Southern Mississippi (6-6) vs Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6)
Southern Mississippi has consistently put together good teams very quietly over the last several decades. Louisiana-Lafayette is a program that competes in a conference on the rise. This year’s New Orleans Bowl will be a short trip for each school, who are both a short drive away from New Orleans.
When Southern Mississippi Has The Ball: Southern Mississippi has a balanced offense, barely, that relies on senior quarterback Nick Mullens and junior running back Ito Smith to move the ball. Having playmakers at both positions makes stopping Southern Miss difficult for smaller school programs that don’t have defensive talent and depth. Establishing Smith early will give the Eagles more options as the game progresses. Defensive linemen Joe Dillon and Otha Peters both have double digits in tackles for loss this year and could make life difficult for a lackluster USM offensive line.
When Louisiana-Lafayette Has The Ball: Running back Elijah McGuire is the engine for the Ragin’ Cajuns offense. Stopping McGuire will be tantamount to the success of USM as the Cajuns don’t really have any other established offensive threats. The defensive line tandem of Dylan Bradley and Xavier Thigpen, along with Sherrod Ruff are expected to control the line of scrimmage for the Eagles.
Analysis: Both teams have decent defenses and offenses that underperform. USM and Louisiana-Lafayette are 2-5 and 2-4 respectively against bowl eligible competition. While Southern Miss has more top line talent on both sides of the ball they are also sloppy with turnovers (-16 on the year.) In the end the individual talent at USM should win out, though they’ll need to play with discipline.
USM 27 Louisiana-Lafayette 24