Southern Miss has already matched its victory total from Jay Hopson's first year on the job in 2016, but the Golden Eagles can take a significant step forward on Saturday.
USM (7-4, 5-2 in C-USA) travels to Marshall (7-4, 4-3) for a 1:30 p.m. kickoff in a game that could provide momentum for the Golden Eagles headed into bowl season and possibly provide an upgrade in their postseason destination.
With as many as 10 C-USA teams reaching bowl eligibility, the postseason picture is more uncertain than usual for Southern Miss headed into the final regular season contest. While USM seems guaranteed a bid, the team's destination likely won't be revealed until after the Conference USA title game between North Texas and FAU next week.
The possible bowl options for USM include the New Orleans Bowl, the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, the Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Armed Forces Bowl in Fort Worth, the Birmingham Bowl, the Gasparilla Bowl in St. Petersburg, the Bahamas Bowl and the Boca Raton Bowl.
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USM’s preference is to stay closer to during the bowl season, but a loss on Saturday may cut down on options.
At the moment, all eyes are on the Thundering Herd of Marshall.
“We have a big challenge to continue to get better this week,” Hopson said. “We know we have a tough opponent.”
USM and Marshall are headed in opposite directions on offense in the latter stages of the season. The Golden Eagles reached a high point on offense in last week's 66-21 win over Charlotte while the Thundering Herd struggled in a 9-7 loss at UTSA.
Against the same Charlotte team on Oct. 7, Marshall managed just a pair of touchdowns in a 14-3 victory.
Marshall had two costly turnovers against UTSA last week.
“We need to be more consistent,” Marshall coach Doc Holliday said this week. “We're converting third downs, even on on Saturday we converted 50 percent of third downs. You can't turn the ball over, and when you get in the red zone, you have to score points.”
Marshall relies heavily on quarterback Chase Litton, who has completed 60.8 percent of his passes for 2,545 yards, 19 touchdowns and 11 interceptions.
In the ground game, Marshall splits carries between a pair of backs – freshman Tyler King and powerful junior Keion Davis. King has 143 carries for 666 yards and six touchdowns. Davis checks in at 146 rushes for 640 yards and five scores.
Griggs heating up
USM redshirt junior quarterback Kwadra Griggs has put together back-to-back outstanding performances since returning from injury to start the 43-34 win at Rice.
The only knock on Griggs was a completion percent of just above 50 percent headed into the Rice game. Over the last two contests, he has completed 72.4 percent of his attempts for 552 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions.
He has also run the ball better recently, carrying 14 times for 69 yards and a touchdown over the last two games.
"He played well (against Charlotte),” Hopson said. “For the second weekend in the row, he did a good job of leading the offense. I've been very proud of him. He's played well. We need that to continue.”
Overall, Griggs has completed 58.3 percent of his passes for 1,623 yards, 12 touchdowns and two interceptions.
Southern Miss has played its best football on the road in conference play this season, winning all three games. USM's only road loss this season was a 24-10 game at Tennessee.
Who: Southern Miss vs. Marshall
When: 1:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Huntington, W.Va.
Radio: WBUV 104.9 FM