Billy Embody: How is Nick Mullens doing and do you expect him to play? What does he do so well back there operating this offense?
Drew White: "Nick Mullens hurt his thumb last week in the game but Coach Hopson confirmed it was not broken. He's listed as day to day and we expect him to play. Nick is a senior four year starter who has rewritten the record books at Southern Miss, passing even the great Brett Favre. He's a great QB for the up tempo system because he is an accurate Quarterback who is able to make get reads and get the ball in the hands of his play makers. His biggest strength, however, his his leadership. He's been the face of the program the past two years and a key component of the turnaround of the program. He's called the hardest working player on the team by the strength and conditioning staff and is the true leader on and off the field."
BE: Southern Miss runs that up-tempo spread attack, but what does their scheme look like? Are they pass first? How will they go about attacking an opponent?
DW: "The main goal of the spread attack under Shannon Dawson (Louisiana native) is to remain balanced. He's really good at scheming what the defense gives them and making adjustments to that end. The offense is more of a pass to set up the run, as they will try and spread the opponent out and work up the seams, then establish Ito Smith. In the past two games, the running game hasn't been as effective but they've been able to move the ball through the air. In the opener against Kentucky, they stuck with the run as the Wildcats continued to allow them to move the ball on the ground. On the season, they've attempted to run 259 times and passed 222, so balance is always the key."
BE: Last week against UTSA, the Road Runners raced out to a big lead and Southern Miss slowly got better over the course of the game, especially in the second half. What changed and where'd they have success against UTSA?
DW: "Southern Miss played its worst game of the year against UTSA and never really responded when hit in the mouth from the get go. Coach Hopson admitted that the effort and energy were not there in that game, especially in the first quarter where they gave up 28 points. The offense was not the problem. Though they started slow, they got it going and actually outgained UTSA on offense by putting up 557 yards. They were able to move the ball at will through the air. The issue against the Roadrunners was on the defensive side. There was almost no resistance and the defensive line was pushed around all game long. USM gave up 339 yards on the ground, a huge concern especially knowing what they are up against Saturday. Southern Miss has started slow in every game this season, but has made adjustments and played well in the second half. That didn't happen last weekend either."
BE: Defensively, what does Southern Miss bring to the table and what are their strengths?
DW: "Southern Miss is undersized up front and tries to overcome that with a lot of pre-snap movement, twists and stunts to try and shoot the gaps. They are hopeful to get their biggest defensive lineman back this Saturday in Draper Riley, who hasn't played a snap this year but will add some much needed size to the line. The secondary is pretty good and experienced, with two seniors at safety who cover a lot of ground. Southern Miss prides itself on being very aggressive defensively and in trying to create turnovers. They are led by defensive lineman Dylan Bradley who is always around the ball and has tremendous quickness. He'll be playing on Sunday's next year. The linebackers, who were nonexistent against UTSA, will have to play much, much better for USM to have any success defensively."
BE: How do you feel like this game will play out? Got a prediction for us?
DW: "The last game for Southern Miss was very concerning. They never really showed up and competed, which is unlike the Golden Eagles who pride their program in being tough and a team that will always fight you to the end. They've traditionally gone into big stadiums and competed well, but LSU has a huge advantage in the trenches on both sides of the ball. Being realistic, I don't expect this one to be close. 42-14 LSU"