We last saw Southern Miss on Christmas eve as they defeated Nevada in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl to cap off a successful season that included a Conference USA title.
Since then, they've lost head coach Larry Fedora to North Carolina and a good chunk of their 2011 starters to graduation.
Word to the wise: Don't be fooled.
We last saw the work of Ellis Johnson on January 2, when the defense he constructed as defensive coordinator for the South Carolina Gamecocks held Nebraska to 253 total yards and 13 points.
He brings his defensive expertise to a Southern Miss roster which, despite losing numerous starters, is largely comprised of players who grew up in SEC country. Some of them were recruited by SEC schools.
One of those players is quarterback Arsenio Favor. Favor is a 6'4", 220-pound dual-threat quarterback who runs a 4.6 second 40-yard dash. If he is the starter when the Eagles come to Lincoln, the Huskers will have to draw on the previous, albeit unsuccessful, experience they have playing against other dual-threat quarterbacks like Denard Robinson and Russell Wilson.
Johnson's defense will be competitive. During his four seasons directing South Carolina's defense, the Gamecocks finished in the top 15 nationally in three of them.
I see this game going much like the Fresno State game went in 2011. Southern Miss will make the trip to Memorial Stadium with every intention of winning the game, even though they may be outmatched by the Huskers.
Nonetheless, I expect the Golden Eagles to keep the contest tight well into the second half, with depth being what ends up pulling it out for Nebraska.
It will be a win for the Huskers, but a necessary wake-up call for a team and fanbase used to starting the season with FCS or mid-major pushovers.
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