The Southern Miss football team is in need of a rebound after last week's 55-32 let down at Texas-San Antonio, but a win Saturday at LSU is a lot to ask for.
With Ed Orgeron serving as the Tigers' head coach for just the second game, LSU (3-2) will step on the turf in Death Valley as a 25 1/2-point favorite over the Golden Eagles.
Orgeron, who was the head coach at Ole Miss from 2005-07, was promoted to head coach after Les Miles was fired on Sept. 25 following a loss at Auburn.
“Coach Orgeron has given them some juice,” USM head coach Jay Hopson said. “They went out there and played well against Missouri and they play hard every Saturday. They have done that since the beginning (of the season). They’re a football team that we know is a really good football team. We know they’re a very talented football team and understand that we have to play better. That’s a big thing as a coach, we have to come out and play better football than we did last week for sure.”
Hopson and his staff have done all they can to make sure the players have put last week's defeat in the past.
“Last week isn’t going to have anything to do with this week and that’s the reality of it,” Hopson said. “Two weeks ago has nothing to do with this week and three weeks from now has nothing to do with this week.”
There will be no Leonard Fournette in the LSU backfield Saturday as he continues to recover from an ankle injury, but Orgeron has plenty of options to carry the ball against a defense that gave up 339 yards on the ground to UTSA last week.
Derrius Guice has run 46 times for 402 yards and four touchdowns. Darrel Williams, who has three touchdowns, and Nick Brossette should also see touches.
“They’re good at running back,” Hopson said. “Their ones, twos and threes are good at running back. We know we’re going to get good players whether Leonard goes or not. He’s a great football player, but so are their backups. We know they’re going to do what they do.”
Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens is expected to get the start against LSU after missing a couple of drives in the UTSA game due to an injured thumb. Whether he'll be at 100 percent health Saturday remains to be seen.
Mullens has completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 1,874 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season.
The LSU defense has been stout all season, giving 14.8 points and 326 yards a game. The Tigers have allowed an average of 217.8 passing yards.
Orgeron is doing some shuffling on the offensive line due to injuries. Star center Ethan Pocic is making the move to right tackle and his backup, Andy Dodd, will get the start at center. Also, Maea Tehuhema will be playing a new position at left guard.
LSU and USM (4-2) have met only twice before with the series tied at 1-1 thanks to the Golden Eagles' 20-18 upset in Baton Rouge in 1994. LSU beat USM in the other meeting, 13-0, in 1951.
Who: Southern Miss vs. LSU
When: 6:30 p.m., Saturday
Where: Baton Rouge, La.
Radio: 104.9 FM
TV: SEC Network