With over 30 players on the roster that came from JUCO, other FBS programs, and FCS transfers, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles are new, improved, and ready to compete for a bowl berth this fall.
Start Time: 9:00 P.M. CT, Saturday, Sept. 5
Location: M. M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Streaming: Fox Sports Go
Radio: Southern Miss: here. Mississippi State: here.
Records: Southern Miss 14, Mississippi State 13, 1 Tie. Last Meeting: 49-0 Mississippi State.
Live Stats: Here.
Betting Line: Mississippi State -21, Over/Under of 56.5
Mississippi State Outlook: The easiest way to explain the Bulldogs is to just continue to type Dak Prescott over and over. The senior quarterback had one of the most outstanding seasons in school history and was the main reason for the Bulldogs holding the #1 overall ranking for multiple weeks in 2014. De'Runnya Wilson made 47 catches last fall and should led a group of skill position players looking for leaders. The Bulldogs offensive line was decimated to graduation, so they will need to break in a new group playing together for this first time. If there is a time for Southern Miss to face the Mississippi State offense, it is now.
For as many losses as the Bulldogs had on offense, their defense is even more decimated with at least seven starters from the 2014 defense gone to graduation. Chris Jones will be a force on the defensive line and will need to be acocunted for on every play. The best chance for Southern Miss to have success is in the passing game with the Bulldogs only returning Taveze Calhoun from the defensive backfield starters.
Mississippi State is a tricky team to judge as many pundits see them on the edge of the top 25 but seventh in the excruciatingly tough SEC West. The Bulldogs will be in a very angry mood as they felt disrespected by the preseason poll and want to take it out on Southern Miss.
Southern Miss Outlook: Transfers, transfers, and more transfers is the only way to truely describe the Golden Eagles heading into the 2015 season. With over 30 players on the team that did not start their season at Southern Miss, it will be a radically different team on the field than last fall. 2014 starter Nick Mullens and TCU transfer Tyler Matthews are 1A and 1B at quarterback with head coach Todd Monken holding his cards close to the vest in anticipation of the upcoming season. The Golden Eagles look good despite the loss of junior George Payne to a knee injury. Leading rusher Ito Smith is back and is joined in the backfield by Michigan transfer Justice Hayes. Senior Jalen Richard should also get his fair share of carries in the Southern Miss offense. Casey Martin (55/531/2TD) and Mike Thomas (41/592/5TD) were a great 1-2 combination last fall with a combined 96 catches and seven touchdowns last fall. Tyre'oune Holmes, a dangerous player that can score on any play if fully healed from a season ending injury in 2014, Maurice Ricard (30/417/2TD) and D.J. Thompson (22/231/0TD) are also a big part of the passing game. Cameron Tom leads an offensive line that has made a combined 69 career starts and averages 6-4, 304 pounds.
Preseason 1st team All-CUSA selection Michael Smith leads a defensive line that is full of transfers with former Kansas defensive tackle Andrew Bolton, former Oklahoma defensive tackle Quincy Russell and, JUCO transfer Ricky Parks all expected to see significant time in the trenches. 2014 starting linebacker Brian Anderson should find a spot on the field along with Auburn transfer Anthony Swain and JUCO transfer Sherrod Ruff. 2014 starters at cornerback, Cornell Armstrong and Kalan Reed, look to add onto solid seasons last fall while JUCO transfers dot the safety spots. Devonta Foster, D’Nerius Antoine, and Deshadrick Truly are all interesting prospects from the JUCO ranks at safety while Picasso Nelson (10 starts in 2014) and Troy Jeter (2 starts in 2014) will fight for playing time.
Prediction: Realistically, the Golden Eagles would need a collapse of epic proportions to pull off the stunning opening week win over Mississippi State. As long as Southern Miss can figure out who is the quarterback moving forward, stay healthy, and show improvement on offense and defense, then week one is a success.
What are your projections for the upcoming game?