Following some time in the film room, the Southern Miss football team realizes the challenge ahead in the Dec. 26 Heart of Dallas Bowl.
The Washington Huskies may only be 6-6, but that record is deceiving considering the quality of their schedule. Second-year head coach Chris Petersen has a talented squad.
In five of Washington's six losses, it was a play or two away from walking off the field with a victory.
The 31-14 loss at No. 6 Stanford on Oct. 24 stands out as the only game where Washington seemed somewhat overmatched.
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Wins over No. 25 USC and then No. 20 Washington State are better indicators of what Washington is capable of.
The Southern Miss offense set several records in a 9-4 campaign, but it hasn't faced the test yet that it will see at the Cotton Bowl stadium.
Washington held opponents to 17.8 points a game, four points better than the second best team in the Pac-12, Utah. The Huskies also rank first in the Pac-12 in total defense with 349.9 yards allowed a contest.
Washington will feature the most talented defense USM has faced since the season-opening 34-16 loss to Mississippi State and that challenge is attractive to a group of Golden Eagles in search of national respect.
Senior receiver Casey Martin expressed it best during third day of bowl practice on Saturday in Hattiesburg.
"We're all going to have money matchups," he told his teammates.
Martin and the rest of the USM receiving corps will have to contend with a gifted secondary that features two first-team all-conference performers - sophomore cornerback Sidney Jones and sophomore safety Budda Baker.
After combining for 4,145 yards and 36 touchdowns through the air, junior quarterback Nick Mullens and his receivers will have to be on top of their game in the ESPN-televised contest.
"We're going to be able to show what we're made of," Mullens said. "We're excited about that."
While the Washington defense stands out on film and on the stat sheet, Washington can't be discounted on offense either.
With freshman quarterback Jake Browning picking up his play late in the season, the Huskies out-scored Oregon State and Washington State by a combined 97-17 in the final two games.
Washington also had an offensive outburst in a 49-3 win over Arizona on Oct. 24.
The Huskies have had a youth movement in the backfield with Browning at quarterback and budding star Myles Gaskin at running back.
The freshman running back has run 201 yards for 1,158 yards and 10 touchdowns while Browning has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 2,671 yards, 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
"As their young quarterback has gotten better, they've gotten better offensively," USM coach Todd Monken said Saturday. "They've been good all year defensively. We're going to have our hands full and we're going to have to play well."
Of all the postseason opponents USM could have faced in a bowl game, Washington is likely the most dangerous -- a young team that's peaking at the right time of year.
Contact Patrick Magee at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at Patrick_Magee.