisiana Tech Overview
Last week’s win against Rice perfectly encapsulated the Louisiana Tech offense. Mostly inept, but they put together three consecutive touchdown drives in the second half to put the game away. Southern Miss plays defense, so Tech’s offense will need to be at its best.
J’Mar Smith threw for over 300 yards last week. That’s good, and it’s something Tech may need against a Southern Miss defense that averages allowing 175 passing yards per game. However, he also threw two interceptions versus one touchdown. He also fumbled the ball once. That didn’t hurt him against Rice, but those mistakes won’t cut it against Southern Miss.
What helps Smith is that he has some great receivers who can make contested catches. Just look at this grab by Adrian Hardy.
Notice, however, that Hardy was double-covered. While it worked in this case, throwing that ball can often lead to an interception. Smith can’t always just assume his man will win the battle every time.
Tech will also need to get Jaqwis Dancy and the running game going against a Golden Eagle defense that allows just 110 rushing yards per game. Dancy had 80 yards and three scores against Rice. The Dawgs need to keep feeding him.
The stars of the show for the Bulldogs, however, will need to be the Tech defense. Not every game has been stellar, but they’ve held their conference opponents to 18 points per game. Against a Southern Miss offense that has had some struggles of its own, the Tech defense will need to control this game.
Jaylon Ferguson is still four sacks away from Terrell Suggs’ NCAA record. He needs to make his presence known. He had four against North Texas and three and a half against UTEP. This game would be a great time to repeat that kind of performance.
If Tech wants to end the streak, the offense needs to show up, and the defense needs to dominate.
Southern Miss Overview
Southern Miss comes in at 4-5, but they’ve got a little bit of a hot streak going under Tate Whatley.
Former Tech quarterback Jack Abraham has been playing for USM most of the season, but was injured against Charlotte. At the time of his injury, Charlotte led 17-3 and the third quarter was nearing its end. Whatley came in and immediately led two consecutive touchdown drives.
Charlotte recovered an onside kick and held on to win 20-17, but Whatley did in just over one quarter more than Abraham had all game, not to mention Abraham’s three picks.
The very next week, the Whatley-led Golden Eagles upset Marshall, and a week later they forced overtime in Birmingham. Although UAB won, Southern Miss scored 20 points in regulation. Of conference opponents, only UNT had scored more, and they only had 21.
Coming into this game against rival La Tech, it’s not clear who will start. Abraham could make his return, or Jay Hopson may be content to let Whatley lead the way. Either way, this marks the third straight year where USM’s starter has been in doubt against Tech. This will make it tough on the Tech defense to prepare.
Regardless of who starts, Southern Miss will need to get their run game going to help out the quarterback. Tech has a strong pass rush and quality corners, so Trivenskey Mosley and Steven Anderson need to have good games.
The Southern Miss defense has also been good this season. Tech’s offense may be struggling, but they can’t allow the Bulldogs to get hot.
These two teams are remarkably similar. Both have solid defenses, but questions on offense. This game could be a defensive struggle, and it may not exactly be pretty. Ironically, Southern Miss may be better off if their starting quarterback doesn’t return. Whatley has looked better, albeit with a smaller sample size.
Again, the records don’t matter for this one. Yes, Southern Miss is 4-5 (3-3) while Tech is 7-3 (5-1). But the Golden Eagles may have found a spark offensively, and the past two weeks saw them take down one conference title contender and take another to overtime. With Southern Miss needing to win their last two games to reach a bowl, they are getting hot at the right time.
For Louisiana Tech, there isn’t much to play for besides pride and revenge. Will that be enough?
The key to this game may be the Tech offense against the USM defense. If Tech can score, their defense may be able to hold on and end the losing streak. If Tech can’t score, the streak may continue.
No pressure, J’Mar.