Through most of the first decade of the Southern Mississippi's series with Alabama-Birmingham, Golden Eagles fans could smile.
It was the game on the conference schedule that Southern Miss would always win. The Golden Eagles won the first nine games in the series.
Till last season, when Alabama-Birmingham won by nearly two touchdowns. Don't expect Southern Miss to forget that.
"I have not met with the team yet or talked to them about the UAB game from last year, but I am sure that game is probably stuck in their craw," Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora said.
"It is hard to get that one out of your throat. It will be something that will be addressed."
So Southern Miss will have motivation and should have health after the bye week. The thing is, the Golden Eagles probably won't need all those outside factors to beat the Blazers.
Alabama-Birmingham might be better than its record indicates, but Southern Miss seems to have more talent.
The biggest area of talent disparity probably will be seen when Alabama-Birmingham tries to run the ball. Southern Miss has the nation's third-ranked rush defense and the Blazers' rush offense is 45th.
"It comes down to mostly during your job," defensive tackle Anthony Gray told local media. "We're a gap defense so if everybody is in their gap like they're supposed to be, there's nowhere for the ball to go.
"We just have to be sure to make the tackle and take care of our jobs."
• K Daniel Hrapmann has made more field goals than any kicker in the nation this season, and has missed only one. During the bye week, a national publication deemed Hrapmann a midseason All-American.
• Even though Southern Miss was off last week, it climbed to No. 3 in the nation in rushing defense. The Golden Eagles allow only 83.4 yards per game on the ground. LB Korey Williams told local media: "I credit the defensive linemen. Those guys have been working tremendously hard throughout the whole season. It's the best I've ever seen those guys play since I've been here. It starts up front with those four guys and they're the reason for our success this year."
• Few teams are as safe with the ball as Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles have committed only seven turnovers in seven games. And Southern Miss has forced 14, so they are nearly in the top 10 nationally for turnover margin.
Series History: Southern Miss leads the series, 9-1. Last meeting, 2009, 30-17, Alabama-Birmingham
Scouting The Offense: Alabama-Birmingham doesn't have a clear weak spot in its defense, but it is worst at covering the pass. If Southern Miss QB Austin Davis can be sharp early, and have mostly healthy receiving corp at his disposal, then the Golden Eagles should be able to get a lead. If that happens, Southern Miss shouldn't have difficulty running the ball to grind out the game.
Scouting The Defense: Based on the numbers, it would seem Southern Miss should have control of the game when Alabama-Birmingham decides to run. The passing game will be a more competitive match here, but UAB has a tendency to turn the ball over, so Southern Miss needs to take advantage there.
Quote To Note: "This is a different team and UAB is a different team. They are a better football team than they were last year in a lot of different areas. They have made a lot of progress. It should be a heck of a game. I am glad it is here in "The Rock" and in front of our crowd."-Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game:
Alabama-Birmingham at Southern Miss, Oct. 30-Coming off the bye week, the rejuvenated Golden Eagles have two games against teams from near the bottom of the Conference USA standings. This should give Southern Miss a chance to gain confidence before three tougher league games, against Central Florida, Houston and Tulsa. Southern Miss has won nine of the 10 games in this series.
Keys To The Game:
Southern Miss ought to take control of the running game, on both sides of the ball. Alabama-Birmingham has been competitive this season, as four games have been decided by five points or fewer. If Southern Miss lets UAB hang around, then the Blazers could strike late and pull out the upset victory.
Players To Watch:
LB Korey Williams - The Golden Eagles' leading defensive playmaker should have plenty of shots to make an impact against Alabama-Birmingham, which isn't a struggling offense, but isn't great in one area.
QB Austin Davis - He's coming off his best passing game of the season against Memphis, with 275 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions, and could have another good game against UAB's mediocre pass defense.
TE Johdrick Morris - The converted wide receiver has proven to be a valuable commodity for the Golden Eagles. He is Southern Miss' leading receiver with 343 yards on 22 catches. He also has a touchdown in each of the last two games.