FACTS & STATS: Site: M.M. Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, MS. Television: FOX College Sports. Home Record: North Texas 3-0, USM 0-2. Away Record: North Texas 1-3, USM 0-4. Neutral Record: North Texas 0-0, USM 0-0. Conference Record: North Texas 2-1, USM 0-2. Series Record: USM leads, 7-4.
GAME NOTES: Still in search of their first win since 2011, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles will try once again when they take on the North Texas Mean Green in a Conference USA clash at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Since the 12-2 campaign the Golden Eagles had in 2011 when they won the Hawaii Bowl and a C-USA title, it has been all down hill. Last year USM went winless (0-12) and this campaign hasn't given much hope to fans of the black and gold. USM is holding an 0-6 mark, with the most recent setback a 55-14 trouncing at East Carolina. The 18 straight losses for USM has it tied with New Mexico State for the longest active losing streak.
Meanwhile, North Texas is enjoying its first winning streak of the season. The most recent triumph was a 28-13 win on the road over Louisiana Tech. That followed a 34-7 victory over Middle Tennessee and has the Mean Green at 4-3 overall and 2-1 in conference action.
This is the first meeting of these teams since 2004 and the first as fellow competitors in C-USA. The last matchup came in the 2004 New Orleans Bowl, which USM won 31-10.
Against East Carolina, head coach Todd Monken had finally seen enough from Allan Bridgford. Bridgford has started all six games for the Golden Eagles but has just 1,133 yards and six touchdowns during that time, with 11 interceptions. Bridgford completed just 2-of-11 attempts against the Pirates before Monken pulled him and sent in Nick Mullens, who threw for 97 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions on 12-of-23 passing.
In the loss to East Carolina the Golden Eagles' top two receivers were held without a catch, as Rickey Bradley (14 receptions, 277 yards, TD) and Tyre'oune Holmes (32 receptions, 224 yards) were blanketed by the Pirates. Whether it is Bridgford or Mullens under center, the Golden Eagles need the tandem of Holmes and Bradley to be more involved.
Jalen Hardy (230 yards) is the leading rusher for the Golden Eagles but he has not had more than 50 yards in three straight games. The Golden Eagles do not have a rushing touchdown this season.
Interestingly enough, Southern Miss is in the upper half of the league in total defense (395.8 ypg) but ranks dead last in points allowed (40.2 ypg). The issue has been turnovers and red zone defense. The Golden Eagles have the worst turnover margin (minus-14) in the conference and have given up 23 touchdowns on 29 red zone attempts.
For North Texas the offensive side of the ball has been impressive. The Mean Green are scoring 28.4 points per game, while posting just over 400 yards of total offense each week.
Derek Thompson has been as steady under center as any quarterback in the conference. Thompson has completed an impressive 67.9 percent of his pass attempts for 1,680 yards and nine interceptions. However, Thompson has had some issues with ball security as he has been picked off eight times.
The combination of Darnell Smith and Brelan Chancellor has been extremely reliable for Thompson. Smith (45 receptions, 519 yards, three TDs) has been an extremely effective possession receiver. Meanwhile, Chancellor (32 receptions, 492 yards, three TDs) has shown more big-play potential, including an 85-yard reception this season. Carlos Harris (27 receptions, 280 yards, TD) also gets in the mix.
In terms of running the ball the Mean Green prefer a committee approach. Brandin Byrd (396 yards, four TDs) has been the most effective back. Reggie Pegram (264 yards, four TDs) has gotten a solid workload in the red zone, while Antoinne Jimmerson has 55 carries on the campaign as a third option.
Despite actually being worse off in terms of total defense (397.7 ypg) as compared to USM, North Texas has managed to remain competitive by keeping opponents scoring to a minimum. In fact the Mean Green are second in the conference in scoring defense (21.3 ppg) behind Marshall. The Mean Green have allowed scores on just 15-of-24 red zone chances to opponents.
It stands to reason that Southern Miss will win a game at some point. It won't be this week though. North Texas is a team that plays well on both sides of the ball and will have enough to keep the Golden Eagles out of the win column yet again.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: North Texas 30, Southern Miss 16
Saturday, October 26, 7 p.m. (et)