It is the conference opener for Southern Miss (2-2) as the Mean Green from North Texas (0-3) come rolling into town. With the game, Southern Miss will start its 20th season in Conference USA since the league debuted in 1996. The Golden Eagles are 85-56 in Conference USA, including a 13-6 mark in openers. The Eagles are looking to snap a streak of losing four in a row to start the conference season, however.
Here are some notes on the match-up against North Texas:
Know The Foe
North Texas is located in Denton, Texas and has an enrollment of 37,323. They play their home games in Apogee Stadium which holds 30,850. The football program made its Division One appearance in 1995, and they are 82-156 since. The Mean Green are coached by Dan McCarney who is now in his 5th season as head coach over North Texas. McCarney is no stranger to the college football world, however, as he's 78-115 in this now his 17th season. His longest tenure as head coach came at Iowa State where he led the Cyclones to 5 straight bowl games.
North Texas is 0-3, losing their opener to SMU on the road. They then returned home to play Rice for the conference opener, but came up short against the Owls 38-24. North Texas then went to Iowa and saw the game get out of hand, losing 62-16. They've now lost 4 in a row dating back to last season.
The Mean Green have been pretty good on the ground this season. Last week against the nation's 5th ranked defense, the trio of Jeffrey Wilson, Antoinne Jimmerson and Willy Ivery accounted for 179 of the 183 yards they were able to produce running the ball. North Texas will look to establish a run game against Southern Miss and the quick strike offense. RB Antoinne Jimmerson is averaging 7.0 yards a carry on first-down and Willy Ivery and Jeffrey Wilson are averaging 6.0 yards a run on first-down. NT as a team is averaging 5.7 yards a rush on first-down.
The big problem for North Texas this season has been the turnovers. They have been able to move the football, but have a -5 turnover ratio that has done them in against three good teams to start the season. They've given up 44 points this season off those turnovers. An interesting note, when losing the turnover battle, North Texas is 1-16 under Dan McCarney. That will certainly be a stat to watch for today.
North Texas QB Andrew McNulty has thrown for 568 yards with 2 TD's and 4 INT's. He's been good on 1st and 3rd downs, but ironically has struggled on 2nd down. On the ground is where they've had their most success, led by Antoinne Jimmerson, who has rusehd for 200 yards on 37 carries. The big offensive weapon to watch is WR Carlos Harris, one of the best receivers in the conference who has big play potential. He has 18 catches for 276 yards, including a TD catch for 93 yards. North Texas tries to find creative ways to get the ball in his hands.
Where the Mean Green has struggled is on the defensive side of the ball over the first three games, espeically against the run. They are giving up an average of 224 yards on the ground in three games this year. Jalen Richard, Ito Smith, and Justice Hayes of Southern Miss have to like the match-up coming in.
While the North Texas defense has struggled against the run, they've had a pretty good pass rush led by Jarrian Roberts who has 4 sacks already. That mark puts him at #8 in the nation in that stat, and #1 in Conference USA. Safety Kishawn McClain ranks 6th in the NCAA in total tackles, averaging 11 per game.
Southern Miss won their only conference game last season in Denton with a 30-20 win, and own a slight edge in the series lead at 5-4 which dates back to 1954. The last trip to Hattiesburg for North Texas was a dominating performance by the Mean Green as they won 55-14. The series is even at 2-2 with games in Hattiesburg.
Southern Miss met North Texas back in 2004 in the New Orleans bowl with Southern Miss coming away with a 31-10 win.
Highlights of that New Orleans Bowl Game: LINK
The big match up to watch, other than the turnover battle, will be in the 3rd quarter. Southern Miss has been really good coming out of halftime, where they have outscored the opponent 52-23, and North Texas has been outscored in that same quarter 37-17.
Southern Miss has consistenly on offense been able to hit the big play this season. The Golden Eagles have had 28 plays of 20 or more yards (23 pass, 5 rush), and 7 of those have gone for TD's. The North Texas defense on the other hand, has allowed 11 plays of more than 20 yards through the air. If the offensive line can give Nick Mullens time, the Eagles should have no problem moving the ball.