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Is Louisiana Tech the New Southern Miss?

Southern Miss ran off 18 straight winning seasons from 1994 to 2011. The Golden Eagles won six games three different times in that span and they won seven games on seven occasions. Even their down years brought winning records. After going 4-32 over the last three years, USM is on the climb back up. Meanwhile in Ruston, Louisana Tech is 30-21 over the last four years and the Bulldogs are trying to make up for lost time.

Louisiana Tech is trying to make up ground in the Southern Miss series.
Louisiana Tech is trying to make up ground in the Southern Miss series.
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

From 1968 until 1992, Southern Miss was 9-7 against Louisiana Tech. Maxie Lambright coined the term "The Rivalry in Dixie" and before that period; it was no rivalry at all. The Golden Eagles record through 1967 against Louisiana Tech was 20-6.

The two teams didn't play for almost 20 years after the 1992 season. The Bulldogs had recently moved up to Division 1-A status and Southern Miss was about to begin their run of 18 straight winning seasons. In 1996 Southern Miss helped form Conference USA while Tech was left to join the WAC four years later.

With Tech floundering in the WAC, Southern Miss won 5 conference championships and went to 14 bowl games. Tech and USM renewed the rivalry in 2010 and Southern Miss beat the Bulldogs 13-12 in 2010 and 19-17 in 2011.

After that 2011 season, Larry Fedora left USM to take the head coaching position at North Carolina. USM hired Ellis Johnson and went 0-12. Johnson didn't last long and USM brought in Todd Monken to start the long process of rebuilding in Hattiesburg.

Louisiana Tech started the long process of rebuilding in 2007 under Derek Dooley and continued the upward growth under Sonny Dykes and Skip Holtz. Tech won the WAC championship in 2011 and played in the CUSA championship game in 2014. The Bulldogs played in bowl games in 2008, 2011, and 2014 and will try in 2015 to go to back to back bowl games in 2015 for the first time since the 1977 and 1978 Independence Bowls.

The Bulldogs are looking for their fourth winning season in their last five years. Southern Miss has three straight losing seasons, going 4-32 in that span. Are the Bulldog's recent fortunes tied to the downturn of Southern Miss?

One thing to look at is the beginning of football at South Alabama. The Jaguars have been playing football at the FBS level for the past three seasons. Having another FBS program 95 miles down the road does not help at all in terms of recruiting.

Speaking of recruiting, Southern Miss routinely came in to Louisiana to get top players. In 2003, USM landed Jonathan Landor, Chris Clark, and Robert Henderson. In 2007, Deddric Jones, Korey Williams came to Hattieburg from Losuisiana.

In 2008, Southern Miss hit their peak recruiting year. In addition to coming into Louisaiana to sign Joe Duhon and Joel Ross, Southern Miss beat out SEC teams for some big name recruits from Mississippi as well, including Bud Barksdale, Bo Tillman, Quin Sanford, and 5-star wide receiver DeAndre Brown.

After that season, Southern Miss signed Deron Wilson in 2009, Chriss Briggs in 2011, Jalen Richard in 2012, and Christopher Robinson and Cameron Tom in 2013. Those were the last really higher profile recruits from Louisiana that the Golden Eagles were able to land.

With USM bringing in former LA Tech and LSU assistant Todd Monken as Head coach, the Golden Eagles figured to still have a presence recruiting Louisiana. In 2014, USM signed just one high school player from Louisiana and they did not sign any in 2015.

Meanwhile, Louisiana Tech started recruiting in Mississippi. After not signing hardly any high school players in Mississippi for several years, Tech signed Vontarrius Dora in 2011. In 2012, the Bulldogs went into Southern Mississippi and landed Vernon Butler and Adarius Barnes. In 2014, Tech signed Alex Woodall. 2015 brough Ephraim Kitchen, Jordan Bradford, and J'Mar Smith. Not only has Tech had success in Baton Rouge and New Orleans. The Bulldogs are branching out into Southern Miss territory.

LA Tech beat Southern Miss in 2013 and 2014, but they have a long way to go in the all-time series. A win this season would be the first time ever that the Bulldogs beat Southern Miss three times in a row. The game is in Ruston, but Southern Miss has improved under Monken.

How long can Louisiana Tech keep their recent run going? When will Southern Miss get back on top? One thing is certain; it is fun to finally have the two schools in the same conference and playing again on a consistent basis. This rivalry is starting to heat back up.