Records: USM (6-3) vs UTSA (4-5)
Game Time: 5 pm CST Saturday, November 16th
Location: Alamodome, San Antonio, TX
Live Stats: SideArm Stats
Series Record: USM leads 3-2 and won last year’s meeting 27-17
Betting Line: USM -17, O/U 53
Southern Miss’ window of opportunity to win the western division may have just re-opened. With Louisiana Tech announcing the suspension of several key players this week, the Bulldogs’ odds of winning out and safely securing the west title has taken a big blow. The Golden Eagles could be back in the picture if the Bulldogs struggle without starting quarterback J’Mar Smith and wide receiver Adrian Hardy.
If USM is to take advantage of any Louisiana Tech struggles then they’ll have to get through UTSA this week first. The Golden Eagles should be teeming with confidence as they’re coming off one of their more impressive performances of the year, a 37-2 stifling beat down of defending conference champion UAB. With starting quarterback Tyler Johnston missing, the Blazers’ offense was unable to compete with the Nasty Bunch as UAB managed just 173 yards of offense.
Southern Miss is averaging 421 yards per game this year as quarterback Jack Abraham has unleashed his deep ball to great effect. Star receiver Quez Watkins has cemented his potential as an NFL draft pick this season as the junior ranks in the top ten nationally in both total receiving yards and yards per catch.
The Golden Eagles’ defense is loaded with big-time contributors. Jacques Turner is emerging as the league’s next elite pass rusher as the junior has 10 tackles for loss and five sacks to his name. Linebacker Racheem Booche is one of the best linebackers in C-USA, while defensive back DQ Thomas is looking to be a first-team selection for the all-conference.
USM is also spectacular in the third phase of the game. Jaylon Adams has become a viral sensation after returning two kickoffs and a punt for a touchdown. De’Micheal Harris has also returned a kick off for a touchdown. Andrew Stein and Zac Everrett are also terrific placekickers and punters respectively.
The Roadrunners find themselves within one game of a .500 record but the Charmin-soft schedule that UTSA was able to pad wins against turns single-ply through the last three games of the season.
UTSA could still theoretically make a bowl game but they will be heavy underdogs against all of their remaining opponents (Southern Miss, FAU, Louisiana Tech).
Of course it’s going to take a heavy dose of luck and destiny for the unlikely to happen, but a new playmaking threat has emerged in San Antonio which could give UTSA a fighter’s chance against the upper echelon of C-USA.
True freshman Zakhari Franklin of Cedar Hill, Texas played sparingly to start the season, however he’s quickly become UTSA’s second leading receiver on the season. Franklin started his run against Rice where he caught four passes for 26 yards and two touchdowns. The staff rewarded him with more targets in the following week, grabbing four passes for 46 yards against Texas A&M. The freshman then put up 134 yards on six catches against Old Dominion last week and still hasn’t dropped a pass all season. His swift rise has been a welcome development for a program that has struggled in recruiting, utilizing, and developing explosive talent out wide.
A big part of Franklin’s break out has been the vastly improved play of starting quarterback Lowell Narcisse. The former LSU Tiger looks like a completely different player than the one we saw against UNT, UTEP, and UAB. Narcisse completed 78% of his passes against Old Dominion and did a great job protecting the football while throwing for 240 yards. His development will be strongly tested against a swarming USM secondary this week.
Southern Miss is a much superior program to UTSA on paper and the Golden Eagles should be motivated to close the season out on a strong note given the news out of Ruston this week. Leading the league in penalty yardage per game, the Roadrunners just aren’t playing clean enough football to upset USM at this point. Lowell Narcisse, Sincere McCormick, and Zakhari Franklin should provide enough offense to keep this game semi-competitive but USM shouldn’t have any trouble putting the game away down the stretch.
USM 34 UTSA 21