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Southern Miss seeks to right their wrongs against the undefeated UTSA Roadrunners

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The Golden Eagles shouldn’t be lacking in motivation as they travel to San Antonio for the second year in a row.

NCAA Football: Texas-San Antonio at Baylor Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, Texas

Kick Off: 6:00 pm CT

TV: KMYS-CW 35

Stream: Exclusively on Facebook via this link

Live Stats: Side Arm Statistics

Audio: Ticket 760 (SA)

Betting Odds: UTSA -13.5, O/U 52

Series History: UTSA leads the series 2-1 and won the 2016 meeting 55-32.

Team Records: Southern Miss 2-2, UTSA 3-0


Southern Miss Outlook

The Golden Eagles got off to a strong start to the season starting in the second half of their first game. USM hosted the Kentucky Wildcats in Hattiesburg and couldn’t get much going until JUCO transfer Kwadra Griggs entered the game to start the second half. While Griggs couldn’t lead the Golden Eagles to victory, he played well enough to claim the starting spot moving forward, guiding USM to wins against Southern and an improving Louisiana-Monroe squad.

Those promising development came to an abrupt half last week when North Texas traveled to Hattiesburg and threw for about a thousand yards on a Southern Miss team that looked like they had given up in the second half of the ball game. After building a 21-7 lead over the Mean Green, Southern Miss suddenly fell flat as they would get spanked by UNT 43-28 at home. Ouch.

Judging by last week’s result, Southern Miss shouldn’t be lacking for inspiration to right the ship as they travel to the Alamodome this week, a venue that has been particularly unkind to them since UTSA joined Conference USA. The Golden Eagles have never won a game in the Alamodome and were embarrassed by the Roadrunners 55-32 last season as UTSA rushed for a then-school-record 339 yards.

Yeah, I think USM might have a sour taste in their mouth this week.

Outside of Griggs, Southern is led on offense by their speedy running back Ito Smith and two explosive wideouts. Smith is rushing for six yards per carry this year while also being the Golden Eagles’ third most productive receiver with 156 yards on 16 catches. Wide receivers Allenzae Staggers and Korey Robertson both have the size and speed to vertically stretch the field. While Robertson has eclipsed the veteran Staggers as Griggs’ primary target, Staggers is still turning in an impressive 17.8 yards per catch.

NCAA Football: Southern Mississippi at North Texas
Korey Robertson has emerged as a standout for USM at wide receiver.
Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports

The Golden Eagles’ strength on defense clearly lies in their front seven. USM is doing a good job of keeping offenses restricted on early downs as evidenced by their 11th national ranking in defensive efficiency. The stark difference between the front seven and secondary becomes apparent when you compare that stellar efficiency rating with the Golden Eagles’ 122 ranking in defensive explosiveness. Opponents are facing unfavorable down and distance yet still turning those plays into huge gains due to sloppiness in the backend of USM’s defense.

In another piece of the perplexing puzzle of the USM defense, the Golden Eagles are terrific in stuffing the run, ranking second in defensive stuff rate, trailing just their future opponent the UTSA Roadrunners. What if the opposing running back is able to get past that stout first level? Well he has a pretty dang good chance of scoring as USM ranks 123rd in the nation in isolated points per play on the ground. We saw it in action against North Texas last week. The Golden Eagles met Jeffery Wilson at the line of scrimmage time and time again but couldn’t stop him from breaking out for long touchdown runs of 43 and 46 yards.

UTSA Outlook

Fresh off of a bye week, the Roadrunners are prepped to start a crucial run through conference play after getting a 3-0 start on their season. While UTSA has been unfortunate at the left guard position after losing two starters for the season, the Roadrunners should return almost all of their banged up players across the rest of the roster.

UTSA overcame a slow start in their last game against Texas State to demolish the Bobcats 44-14 behind a school-record rushing attack despite the Roadrunners playing with a third-string JUCO transfer at left guard. Jordan Wright turned in a really strong performance, working in tandem with stand out left tackle Josh Dunlop to clear huge holes at the line of scrimmage and provide quarterback Dalton Sturm with ample time to find open receivers.

Speaking of Sturm, the senior signal caller has been incredible so far this season. Sturm has still yet to toss an interception while boasting a 76% completion rate. If he keeps those numbers up it’s hard to see UTSA losing a game any time soon.

Of course Sturm woulnd’t be having so much success were it not for the play of UTSA running back Jalen Rhodes. The junior back has more than made up for the absence of Jarveon Williams, rushing for 338 yards and three touchdowns on a 7.5 yards per carry average. Backups Tyrell Clay and B.J. Daniels have also been sound, rushing for 3.7 and 4.2 yards per carry, respectively.

While UTSA has so far been one of the most effective defenses in the nation this season, Southern Miss might be their toughest match up yet. The Roadrunners will need to ensure Ito Smith from running wild as USM has struggled to convert in third-and-long situations with Kwadra Griggs under center. If UTSA is able to blanket USM’s stud receivers then keep an eye on Ito Smith out of the backfield. The Roadrunners have struggled to defend the running back screen in the past so it would behoove the Golden Eagles to try their luck in that aspect of their offense.

Prediction

13.5 points is a lot to give up to a relatively unproven team in UTSA but bettors keep pushing the line upwards in Vegas. With UTSA and Southern Miss both 5-1 against the spread in their last six games, something has to give. Personally I’m pretty confident in UTSA’s ability to take advantage of Kwadra Griggs’ weaknesses. He’s already been struggling with his accuracy, missing several gimme throws against UNT last week. UTSA is coming off a bye week and Griggs will be making his first start in a truly hostile road environment (sorry ULM). The Roadrunners are currently -5.82 in turnover luck which means they’re seriously due for some fumble recoveries on defense. All that said, I’m liking the Roadrunners at home.

UTSA 34 USM 17

Poll

Who wins in the Alamodome?

This poll is closed

  • 17%
    Southern Miss
    (14 votes)
  • 82%
    UTSA
    (64 votes)
78 votes total Vote Now