By Ryan Nelson (@TheRyanNelson_)
Southern Miss Can't Squander Golden Opportunities
Southern Miss (6-6) is among the worst in the nation in protecting the football. Of 128 FBS teams, the Golden Eagles come in T-125th in turnover margin, with 30 turnovers on the season.
In Jay Hopson's first season as head coach, the Golden Eagles dropped to a 6-6 record, after finishing 9-5 under previous head coach Todd Monken.
Nonetheless, USM is going bowling for consecutive seasons, this year taking on Louisiana-Lafayette in the R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl.
The success of the Golden Eagles offense starts under center with QB Nick Mullens, who missed two games this season due to a concussion and thumb injury.
Mullens passed for nearly 3,000 yards this season, 22 touchdowns, and finished the season with a passer rating of 150.1.
His favorite target is WR Allenzae Staggers, who hauled in six touchdowns, on 935 yards receiving.
When the offense needs a boost, expect them to rely on RB Ito Smith. Smith finished the season with 1,321 rushing yards, and 15 rushing touchdowns. His rushing total is fourth best in Conference USA.
The Cajuns Are Ragin'
Louisiana-Lafayette (6-6) finished their last four games of the season on a 3-1 upswing, with their only loss coming on the road to SEC foe Georgia.
The Cajuns are led offensively by former LSU QB Anthony Jennings, who finished the season with just over 2,000 yards passing, and 11 passing touchdowns. Jennings did prove to be turnover prone at times, tossing 12 interceptions on the season.
Jennings is a dual-threat quarterback, and rushed for 322 yards this season. He tacked on seven rushing touchdowns to boot.
Like the Golden Eagles, ULL features a stud in the backfield in RB Elijah McGuire.
McGuire is a 1,000 yard back who's run for seven touchdowns. His longest rush on the season of 68 yards resulted in a touchdown for the Ragin' Cajuns.
WR Kennan Barnes has hauled in the most receiving touchdowns (6) of any ULL player.
Where to Watch
You can find the action live on ESPN this Saturday, Dec. 17 at 9 PM ET.