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Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs North Texas Mean Green Preview

USM on the downswing, UNT on the upswing, both clashing this weekend in Denton

NCAA Football: Charlotte at Southern Mississippi
Southern Miss has put up a lot more points but not much more win than North Texas this season.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Start Time: 5:30 p.m. EST, 4:30 p.m. CST

Location: Apogee Stadium, Denton TX

TV/Streaming: beIN Sports

Radio: Mean Green Radio Network, Southern Miss All Access

Live Stats: CBS Stat Tracker

Betting Line: USM -5.5, O/U 59.5

Series Record: USM leads, 6-4

Southern Miss Golden Eagles

New coach Jay Hopson was supposed to be a return to normalcy for the Golden Eagles, or at least toe the line after Todd Monken left for the NFL. The season started off well enough, with wins against Kentucky, UTEP and Rice, but there were also causes for concern, with losses to Troy and UTSA. Those were surprising, to say the least.

As the rest of the season has shaken out, a lot of these losses aren’t necessarily as surprising. Troy currently stands at 8-1 and is ranked #25 in the AP Poll, and UTSA is much improved and despite early struggles has recently celebrated wins over North Texas and Middle Tennessee.

So where does that leave Southern Miss? Well, 5-5 and out of the race for the C-USA West title for one, as a 3-3 in conference record is already two games back with two to play. At this point they’re playing for position, as Hopson and his squad try to at least remain in the top half of the division, with or without QB Nick Mullens (a game-time decision this week, after being pulled with concussion-like symptoms against ODU). Common opponents, however, make this a tough one to call.

North Texas Mean Green

Whereas expectations were high for the Golden Eagles coming into the season, they were just about as low for the Mean Green. Last year’s USM squad finished 7-1 in conference, while UNT managed 1-7. In 2016, they seem to have somehow met in the middle, culminating in this game.

While it’s the holdovers from last year’s USM squad that will make the difference here, it’s the new UNT recruits that will make the game worth watching. Running backs Willy Ivery and Andrew Tucker were standouts last week in the WKU blowout, and wide receivers Willie Robinson and Terian Goree were at the top of the receiving yards, despite an uneventful week. North Texas will still be without Jeffrey Wilson this week, who is recovering from knee surgery, and Mason Fine is listed as out, as well. Just the same, NT will take what’s left and put last week behind them, to lean into the final two weeks of the season in an effort to become bowl eligible.

After peaking earlier in the season, freshman Mason Fine is currently rocking a 113.7 QB rating, good for 13th in a conference where the 14th best is the current Charlotte backup who hasn’t played since Oct. 1. There’s not yet an indication if he’ll return this season, but senior QB and Alabama transfer Alec Morris hasn’t been even that good, throwing for two touchdowns and five INT’s, in his two games against SMU in week one and WKU last week.

Common Opponents

USM beat Rice handily back in Week Five, 44-28, the same Rice team North Texas needed OT to defeat.

Both teams lost to UTSA, USM back in Week Six, 55-32, and North Texas in Week Nine, 31-17.

Both teams also stopped a currently down Marshall, with USM winning 24-14 in Week Nine, North Texas winning 38-21 in Week Six.

This doesn’t tell us much, but USM did lose to both Charlotte and Old Dominion, an ODU team that was recently blown out by WKU, which is just what WKU does.

The Verdict

USM is having a down year, but while the season has pointed to UNT having the better coach (i.e. late season adjustments), USM just has the better players (more points, better stats, etc). A win here also puts North Texas on the inside track for a bowl game, and despite some surprises this season, there’s just no way this is a 7-5 team, or even a 6-6 one.

Final Score: USM 27, UNT 13