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Southern Miss Preview 2006
Southern Mississippi Golden Eagles
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Aug 6, 2006


12 straight winning seasons. Eight bowl games in nine years with five wins. A few Conference USA titles sprinkled here and there for good measure. Southern Miss has been the standard of what every Conference USA program wants to be. However, two straight New Orleans Bowl appearances doesn't exactly signify a major step forward.

The program that has long been known for it fearless schedule and desire to play anyone, anywhere, anytime has to start winning some of those challenge games. Over the last three seasons, USM has battled the big boys on the schedule hard, but it's only 1-7 against BCS conference teams. Sure, in the 16th year under head coach Jeff Bower the Golden Eagles would like to become Louisville or TCU or Utah, but first, it has to become Tulsa and win the league title again.

Maddening in its inconsistency last season, the defense was hardly Southern Miss-like (for the second season in a row) despite leading the league in turnovers and scoring defense. The offense was able to blowout eventual East champion UCF and tore up Tulane and UAB, but it struggled in losses to bowl teams Tulsa, Houston and Memphis. However, the team was really, really close to big things with the last three losses of the year all coming by four points or fewer.

Southern Miss

Head coach: Jeff Bower
16th year: 103-72-1
Returning Lettermen:
Off. 25, Def. 201, ST 3
Lettermen Lost: 17
Ten Best USM Players
1. OG George Batiste. Sr.
2. S Brandon Sumrall, Jr.
3. TE Shawn Nelson, Soph.
4. PK Darren McCaleb, Sr.
5. CB Caleb Hendrix, Sr.
6. OG Travis Cooley, Sr.
7. OT Chris Clark, Jr.
8. CB Jasper Faulk, Sr.
9. WR Anthony Perine, Sr.
10. LB Tokumbo Abanikanda, Soph.

2006 Schedule
CFN Prediction: coming

9/2 at Florida
9/9 SE Louisiana
9/16 NC State
9/25 at UCF
10/3 at Tulsa
10/14 Houston
10/21 at Virginia Tech
10/28 East Carolina
11/4 at Memphis
11/11 at Tulane
11/18 UAB
11/25 Marshall

2005 Schedule
CFN Prediction:
7-4
2005 Record:
7-5
Preview 2005 predicted wins

9/10 at Alabama L 30-21
9/17 McNeese State W 48-20
10/1 at East Carolina W 33-7
10/8 Tulsa L 34-17
10/15 UCF W 52-31
10/21 at UAB W 37-28
10/29 at NC State L 21-17
11/8 at Marshall W 27-24 OT
11/13 at Houston L 27-24
11/19 Memphis L 24-22
11/26 Tulane W 26-7
12/20 New Orleans Bowl
Arkansas State W 31-19

While it's easy to think that a few good bounces here or there could've meant a possible ten-win season, USM got all the breaks. Correction, it created much of its own good fortune through turnovers, few penalties, and aggressive play. So if there can be a little bit more production on both sides of the ball, as well as all the big plays, there's a good chance this talented team could be playing for the Conference USA title.

If new starting quarterback Jeremy Young is at all competent, and if the offensive line can stay healthy, USM will put up points in bunches with almost everyone coming back at the skill positions
along with four starters up front. The defense has a weird situation with tons of holes needing to be patched, but there's surprising depth with plenty of options almost everywhere. For a veteran coach like Bower and his staff, the pieces are in place for a champion.

There's a lot to get excited about with this team, but it's probably a year away from really big things. In the meantime, this program will keep on challenging everyone and keep on being the dangerous Conference USA team no one wants to face.

The Schedule: Southern Miss certainly isn't going soft with non-conference road games against Florida and Virginia Tech, but it gets NC State at home and gets a nice, well-deserved layup against SE Louisiana. The good about the Conference USA schedule: USM will know where it stands right off the bat. The bad: it plays at UCF and at Tulsa to start off the season. Missing Rice stinks while getting Tulsa and Houston from the East isn't a break. On the plus side, divisional battles against East Carolina, Marshall and UAB are at home.

Best Offensive Player: Senior OG George Batiste. He's 6-5, 309 pounds, and really, really good. The rock of a veteran, star-studded offensive line, the big right guard will be the one who finally gets the USM ground game going.

Best Defensive Player: Junior S Brandon Sumrall. This isn't your normal Southern Miss defense with several obvious all-conference players. It's a deep group that will be far better by the end of the year than it will be in September. Sumrall is one of the few returning veterans who gets a starting job back; he'll be the sheriff of the back seven.

Key player to a successful season: Junior QB Jeremy Young. Three-year starter Dustin Almond grew into a great leader and a top passer, but he wasn't a runner like Young and when he had a bad game, so did Southern Miss. Last year, USM lost four of the six games against D-I teams when Almond threw an interception. Young doesn't have to throw for a ton of yards like Almond did, but he has to keep the mistakes to a minimum.

The season will be a success if ... Southern Miss wins the Conference USA title. This is one of the few league programs that can honestly shoot for the big prize each and every year. Another New Orleans Bowl appearance will be a major disappointment.

Key game: Sept. 25 at UCF. USM destroyed the eventual East champion 52-31 last season. With a nasty road game at Tulsa coming up next, the Golden Eagles can't lose to George O'Leary's bunch or it will likely be an ugly 1-4 to start the season with Houston and at Virginia Tech ahead.

2005 Fun Stats: 
- First quarter scoring: Southern Miss 116 - Opponents 24
- Fourth quarter scoring: Opponents 100 - Southern Miss 66
- Sacks: Southern Miss 31 for 175 yards - Opponents 15 for 122 yards

The Last Time Southern Miss…
…played in a bowl game…2005 (New Orleans Bowl vs. Arkansas State)
…missed a bowl game…2001
…pitched a shutout…2001 (UAB)
…was shutout…2003 (Utah)
…scored 50 points…2005 (UCF)
…went undefeated…1958
…won a conference title…2003 (C-USA)
…had a 3,000-yard passer…never
…had a 1,000-yard rusher…2002 (Derrick Nix)
…had a 1,000-yard receiver…1998 (Sherrod Gideon)
…had a first-round draft choice…1992 (RB Troy Smith)

Related Stories
Southern Miss Preview 2006 - Depth Chart
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Southern Miss Preview 2006 - Offense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006
Southern Miss Preview 2006 - Defense
 -by CollegeFootballNews.com  Aug 6, 2006








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