Southern Miss might have jumped into the role of favorites in Conference USA this week-something that might make the Golden Eagles upcoming game against struggling Louisiana Tech a trap game.
Early in the season, Houston was the league team garnering all the national attention. The Cougars had been ranked, and quarterback Case Keenum was considered a dark horse Heisman candidate. But now that Keenum is out for the season with a knee injury, the Cougars have lost serious steam, even dropping out of the top 25 polls.
The Golden Eagles are off the emotional high coming from a convincing win over Kansas-a victory some are calling the most significant in Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora's tenure-and have another week till their Conference USA opener.
Fedora says the key for Southern Miss to stay on its winning streak is to block out outsiders, no matter what they say.
Said Fedora: "It is something that we definitely talk about. You do not listen to people when they criticize you, so do not listen when they pat you on the back-it's the same thing."
Fedora knows that can be easier said than done.
"Just do what you are supposed to do and get your mind right and play the game the way it's supposed to be played, but that is something as a coaching staff you constantly worry about," Fedora said. "It is proven week in and week out that if your team is ready to play and they play hard, then they have a chance against anybody. If your team is not, they can get beat by anybody, and that is proven every week."
If Southern Miss doesn't slip up, then the Golden Eagles will give Fedora his best non-conference record in his time at the school-at 3-1 in non-league games.
• Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora has not fared well against Louisiana Tech offensive coordinator Troy Franklin. This is the fourth straight season that Fedora has faced a team that runs Franklin's spread pass offense. Fedora is 0-3 in previous games, but the first came when he was offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State.
Said Fedora of Franklin: "You can look at him from one place to another, and every one of them are different. He does a good job of using the personnel that he has and creating mismatches."
• Louisiana Tech RB Lyle Fitte gave this long dormant series some buzz with a little promise. Fitte told the Monroe News-Star, "All I have to say is that ya'll can expect that we will work hard this whole week of practice, our mentality will change, and we will win against Southern Miss." The Golden Eagles are about a touchdown favorite.
• Southern Miss freshman DB Deron Wilson earned Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week. For the second straight week, Wilson was involved in the block of a punt. This time he recovered the ball and scored a touchdown.
Series History: Southern Miss leads, 29-13 (Last meeting, 1992, 16-13 Southern Miss)
Scouting The Offense: Southern Miss, with all of its weapons, should be able to do what it wants against Louisiana Tech, which ranks in the bottom 20 percent nationally in run defense, pass defense and total defense. Don't be surprised if the Golden Eagles young RB Kendrick Hardy gets some touches. And Southern Miss ought to be able to raise its national ranking in passing efficiency.
Scouting The Defense: Because Louisiana Tech's is a passing spread offense, the Southern Miss front seven might get opportunities to gets sacks. If the Bulldogs get rid of the ball too quickly, then the Golden Eagles need to ensure they tackle well to keep Louisiana Tech from getting big plays and gaining confidence at home.
Quote To Note: "We are not anywhere close to where we can be yet. I asked everyone on the team last night, 'If anyone has played the best game they can play?' and no one raised their hand. We have a lot of room for improvement in all three phases."-Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week 'S GAME: Southern Miss at Louisiana Tech, Sept. 25-The Golden Eagles want to go into conference play next month with momentum, and they need to get a win on the road. Southern Miss should be able to get it as long as it doesn't have a letdown. To keep struggling Louisiana Tech down, Southern Miss needs to score early and ensure that the Bulldogs don't have hope late.
Keys To The Game: Southern Miss has to stay balanced on offense, and Louisiana Tech's defense should comply, as it doesn't seem to be strong against the run or pass. The Golden Eagles also can't allow big plays to the Bulldogs, a team that plays an offense designed to be explosive.
Players To Watch:
QB Austin Davis-If Davis continues what he started last week, then Southern Miss shouldn't have a problem with Louisiana Tech. Last week he was 19 of 24 passing for 155 yards and ran for 64 yards and a touchdown.
DE Cordarro Law-He should be hungry for sacks after last week. Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora praised Law for being very disruptive, but Law somehow missed two sacks. He should have chances this week if he brings that same energy.
RB V.J. Floyd-He's listed as the No. 1 back on Southern Miss' depth chart, but he hasn't had a signature game, partially due to a minor injury. Louisiana Tech ought to give him a chance to make an impact.
• OTs Jason Weaver and Lamar Holmes are expected to play after missing last week's game with minor injuries.
• WR DeAndre Brown is day-to-day after suffering a lower leg injury.