Louisiana Tech is considered one of the most talented teams in Conference USA this season and that idea was affirmed this week with word that three Bulldogs have been invited to the Senior Bowl.
Quarterback Jeff Driskel and running back Kenneth Dixon were both invited to the game along with defensive tackle Vernon Butler.
Southern Miss will have to find a way to contain all three men when it travels to Louisiana Tech for an 11 a.m. game on Saturday. The winner will take the C-USA West and advance to the Dec. 5 conference title game.
Driskel is a transfer from Florida who has excelled in his lone season with the Bulldogs.
He has completed 62 percent of his passes for 3,220 yards, 21 touchdowns and five interceptions this season. Driskel also ranks second on the team in rushing with 74 carries for 320 yards and five scores.
Dixon has been a touchdown machine for the Bulldogs in his four years at the Ruston, La., school.
He ranks third all-time in career touchdowns with 81, just one behind Navy quarterback Keenan Reynolds and two behind the all-time leader, former Wisconsin running back Montee Ball.
Reynolds will try to build on his touchdown lead when Navy plays at Houston on Friday, but Dixon should have a shot to get in the end zone considering he's scored a total of five touchdowns the last two times he has faced USM.
Southern Miss defensive coordinator David Duggan knows his group faces a challenge in keeping Dixon and Driskel under wraps.
"It's going to be difficult," Duggan said. "They're a very balanced offense. I think they are one of our tougher opponents schematically that we will face. They have a very capable quarterback who can run it or throw it. They've got a very good running back, Dixon, and they've got a great complementary corps of receivers. They've got possession receivers, they've got guys who can spread the ball underneath to and they've got guys who can go deep on you. They're going to challenge us."
Driskel's favorite target at receiver is junior Trent Taylor, who has 78 catches for 1,031 yards and seven touchdowns this season.
Duggan knows his group will have to find a way to get to Driskel so he doesn't get the ball in Taylor's hands too much.
"They protect him well," Duggan said. "They've got a good offensive line. He's an older quarterback. He knows where and when to go with the football and that enables him to get the ball out of his hand. We'll try to dial up some things we can get after him with. We've got a pretty good front four, they get after guys on their own. Obviously, you've got to find ways to pressure him."
The 6-foot-3, 316-pound Butler was a star at North Pike High School in Summit and was recruited by USM before choosing to attend Louisiana Tech.
He has 42 tackles total, nine tackles for lost yardage and three sacks as the leader of the Louisiana Tech defensive line.
Tech will be without one of its star defensive linemen in the first half with defensive end Jaylon Ferguson missing the first two quarters due to his ejection for targeting in last week's 17-15 win at UTEP.
"The first thing you see is their front," USM offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey said. "The two D-linemen they had in there (Butler and Ferguson), those guys are really good players. They're very active. They're physical. They've played at least since I've been here. They were here last year, so they've got a lot of experience."