The Southern Miss football team heads to Rice as a 7.5-point favorite in Saturday's contest.
The Owls (4-5, 2-3) have lost back-to-back games and haven't quite lived up to expectations this season. That doesn't mean USM (6-3, 4-1) can take a road win for granted.
There are several areas where Southern Miss has to play well to reach the seven-win mark on Saturday:
Limit Jackson: Rice quarterback Driphus Jackson hasn't run the ball much this season, but he has the ability to hurt you in that area. The USM defense allowed Texas State quarterback Tyler Jones to run 18 times for 160 yards and two scores in the Eagles' 56-50 win on Sept. 19, showing the Eagles can be vulnerable in that area.
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Jackson has completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 1798 yards and 15 touchdowns with just four interceptions. His rushing numbers have taken a dip this year, but USM will have to make sure he doesn't break free Saturday.
Play clean: One issue for Southern Miss this season has been too many penalties. USM ranks 117th in the nation in penalty yardage with an average of 75 per game. That trend can't continue if the Golden Eagles are to stay in the hunt for a Conference USA championship.
Find Mike: With senior Mike Thomas fully healthy at receiver, the Golden Eagles have stepped it up another notch on offense. It seems as if he's due at least one big play every game and he needs one or two Saturday to help the Eagles win on the road.
Bring the blitz: The Rice offensive line is giving up an average of 3.11 sacks a game this season to rank 117th in the nation. USM was held without a sack by UTEP the last time out, but the Golden Eagles have done a good job of getting after the quarterback this season. If USM gets to Jackson in the pocket, it will be along day for the Owls.
Stay rolling: USM is coming off a bye week and there's always the danger of taking a step back after having some extra time off. The Golden Eagles need an early score to shake off the rust.