For the Southern Miss Golden Eagles, the defense has managed to take them a long way. And it could take them into a bowl situation if they can get a road win, which is something they haven't been able to achieve this season.
On the other sideline, this Saturday will be the UTEP Miners, who crossed a bridge this season by finally winning a game after 20 losses, and have played very hard, but don't have the talent to compete against most of the competition in Conference USA.
These teams are slated to play at the Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, TX.
TV: ESPN Plus, 3 PM ET. LINE: Southern Miss -13 [litl]
ABOUT SOUTHERN MISS: Current Status - The Golden Eagles got a big win last week, beating Louisiana Tech 21-20 to keep their bowl hopes alive. They only had 54 rushing yards, but held the Bulldogs to just 68. Right now, CBS Sports and the Sporting News both project them to be playing Memphis in the Birmingham Bowl. The Good - One thing that is good is Jack Abraham is back in the lineup at quarterback. He went 24-29 for 195 yards against Louisiana Tech. And even though he has tossed ten interceptions, he leads the nation in completion percentage (73.3%). The real story with Southern Miss is defense. They rank #9 in the country, yielding just 287.5 yards per game, and they are 10th best against the run. Just to show you that they are well-balanced in their stop unit, they've allowed only 182 passing yards on average as well. And they have done a very good job in the red zone, preventing opponents from scoring any points on 23.3% of all trips. The Bad - Generally speaking, their offense has not performed, ranking outside the top hundred in the country. And they have averaged less than 100 yards per game on the ground. The offensive line has been substandard in many respects, allowing 31 sacks and 8.8 tackles for loss per game. That latter figure is exceeded by only one team in the country. So they often find themselves in bad down-and-distance situations, reflected in 36.2% success on third down. The Golden Eagles have exceeded 27 points only against Rice and FCS entry Jackson State this season.
ABOUT UTEP: Current Status - Last week's game was a low-water mark for the Miners this season, and for a team that is 1-10 (5-6 ATS), that's saying a lot. They went down 27-0 at the end of the first quarter and 40-0 at the half against Western Kentucky, and threw FIVE interceptions in the first half of play - three from Kai Locksley, who was lifted after going 1-for-9, and two more from Brandon Jones, who did manage to recover and pass for 340 yards. But that was in "garbage time," for all intents and purposes. The Good - What's good is that UTEP was able to get the monkey off its back with a straight-up win, after going through the 2017 season 0-12 and enduring an 0-8 start this year. Of course, that was against another lesser light in Rice, so that has to be taken into consideration. The Miners have also admittedly played hard for coach Dana Dimel, so you can expect something of an inspired effort this week. They rank 64th in total defense, which isn't bad, considering the circumstances the offense has usually out them in. And they have held opponents to 37.2% on third down. The Bad - Well, UTEP has scored 18.6 points a game with the nation's 124th-ranked offense. They have not gotten quality quarterback play; that much is a given. But they have not protected well either, allowing 37 sacks. They have 24 giveaways, which helps produce their minus-13 turnover margin, which is among the five worst in the country.
1. Even though this is Southern Miss' eleventh game, this is their last chance to secure a sixth win and the bowl eligibility that comes with it. A game from early in the season against Appalachian State, which was canceled due to Hurricane Florence, has not been made up.
2. In last year's meeting between these teams, Southern Miss registered a 24-0 shutout, holding UTEP to six first downs and 147 total yards.
3. No team in the nation has allowed fewer first downs to its opponents than Southern Miss (149).
PREDICTION: Southern Miss 30, UTEP 10