Keeping Score

Is Ole Miss-Southern Miss a possibility in the Independence Bowl?

Southern Miss running back Ito Smith rushes for a first down against Marshall on Oct. 29, 2016, at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss running back Ito Smith rushes for a first down against Marshall on Oct. 29, 2016, at Roberts Stadium in Hattiesburg. ttisbell@sunherald.com

The bowl matchups will shake out in the coming weeks, but one interesting possibility crossed my mind as I was piecing together this week's Conference USA bowl projections.

The Independence Bowl has tie-ins with the ACC and the SEC. It also has a conditional tie-in with Conference USA.

South Carolina, Ole Miss, Arkansas, Kentucky, Georgia and Vanderbilt will all probably hover around 6-6 and 7-5 at the conclusion of the season, putting them in the running for games like the Birmingham Bowl, Texas Bowl and Independence Bowl.

The most likely scenario at the moment is Ole Miss, which is currently 3-5, will win three of its last four games and finish at 6-6. The Rebels may get scooped up by a better bowl like the Liberty or the Music City, but why not Independence?

If the Independence does want Ole Miss, the best way to bring a crowd to Shreveport on Dec. 26 would be to line up Southern Miss as the opponent. This would probably involve some deal-making with the ACC and C-USA.

Granted, evidence we've seen up to this point indicates Ole Miss would be completely opposed to playing USM in a bowl game.

I don't see it happening, but why the heck not?

Ole Miss and USM haven't played in football since 1984 with the Rebels leading the all-time series 18-6. USM won the last two games in the series and the rivalry was put to a halt.

It just so happens that Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze is a USM graduate and Southern Miss head coach Jay Hopson is a former Ole Miss football player. Maybe these two men can get together and help grease the wheels.

At the moment, it appears as if Conference USA will come up short of fulfilling its six bowl tie-ins. UTSA and North Texas are both at 4-4, but both teams have difficult remaining schedules.

Here are my Conference USA bowl projections with four weeks remaining in the regular season:

Boca Raton Bowl

Western Kentucky (6-3) vs. Central Florida (4-4)

Hawaii Bowl

Middle Tennessee (6-2) vs. Hawaii (4-5)

Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl

Louisiana Tech (6-3) vs. Indiana (4-4)

R&L Carriers New Orleans Bowl

Southern Miss (5-3) vs. Appalachian State (6-2)

Popeyes Bahamas Bowl

Old Dominion (5-3) vs. Memphis (5-3)

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