Date: Saturday, October 19, 2019
Kickoff Time: 2:30 p.m. CT
Location: Ruston, Louisiana
Stadium: Joe Aillet Stadium
TV: NFL Network
Series Record: Southern Miss leads 35-15
Betting Line: La Tech -1.0
The two longtime rivals stand as the only teams in C-USA West to have not lost a conference game. Whoever wins this edition of the Rivalry in Dixie will be in the driver’s seat to reach the conference title game.
While both schools are winless against power five competition, they are both undefeated otherwise. Tech lost its season opener at Texas, but the Bulldogs have rattled off five straight wins since. USM has dropped games to Alabama and Mississippi State, but is otherwise 4-0.
But while neither squad has defeated an FBS team with a winning record, Southern Miss’s wins over Troy and North Texas seem more impressive than Tech’s wins over FIU, Bowling Green or UMass.
Southern Miss also feels like the favorite in the west after handling UNT last week. The Golden Eagles’ recent string of wins over Tech makes the task feel that much tougher for the Bulldogs.
The magnitude of this game was not lost on Tech head coach Skip Holtz.
“Many of our players are from Mississippi and some of theirs are from Louisiana,” Holtz said. “We recruit against each other. Even though it’s early in the season, this game appears to have large implications for the West Division. There’s an awful lot on this game, but this is why you play football.”
USM head coach Jay Hopson said that the Eagles’ four-straight over Tech wins means nothing this year.
“We know we’re playing an outstanding football team and last year doesn’t matter,” Hopson said. “Each fight is a new fight. We’re mature enough and we better be mature enough to understand that that doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get ready to play a new football team. We have to prepare well and play well.”
Southern Miss seems to have the advantage in passing, while Tech has an edge in rushing.
Former Tech and current USM quarterback Jack Abraham will likely reach 2,000 yards on the season in this game and leads Conference USA in passing. He has 12 touchdowns with just four interceptions.
While Tech quarterback J’Mar Smith is tied for second in C-USA in yards, he is 379 yards behind Abraham. He has nine touchdowns with just two interceptions.
On the other hand, Tech averages 186 rushing yards a game while USM averages just 113.3.
Tech’s Justin Henderson has 58 carries for 478 yards and eight touchdowns. By comparison, De’Michael Harris for USM has 53 carries for 379 yards and just three touchdowns.
It will be interesting to see how these offenses perform head-to-head.
When all is said and done, the loser of this game won’t necessarily be out of the division title race. North Texas and UAB could still work their way back in it, as well. But whoever wins on Saturday will be in the driver seat. Someone is going to be the last remaining undefeated in the division, and if it’s USM, the Eagles will have wins over two of their three challengers.
Regardless, it should be a fun matchup. For those watching on television, just be prepared for three hours of the NFL Network talking about Terry Bradshaw and Brett Favre.