North Alabama Lions (0-2, 0-0 FCS Big South) vs Southern Miss Golden Eagles (1-5, 1-2 C-USA)
Date/Time: Saturday, November 7th, 2:00 p.m.
TV: ESPN3 (Play-By-Play: Jason Baker/Analyst: Dustin Almond)
Radio: NewsTalk 97.1 WBCF Florence/Muscle Shoals (Play-By-Play: Banjamin Ray/Analyst: Bryan Neece)/Southern Miss IMG Radio Network WXRR 104.5 Hattiesburg (Play-By-Play: John Cox/Analyst: Lee Roberts/Sidelines: Dr. Bo Morgan)
Location: M. M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS
Betting Line: O/U Southern Miss -17.5
All-Time Series Record: First meeting between two schools
Southern Miss Preview
It’s undoubtedly been a tumultuous season for Southern Miss fans and players alike. The Golden Eagles were led by interim head coach Tim Billings in last week’s 30-6 loss to Rice following Scotty Walden’s departure to take the Austin Peay job.
A 41-year coaching veteran, Billings will make his home debut and hopes to get quarterback Jack Abraham back after he was injured in the first half of the Rice game. Despite the team’s subpar record, Abraham numbers remain steady, throwing for 1,224 yards and seven touchdowns with four interceptions on the year. The redshirt senior signal-caller’s status is listed as day-to-day and should he miss the contest, West Virginia transfer Trey Lowe will handle the quarterbacking duties.
True freshman Frank Gore Jr. has been a bright spot in an otherwise forgettable year for Southern Miss. The Miami native leads the team in rushing with 358 yards on 72 carries and one score. He rushed 11 times for 72 yards in last week’s loss. Dynamic receiver Tim Jones returned against Rice after missing over a month due to injury and will look to help bolster the Golden Eagles receiving game that’s been led by JUCO transfer wideout Jason Brownlee in Jones’ absence.
Defensively, Southern Miss has struggled to keep opposing teams out of the endzone throughout the season. The Golden Eagles are allowing 41 points per game — landing them 105th out of 115 FBS teams who have competed this season. As a unit, they’re lead by veteran defensive back Ky’El Hemby and strongside linebacker Swayzee Bozeman. Sophomore linebacker Hayes Maples is having an excellent year, heading the team in tackles with 56, including 11 in his second career start last week.
North Alabama Preview
UNA comes into Hattiesburg as three-score underdogs and the Southern Miss game makes the second FBS opponent that the Lions have played this season, opening their 2020 campaign with a 28-7 loss to Liberty. Due to COVID-19, Saturday is the penultimate game of the year for North Alabama as they’re slated to finish the year at BYU on November 21st. Senior Blake Dever and redshirt sophomore Rett Files have both seen time at quarterback this year for North Alabama. Dever earned both starting assignments against Liberty and Jacksonville State but has missed time due to injury in both, with Files entering as his replacement. Expect Dever to start against the Golden Eagles.
The Lions will look to redshirt sophomore running back Ja’Won Howell jumpstarted as the team’s overall rushing attack is averaging a minuscule 63 yards per game over the teams two games. On defense, UNA holds the distinction of holding Liberty to their fewest amount of points scored in a game this year. If the Lions are going to have a chance at pulling off the upset, it’s going to come from the play of their defensive line. Senior Wallace Cowins Jr. leads UNA in tackles (16) and is second in tackles for loss (2.5). The 6-4, 240-pound defensive end will be matched up with veteran Southern Miss tackles Arvin Fletcher and Khalique Washington.
Southern Miss are on their third head coach of the season and have played three different quarterbacks, in addition to having multiple players choose to transfer prior to the start of the season. Despite the team’s 1-5 record, they’re still the more talented team in the FBS-FCS matchup. It may take a half for the Golden Eagles offense to get going, but look for skill position players like Gore Jr., Brownlee and Jones to make the difference in the end.
Final Score: Southern Miss 31, North Alabama 21