Washington (6-6) won its final two games to earn bowl eligibility and Southern Miss (9-4) won 6 in a row to end the regular season before falling in the conference championship game. The Heart of Dallas bowl will be the first meeting ever between the two schools.
The game is now in its 6th year and is sponsored by Zaxby's. It is also the only bowl game to honor first responders. Last year, Conference USA's Louisiana Tech defeated Illinois 35-18.
The Bowl game had set out to include a match-up between C-USA and the Pac 12, and that is exactly what they were able to land. The game will be held in the historic Cotton Bowl.
"We're very excited to have Washington Huskies play Southern Miss Golden Eagles," Executive director of the game Brant Ringler said.
"The matchup, the fact they've never played each other, we think that's a positive for this game. And the fact that they've never played at the Cotton Bowl. Their fans and their student athletes will have a great experience in a historic stadium. All the greats have played there. They'll be able to add their names to the list as well."
Southern Miss was an attractive choice for the bowl committee because of the way they saw their fans travel.
"On the Conference USA side, we've been watching Southern Miss and the way they ended their season," Ringler said.
"And once they beat Louisiana Tech, it was a clear choice to have Southern Miss come to our game. Especially watched how they traveled to LA Tech, how they traveled to the conference championship game, and how their fans have been ecstatic about coming."
For Washington, it is a chance to continue to earn some exposure where head coach Chris Peterson wants to recruit.
"We're excited. We really are. It's such a great football state," Peterson said.
"I don't know if there's a better one in the country. There's a passion for this game. And so many great players come out of Texas, high school players and great players from pro football to college. It's just a football place. So we're thrilled to come down there and play."
Coach Monken is also thrilled for his Golden Eagle team, who comes into the game as having the biggest turnaround in college football this season. Southern Miss had an 18 straight winning season streak snapped in 2012. They had only won 4 games the last three years, but Monken has this program back on its feet.
"The first is recruit, develop, and coach better," Monken said.
"And we needed to recruit better. We needed to do it better in terms of culture and those things and do it better for our players. And Xs and Os wise, we had to do it better. So it's all of those things. And we've just gotten progressively better. So that's probably been the biggest thing is in not straying off course and just keep working. And our players got better as we got older."
For both teams, it will be a chance to earn some extra valuable practice time, and important exposure for their programs with an afternoon ESPN game. Kick-off is set for 1:20 CST in the historic Cotton Bowl.