The Southern Miss football team sits at 2-2 after four games and has plenty of work to do over the final seven games of the season to reach six wins and bowl eligibility.
A crucial run of contests begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday when USM, which is 1-0 in Conference USA play, travels to North Texas (5-1, 1-1). If the Golden Eagles win, they can be maintain a spot in the C-USA West hunt.
USM has a difficult conference slate remaining that includes many of the best teams in the conference, including UAB, Louisiana Tech and Marshall.
The key for USM’s success is to show significant improvement on a rushing attack that’s averaging 110.8 yards a game.
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With a great deal on the line in the coming weeks, here are my projections for the remaining contests.
Southern Miss at North Texas (Oct. 13) — The Mean Green haven’t played their best football the last couple of weeks, but it’s hard to see them continuing that trend for very long. My projection — USM loses — North Texas 28, Southern Miss 24.
UTSA at Southern Miss (Oct. 20) — I’ve long marked this game as a victory for the Golden Eagles and the Roadrunners (3-3, 2-0) have done little to change my mind. UTSA’s two conference games have come against the two of the worst teams in C-USA — Rice and UTEP. MY projection — USM wins — Southern Miss 31, UTSA 17.
Southern Miss at Charlotte (Oct. 27) — It’s hard to see how the 49ers (2-3, 1-1) beat Old Dominion. My projection — USM wins — Southern Miss 38, Charlotte 14.
Marshall at Southern Miss (Nov. 3) — Marshall (3-2, 1-1) is part of a C-USA East Division that has been underwhelming so far. It appears that Middle Tennessee (3-2, 2-0) is in position to take first place with wins over FAU and Marshall already in hand. My projection — USM wins — Southern Miss 35, Marshall 28.
Southern Miss at UAB (Nov. 10) — This is likely the toughest game remaining on the schedule. UAB stands at 4-1 and 2-0, showing significant improvement in recent weeks. USM didn’t match up well with UAB last year and the Blazers returned much of their roster. My projection — USM loses — UAB 27, Southern Miss 24.
Louisiana Tech at Southern Miss (Nov. 17) — This one is hard to read this far out with the Bulldogs coming off a surprising 28-7 loss to UAB in Ruston. If La. Tech (3-2, 1-1) resembles the team we saw through the first four games of the season, the Bulldogs will be tough to handle in Hattiesburg. My projection — USM loses — La. Tech 28, Southern Miss 21.
Southern Miss at UTEP (Nov. 24) — The Miners (0-6, 0-2) are more competitive than their record has shown up to this point. My projection — USM wins — Southern Miss 35, UTEP 20.
Final projection — Southern Miss ends the regular season with a 6-5 mark and reaches bowl eligibility. There remains the possibility that USM will scheduled a 12th game after having the Appalachian State game canceled in September due to Hurricane Florence.