In a showdown with the Conference USA West Division title at stake, the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles (8-3, 6-1) travel to face the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs (8-3, 6-1) Saturday afternoon. Louisiana Tech has won the last two meetings, including a 31-20 road triumph as an 8 point favorite on October 25, 2014 in the most recent matchup between the schools.
Southern Miss is coming off their fifth straight victory as they rolled over Old Dominion 56-31 at home last Saturday. Louisiana Tech won their fourth straight game as they clawed their way to a 17-15 road win over UTEP last Saturday. The kickoff from Joe Aillet Stadium in Ruston, Louisiana is scheduled for 12:00 pm ET and the game will not be nationally televised. Louisiana Tech is currently a 6 point favorite in this contest with the over/under set at 61 points.
Southern Miss trailed 17-14 at the half to Old Dominion but outscored the Monarchs 42-14 in the second half to cruise to the victory. The Golden Eagles outgained the Monarchs by a 612-338 margin while winning the first down battle 33-18. While both teams committed two turnovers, Southern Miss held a hefty 34:20 to 25:40 edge in the time of possession in the game. The Golden Eagles allowed a fumble return for a score and scored the game’s final 35 points after falling behind 31-21 in the third quarter.
The Golden Eagles currently are 12th in the nation in passing with an average of 336 yards per game; they are 33rd in the nation in rushing with an average of 197 yards per game. Southern Miss averages 40.2 points per game, which is tied for 10th in the nation; they are allowing 22.3 points per contest, which has them 37th in the nation in scoring defense. Nick Mullens has hit 64.2 percent of his passes (267 of 416) for 3,578 yards with 32 touchdowns and eight picks while averaging 8.60 yards per pass attempt. The Golden Eagles have a solid 1-2 punch on the ground with Jalen Richard (168 carries, 1047 yards, 12 TD) and Ito Smith (118 carries, 814 yards, 4 TD) help move the sticks on the ground. Justice Hayes is a capable third back when he gets his chances; he has 43 carries for 192 yards and two scores. Casey Martin is the team’s leading receiver with 68 grabs for 744 yards and seven scores; Michael Thomas (49 receptions, 949 yards, 10 TD) is a solid #2 receiver and Smith has been a solid receiver out of the backfield with 37 grabs for 426 yards and three scores. DJ Thompson has hauled in 47 balls for 676 yards and six touchdowns and Richard has 24 catches from the backfield, giving Mullens two good safety valves out of the backfield. Southern Miss has had two kickers this season; they’ve combined for 55 of 58 on extra points and 11 of 17 on field goals with no kick longer than 39 yards.
Louisiana Tech had a much tougher than expected battle with UTEP but escaped with the win. The game was tied 10-10 at the half before Jeff Driskel hit Carlos Henderson on a 54 yard scoring pass in the third quarter to take a 17-10 lead they wouldn’t relinquish. The Bulldogs were outgained 392-307, lost the first down battle 21-12 and the time of possession battle 37:49 to 22:11 in the contest. Both teams committed one turnover in the game and Louisiana Tech overcame allowing a safety in the contest.
The Bulldogs have a terrific offensive unit as they are 20th (303.3 yards) in passing offense and currently stand 69th (168 yards per game) in rushing offense this season. Louisiana Tech is tied for 19th in the nation in scoring offense as they average 37.9 points per game though they are currently 45th in the nation in scoring defense by allowing 23.9 points per game. Former Florida quarterback Jeff Driskel has connected on 228 of 368 passes for 3,220 yards with 21 touchdowns and five interceptions while ranking second on the team with 320 yards and five scores. Kenneth Dixon is the top ground gainer for Louisiana Tech as he has run the ball 168 times for 972 yards with 17 scores; if he needs a breather, Jarred Craft (58 carries, 230 yards, TD) and Boston Scott (30 carries, 169 yards) are next in line. Seven players have double digit receptions for Louisiana Tech this season; Trent Taylor is far and away the leading receiver with 78 grabs for 1,031 yards and seven scores while no other Bulldogs player has more than Paul Turner’s (448 yards, 3 TD) 34 receptions. Dixon has caught 23 passes out of the backfield while Carlos Henderson (30 receptions, 661 yards, 5 TD) and Kameron McKnight (22 grabs, 268 yards) are good secondary options. Jonathan Barnes has hit all 52 extra points and 17 of 21 field goal attempts on the year with a long of 50 yards.
Louisiana Tech is 4-0 ATS in their last four on fieldturf, 7-1 ATS in their last eight at home, 6-1 ATS in their last seven after an ATS loss and 7-3 ATS in their last 10 against teams with a winning record. Southern Miss is 0-4 ATS in their last four against teams with a winning record.
This one should be a great matchup between two teams that can put up points on the scoreboard by the truckload. Southern Miss has a very good balance offensively with the run and pass while Louisiana Tech is more pass oriented. This one will be a close contest all the way but playing at home gives the Bulldogs the edge; look for Louisiana Tech to win by a touchdown to barely cover the line in a game that could easily swing the other way.