Skip Holtz Predicted Southern Miss As The Sleeper Of Conference USA

Before the season, Skip Holtz predicted Southern Miss was going to be the sleeper team to watch in Conference USA...

If the whole coaching thing doesn't work out for Skip Holtz, he might want to consider a career with Phil Steele.  

Fear not, Louisiana Tech fans, the coaching thing is working out just fine for him.  Holtz and his Bulldogs were predicted to be competing again for a conference championship, and that is exactly where they are as the season enters its final week.  

While he's building a pretty salty program over there in Ruston, he's equally as good predicting football programs on the rise.  

Before the season, all the coaches in Conference USA were asked to predict a "sleeper" team for the conference.  Standing with Skip Holtz at C-USA media day, he glanced and nodded in Coach Monken's direction when asked this question.  It was as if he knew something in that room others outside the program didn't.  

According to Holtz back in July, Southern Miss was the sleeping giant.  

"I've told everyone who will listen when I'm asked to pick my dark horse, 'It's Southern Miss," Holtz predicted.  

Not only did Holtz see the players coming back, but he knew the man in charge of it all.

"I have tremendous respect for Todd Monken and who he is as a coach," he added.  "He's going in to his third year and he has his fingerprints all over that program.

"They have talent.  Todd Monken is a good football coach and going into year three he's getting the culture he wants.  Change is hard and not everyone wants to embrace it.  But what he's doing there is going to work and I think they will compete for the west.  When you just evaluate the programs going in to this year, you see they are going to be one of the best.  What they do schematically, and the players they have returning, they are going to put some major points on the board."

Holtz was right.

He probably foresaw too that his team's final home game could decide the western division of Conference USA.  When Southern Miss and Louisiana Tech face each other Saturday, the winner will go on to play in the Conference title game the next week.  That's just fine with Holtz, who sees a real rivalry brewing between the two schools.

"We talk rivalries with our team at the beginning of the year during camp and I consider Southern Miss as one of our biggest," Holtz said.

"Geographically it makes sense to be a rival.  We were losing to them at halftime last year before their QB went down with an injury.  There is a lot of talent there."

Holtz has always had the utmost respect for the Golden Eagle program.  His battles with them started back when he was the Head Coach at East Carolina.

"You look at the history, and I go back to when I was at East Carolina and Coach Bower was there," he said.

"Southern Miss came in and beat us up in every way.  They beat us physically and mentally and I told our coaches, 'for us to build this program, they are our blueprint.'  They were the standard.  I have great respect for that program and especially Coach Monken."

After only four wins in three seasons, Holtz was very aware of what was going on.  Now, down to the final game, he's been proven right.  After escaping a game against UTEP, his 8-3 Bulldogs will welcome the team he said would be there in the end.

"Even though the last few years have been dark, I still know them as the measuring stick," he said.  

Just as all connected with the two programs had hoped, the west will be decided Saturday in Ruston.  No matter the outcome, this rivalry will certainly continue to grow.  

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