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Southern Miss

College Football

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Coming off what was a disappointing first season for head coach Jay Hopson, Southern Miss has goals to reach the C-USA title game in 2017. With a deep roster led by an experienced quarterback in Nick Mullens, the Golden Eagles lost too many games they should’ve won and finished with a 7-6 record. The bowl win was nice, but losing four in conference play wasn't expected.

Improving on that mark won’t come easy with only nine returning starters to the team and that includes working in a new quarterback. Keon Howard and Kwadra Griggs will fight for the role under center, but neither has a ton of experience with Howard tossing four interceptions on 50 pass attempts last year. With that being decided in the fall, USM will lean heavily on Ito Smith (1,459 yards, 17 TDs) and the ground game. George Payne (496 yards) and Tez Parks back him up, but it’ll be hard to match last year’s numbers with a mostly new offensive line. The Eagles only return two starters up front with two underclassmen set for the starting five. But whoever wins the quarterback job will get top receiver Allenzae Staggers (1,165 yards, 7 TDs) along with Korey Robertson and the able Smith (43 receptions) out of the backfield.

To surpass last year’s record, the Golden Eagles will need to do more defensively after giving up points in bunches to teams like UTSA and Old Dominion. Yet with only three returning starters, it’s hard to see this group improving much even if Hopson is known as more of a defensive coach. The front six will be completely new, although five of those guys are upperclassmen and one of them is the much improved Xavier Thigpen on the edge. The secondary was the strong suit last season and should be again with three returning seniors part of that group.

There are plenty of questions for Southern Miss this year and getting more than seven wins (over/under is 7) will be tough with both Kentucky and Tennessee on the schedule. The Golden Eagles have a chance to start hot in C-USA play, but as seen last year, that’s not a given even with winnable games early. However, a trip to La. Tech in the middle of the year could show their fate in the West division yet again. A loss there will have the Golden Eagles hoping to go the rest of the way unscathed.

Southern Miss was supposed to be better last year and now with a new quarterback it’s hard to see this team doing much more. An appearance in the C-USA title game is always possible, but with a difficult non-conference, the Eagles will be near seven or eight wins again. Their odds to win the conference were at +850 (at 5Dimes Sportsbook), putting them behind Louisiana Tech in the West division.


2017 Southern Miss Golden Eagles Football Schedule

Sept. 2 vs. Kentucky
Sept. 9 vs. Southern
Sept. 16 at Louisiana Monroe
Sept. 30 vs. North Texas

Oct. 7 at UTSA
Oct. 14 vs. UTEP

Oct. 21 at Louisiana Tech
Oct. 28 vs. UAB

Nov. 4 at Tennessee
Nov. 11 at Rice
Nov. 18 vs. Charlotte
Nov. 25 at Marshall

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