By Ryan of The Sportmeisters
The NCAA postseason kicks off Dec. 19, with 33 games being played in a three-week span. Seniors will get their last hurrah, and teams will attempt to end their season on the winning side, in the hopes of improving recruiting that follows.
The Sportmeisters will preview each of the 33 games that lie ahead, and provide our predictions as well. Let’s get to it!
New Orleans Bowl, Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m., New Orleans, La.
Middle Tennessee State (9-3) vs. Southern Miss (7-5)
About Middle Tennessee State
After starting the season 3-3, the Blue Raiders blew up, winning six in a row to qualify from the Sun Belt Conference.
During that six-game winning streak, they averaged 41.6 points a game. They are led by junior QB Dwight Dasher, who is ninth in the NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision with 298.3 all-purpose yards gained per game.
A threat to score on the ground or through the air, he has been responsible for 32 touchdowns (21 passing, 11 rushing).
Defensively, they are best known for their pressure, led by the combination of senior DL Chris McCoy and junior DL Jamari Lattimore, who have combined for 13 sacks and 30.5 tackles for loss on the season.
Their ability to win will depend on keeping the ball on the ground with Dasher and sophomore D.D. Kyles (823 yards, 6.5 yard per carry average) and forcing turnovers (ninth in FBS with +11).
About Southern Miss
A fast 3-0 start, including a win over Virginia, had the makings of a promising season for the Golden Eagles. They lost that momentum, however, going 4-5 over the remainder of the season to finish 7-5 in Conference USA.
They are a high-octane, score quickly offense, evident by their 33 points a game average, 19th in FBS.
They use a two-headed rushing attack, led by seniors Damion Fletcher (937 yards, eight touchdowns), and Tory Harrison (626 yards, nine touchdowns).
Defensively, they are led by sophomores Korey Williams (110 tackles, 7.5 sacks, three forced fumbles) and Ronnie Thorton (103 tackles, two sacks).
Much like their opponent, they will rely on a solid ground game and the ability to force turnovers to win.
Middle Tennessee is making their second bowl appearance, and are looking for their first victory. They last made it to a bowl in 2006. Their six-game winning streak is their longest in school history.
Southern Miss is 9-10 in 19 appearances, but hold a perfect 3-0 in the New Orleans Bowl, including a 2008 30-27 (OT) win over Troy. This is the Golden Eagles eighth straight bowl appearance.
C-USA currently holds a 4-2 advantage over the Sun Belt Conference in the New Orleans Bowl.
The two teams are statistically equal, as they sit right behind each other in total offense (Middle Tennessee is 30th, Southern Miss is 31st). They both rely on an even game, using the rush to help setup the pass.
Defensively, they both use pressure to force sacks and turnovers. Middle Tennessee has a tendency to get more pressure (fourth in FBS in sacks and first in FBS in tackles for loss), but if the Golden Eagles use some misdirections and draws, they can force the Blue Raiders to sit back, allowing them to gain three to four yards a carry, and move the ball down the field.
When two even teams match up, the game will usually come down to whoever blinks first.
Middle Tennessee uses their pressure to earn a 10-win season, 34-31.