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Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers: How To Watch, Preview, Prediction

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USM has the chance to close the gap on C-USA West, but they have to get by a tough WKU team first.

Southern Miss v Charlotte Photo by Mike Comer/Getty Images

Southern Miss Golden Eagles (7-3, 5-1 C-USA)vs Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (6-4, 4-2 C-USA)

Date & Time: Saturday, November 23rd 2019, 3:30 PM ET

Streaming: ESPN+

Location: M.M. Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Betting Line: USM -4.0 O/U 51.5

All-Time Series Record: WKU leads the series 2-0. In the most recent meeting, the Tops were victorious 45-28 under Jeff Brohm.


Southern Miss Outlook

USM’s passing game is a thing of beauty, at the moment. Quarterback Jack Abraham leads the league in passing yards (2924) and passing efficiency (159.8). His favorite target, Quez Watkins, leads C-USA in receiving yards with 921. Tim Jones has also made solid contributions with 52 catches for 615 yards.

With just one conference loss on their own record and the current division leader, Louisiana Tech, lacking some of their better offensive players for the time being due to suspension, they have an opportunity to jump to first place in the division should they win and Tech loses.

An underrated part of USM’s game has been the special teams. Kicker Andrew Stein is 16 of 19 on the year. In the return game, Jaylond Adams has returned 12 punts for a total of 110 yards. He’s also one of only two punt returners in the league with a touchdown.

Defensively, USM have had their moments. They beat UAB 37-2 two games ago and beat Rice 20-6 the week before that. They’re defending the run very well compared to the rest of the league with an average of 106.4 rush yards allowed per game. They’re slightly worse at defending the pass allowing 247.5 yards in that category. They have picked off opposing quarterbacks a respectable nine times, however, so they’re a bit of a mixed bag on that side of the ball.

Western Kentucky Outlook

Last week’s win against Arkansas was a big moment for WKU’s program. They’re back to bowl eligibility after missing one last season in Mike Sanford’s final year. The turnaround under Tyson Helton has been rather remarkable.

The Tops still have the second best scoring defense in the league allowing 20.6 points per game. They’ll be tested on Saturday against a Southern Miss offense that is scoring 30.6 points per game. DeAngelo Malone continues to lead that charge for WKU with a league best 18 tackles for loss. Malone also continues to lead the league in sacks with nine.

Offensively, Gaej Walker is just 88 yards short of a thousand yard season in his first season playing running back at the college level.

At quarterback, Ty Storey is making the most of his opportunity since being thrust into the starter role eight games ago. He has the best completion percentage in the league with 69.7%. Storey has also had at least one rushing touchdown in each of the last three games.

Plain and simple though, WKU’s offensive performance simply hasn’t been translating to lots of points compared to most of the league. They’re at 24.8 points per game, which is tenth in the league. Also contributing to this is the fact that the Tops have missed more field goals (7) than any team in C-USA.


Prediction

Western Kentucky have proven that the program is headed in the right direction by getting back to a bowl game. But with the missteps that Louisiana Tech has taken in the last ten days or so, Southern Miss have a chance to capitalize and get on top of the west. It’s hard to imagine they let that opportunity slip here.

Southern Miss wins 34-24