Ahh, yes, the classic rivalry that is the Boise State Broncos vs. the Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles.
BSU and Southern Miss get together for quite the random non-conference battle on Saturday afternoon for just the third time in history, with the Broncos leading the series, 2-0. They last knocked off Southern Miss back in 2009.
After falling at Michigan State to start the season, Chris Peterson's squad has gotten back on track with three straight wins, although the last two against BYU and New Mexico were anything but easy.
The Golden Eagles, meanwhile, are so far from the track, the track looks like a dot to them. They currently sit at 0-4 and are making a strong case for "biggest step back of 2012" after winning 12 games last year.
Let's take a look at everything you need to know about this matchup.
When: Saturday, Oct. 6, at noon ET
Where: M.M. Roberts Stadium, Hattiesburg, MS
Watch: Southern Miss: FSN. Boise State: ROOT Sports Northwest: Channel 25 on Cable One, Channel 426 on Dish Network, Channel 627 on DirecTV
Betting Line: Boise State (-11), according to Covers
Boise State Injuries (via USA Today)
WR Geraldo Boldewijn, Suspension, Eligible, but Questionable
S Taylor Loffler, Knee, Out
Southern Miss Injuries (via USA Today)
DL Dasman McCullum, Knee, Out
LB Lelland Ducksworth, Knee, Out
DL Octavius Thomas, Academics, Out
OL Garrett Clark, Foot, Out
QB Arsenio Favor, Knee, Out
What's at Stake?
An appearance back in the Top 25 could be in store for the Broncos.
Boise State was ditched from the rankings this week after an underwhelming win at New Mexico, and while Southern Miss doesn't necessarily serve as a "good" opponent, per se, it will be hard for the voters to keep the Broncos out if they keep stringing together road wins.
A loss, however, pretty much guarantees the Broncos won't be going to any kind of a respectable Bowl.
And for Southern Miss, it's hard to fire a coach after just one year, but the longer Ellis Johnson goes without getting his first career win as a head coach, the hotter his seat becomes.
They are also going to want to start winning if they are going to continue their streak of 10 straight bowls and 14 in the past 15 years.
Boise State Player to Watch: D.J. Harper, Boise State
It won't be too long until D.J. Harper, who is in his sixth year with the Broncos, is eligible for senior citizen discounts.
But in all honesty, Harper is one of the best stories of this college football season.
The dynamic running back has always shown tremendous potential (5.1 ypc for his career, 29 touchdowns), but two consecutive torn ACLs have prevented him from every truly making a large, season-long impact on this team.
Through four games, Harper has proved all his critics wrong by turning into a true lead back, carrying the ball 81 times for 380 yards and four total touchdowns.
Oh, and in case you were wondering, his backup, freshman Jay Ajayi (who carried the ball six times for 118 yards against New Mexico in his first real college action), is also recovering from a torn ACL.
Someone give me the numbers of those doctors in Idaho.
Southern Miss Player to Watch: Desmond Johnson, RB
If anyone is going to move the ball for this team, it's going to be Desmond Johnson, who has 45 carries for 264 yards on the season.
The quarterback play for the Golden Eagles has been atrocious and Johnson's backup, Anthony Alford, has gotten one fewer carry than him (44) for 138 fewer yards (126).
If the Golden Eagles were smart, they would pound the ball with Johnson and let the senior carry the load for all four quarters. He's never truly been a feature back, thanks to various injuries, but through 242 career carries, he's averaging 5.7 yards per tote.
Let's see what the 5'11", 210-pound monster can do with 30 carries.
Key Matchup: Desmond Johnson vs. Boise State Front 7
Southern Miss is 122nd in the nation in completion percentage, 121st in passing yards per game and 114th in protecting its quarterback.
To be fair, the Golden Eagles, especially last week, have had to deal with terrible weather, but there's a good chance that will happen again this week as they return to Hattiesburg.
It's a good thing, then, that teams with solid running games benefit in bad weather and Southern Miss' best player just happens to be a running back.
Not only is Johnson a load to handle, but Boise State is giving up 4.4 yards per rush (70th in the nation) and 182.8 rushing yards per game (81st). The opportunity is there for the Golden Eagles to exploit the Broncos, who struggled against Le'Veon Bell, a player of a similar shape to Johnson.
Fun fact. The last time Boise State played a morning game, they were nearly upset by San Jose State before escaping in double-overtime.
Combine that with Southern Miss' solid ground game in what could be a bad-weather game, and you have the perfect recipe for an upset.
That being said, Southern Miss' run defense is also quite poor (and D.J. Harper is quite good) and its offense is still way too one-dimensional for me to completely trust.
Boise State 21, Southern Miss 17
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