With game week finally here, now is the time to take a closer look at what Southern Miss could be capable of coming off two seasons of 1-23 football.
Last year, many assumed there would be an immediate turnaround following the 0-12 season that brought about Ellis Johnson’s firing after only one year on the job.
When I predicted a 5-7 season prior to the 2013 campaign, some USM fans bashed me for underestimating the team and program. At the time, I believed five wins tended to be on the optimistic side. I was way off the final record of 1-11.
The season opener looms at 6:30 p.m. Saturday at Mississippi State with Southern Miss considered a 30.5-point underdog.
There are many unforeseen factors that will determine how many wins this year’s USM team ends up with, but let’s go ahead and look at the schedule on a game-by-game basis:
Date – Opponent – Predicted outcome
Aug. 30 – at Mississippi State – Loss
Southern Miss struggled badly at stopping teams that had a power rushing attack in 2013. While the Golden Eagles may have improved in that aspect, it’s unlikely they will slow down an offense of this quality.
Sept. 6 – Alcorn State – Win
Coach Jay Hopson, a former USM defensive coordinator, has done a good job of building a solid program at Alcorn. The Braves might put up a fight for a half, but USM should pull away for its first win of the season.
Sept. 13 – at Alabama – Loss
Having Alabama on the schedule is always a positive for Southern Miss, but this is an impossible task.
Sept. 20 – Appalachian State – Win
USM athletic director Bill McGillis was wise to do some rearranging of the schedule so he could add Appalachian State. The Mountaineers were not a very good FCS team last year with a 4-8 record so it’s fair to assume their first season on the FBS level will not be a good one.
Sept. 27 – Rice – Loss
This is a game where I see Southern Miss putting up a fight, but the Owls will be tough to stop on the ground once again. I see this as a game where Rice pulls away late for the win in Hattiesburg.
Oct. 4 – at Middle Tennessee – Loss
MTSU may have been one of the worst eight-win teams in the nation last year and the Blue Raiders have lost their starting quarterback, Logan Kilgore. MTSU gets the edge on its home field, but I see USM putting up a stiff challenge.
Oct. 18 – at North Texas – Loss
North Texas is an emerging power in Conference USA. The Mean Green lost key players from year’s team, but I see UNT challenging in the C-USA West.
Oct. 25 – Louisiana Tech – Loss
This is the game where USM’s season could go from four wins to five wins. Louisiana Tech is in position for a rebound after a four-win season in 2013, but the Bulldogs could be susceptible on the road. I see this as a tight game, but you give La. Tech the slight advantage.
Nov. 1 – at UTEP – Win
UTEP was bad last season with a 2-10 record. There’s talk that Texas A&M transfer quarterback Jameill Showers could give the Miners a potent offense, but I’m not confident that the Miners will be able to hang with the rest of the West. I see USM playing its best football of the season as it travels to El Paso.
Nov. 8 – Marshall – Loss
Marshall will be very good this season and has a genuine shot at 12-0. Senior quarterback Rakeem Cato has USM’s number with three straight wins and that’s unlikely to change this year.
Nov. 13 – at UTSA – Loss
Texas-San Antonio has loads of talent back from a seven-win team in 2013. This is a game where Southern Miss could spring the upset if it continues to build off the UTEP game, but the Roadrunners will be tough to handle.
Nov. 29 – UAB - Win
The Blazers will have last year’s embarrassing 62-27 loss to USM in mind when they come to Hattiesburg, but that likely won’t matter. USM quarterback Nick Mullens is a native of Hoover, Ala., and was committed to UAB at one point. After losing four straight to UAB from 2009-12, I can see USM starting its own winning streak against the Blazers with Mullens behind center.
Final record prediction: 4-8, 2-6 in C-USA.