The Conference USA West title is on the line when Southern Miss travels to Louisiana Tech for an 11 a.m. Game on Saturday.
The Bulldogs will have the edge in home field advantage, putting the pressure on USM to play one of its best games of the season.
There will be several key areas where the Golden Eagles have to succeed in to pick up a win and a ticket to the C-USA title game:
1. Slow down Dixon: Louisiana Tech senior running back Anthony Dixon is going to make a big play or two Saturday, but USM has to find a way to make sure he doesn’t have another huge day. Dixon has accounted for a total of five touchdowns in the last two games against USM.
2. Contain Driskel: Jeff Driskel is one of the best passers in C-USA with 3,220 yards and 21 touchdowns, but he’s also a threat to take off with the ball. He is Tech’s second-leading rusher with 320 yards and five touchdowns. If USM keeps him mostly in the pocket, its chances improve.
3. Attack through air: The Louisana Tech defense is the best in the conference against the run with 109.5 yards allowed a game, but it is vulnerable through the air. The Bulldogs have given up an average of 254.8 passing yards this season. If USM QB Nick Mullens comes out sharp, the Eagles will be in good shape.
4. No turnovers: It’s cliché, but USM can’t afford to turn the ball over on the road. If the mistakes pile up, the Eagles will be sitting at home and watching the Dec. 5 C-USA title game.
5. Get Smith, Richard involved: Yards on the ground may not come that easy for USM Saturday, but offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey will have to find ways to get the ball to his two running backs, Ito Smith and Jalen Richard. Both players can make an impact in the passing game.