2007 GMAC Bowl - Ohio vs. Southern Miss

Posted Dec 14, 2006

Only two games left in the college football season. Before you get ready for the national championship, Kalvin McRae and Ohio take on Southern Miss in the 2007 GMAC Bowl.

Ohio (9-4) vs. Southern Miss (8-5)

Jan. 7th, 8:00 p.m. ET, ESPN

Get Tickets for the GMACs Bowl | Get more picks for this game

GMAC Bowl Player Profile: Southern Miss LB Gerald McRath, team bowl history and more

It's like Silverchair opening for Nirvana or Three Dog Night opening for the Rolling Stones.

Moved to January 7th, the night before the national championship, the GMAC Bowl gets a little bit of a national stage as the second-to-last college football game of the season. 

Think of it this way; it's a battle of the second best teams in their respective conferences, and after it, there's just one last game before eight months of no college football.

Ohio and Southern Miss might not be Michigan, Arkansas, Nebraska or Georgia Tech when it comes to the number twos, but they're good, solid, well-coached teams that each found their way into their respective conference championship games. Even though they each lost rather convincingly, they were each red-hot before getting tagged.

National Rankings
Southern Miss Ohio
Total Offense
66th  334.69 ypg 106th  280.69 ypg
Total Defense
39th  314.54 ypg 31st  304.31 ypg
Scoring Offense
50th  25.23 ppg 82nd  20.69 ppg
Scoring Defense
37th  19.46 ppg 24th  17.31 ppg
Run Offense
26th  173.38 ypg 41st  155.38 ypg
Run Defense
57th  134 ypg 53rd  131.08 ypg
Pass Offense
97th  161.31 ypg 115th  125.31 ypg
Pass Defense
31st  180.54 ypg 22nd  173.23 ypg
Turnover Margin
36th  0.38 74th  -0.23
Southern Miss
at Florida L 34-7
SE La W 45-0
NC State W 37-17
at UCF W 19-14
at Tulsa L 20-6
Houston W 31-27
at Va Tech L 36-6
ECU L 20-17 OT
at Mem. W 42-21
at Tulane W 31-3
UAB W 26-20
Marshall W 42-7
C-USA Champ.
Houston L 34-20
UT Martin W 29-3
at No Illinois W 35-23
at Rutgers L 24-7
at Missouri L 31-6
Bo. Green L 21-6
West. Mich W 27-20
at Illinois W 20-17
W 42-7
at Kent State W 17-7
at East. Mich
W 16-10
Akron W 17-7
at Miami U. W 34-24
MAC Championship
Central Mich. L 31-10
Position Ratings
relative to each other
USM 5 highest
1 lowest
3.5 Quarterbacks 2.5
5 RBs 5
3 Receivers 2.5
3.5 O Line 3.5
3.5 D Line 3.5
4 Linebackers 4.5
4 Secondary 4
3.5 Spec Teams 4.5
4 Coaching 4

This is Ohio's first bowl trip since 1968 while looking for its first win in three tries. It wasn't just enough to be 0-2 in the post-season, but the losses came to Richmond and West Texas A&M. In other words, a win over Southern Miss would put the cap on what might be considered the program's greatest season ever.

A 35-23 win over Northern Illinois in early September set the early tone for the season, and even thought the offense was non-existent for a three week stretch, the team bounced back to win seven in a row including shocker over Illinois and Akron before getting thumped 31-10 by Central Michigan in the MAC title game.

This is a sound Bobcat team with good special teams, a rock of a defense, and a strong ground game that has to be effective to win. The passing game, well, the running attack is excellent.

Southern Miss is used to the post-season life making bowl games a regular occurrence under head coach Jeff Bower. As always, the defense is aggressive and effective, but the real star is the ground game which ranked among the best in the program's history.

The five losses all came to bowl teams including season opener against Florida and a tough date at Virginia Tech, but the team was good enough to fight past a loss to Tulsa, and an overtime loss to East Carolina, to get to the Conference USA championship against Houston.

Don't expect a lot of offensive fireworks or too many big pass plays, but if you're interested in running games and defense, this will be the game for you.

Players to watch: While Darren McFadden, Mike Hart, P.J. Hill, and an assortment of other running backs will get all the head lines going into 2007, USM's Damion Fletcher, who finished 11th in the nation in rushing, and Ohio's Kalvin McRae, who was 27th.

Because USM has more playmakers, there's more pressure on McRae than Fletcher to produce. The Bobcat junior is a pounding workhorse who'll crank out five yards a crack when he's on a roll, but he isn't going to tear off many home runs. Consistent and great around the goal line, he'll be fed the ball early and often.

Fletcher is more of a speedster who fought through a knee injury to become the focal point of the offense with seven, 100-yard games including four straight early in the season and three straight during a critical late season run to the Conference USA title game. Southern Miss is 5-1 when he runs for 100 or more.

In charge of stopping Fletcher and the Golden Eagle ground game will be the great Ohio linebacking tandem of Matt Muncy and Tyler Russ, who combined for 164 tackles on the year. They're both great against the run, sure tacklers, and work well together on combining for stops. Muncy is more of a playmaker in the backfield, but each will have to keep their eyes on mobile USM QB Jeremy Young.

Southern Miss will win if... it stuffs McRae. Ohio's passing game isn't just non-existent, it's ineffective no matter who's been under center. Ohio is 9-4 on the year; eight wins came when McRae ran for 100, four losses came when he was held under 100, and the one win when he was kept under the century mark came in the blowout over UT Martin when he he only ran ten times. It would also help USM to win the turnover battle. The Golden Eagles have turned it over nine fewer times on the year, and in a game like this where points might be at a premium, mistakes will matter.

Ohio will win if... it doesn't get away from what works. Southern Miss has a solid defense, but this isn't the killer run D of past seasons and it can be pushed around. Even if it gets down early, Ohio can't panic and start trying to throw it around since that'll play into USM's defensive strength. On the other side of the ball, the defensive front has to generate consistent pressure on Jeremy Young and get him to hurry his throws. USM has more of a passing game than Ohio, but it's not great when Young is under fire.

What will happen: These are two relatively similar teams, but Southern Miss is a little faster, a little stronger, and a little more effective. The Golden Eagles will have far more offensive balance, while its suspect run defense will swarm all over McRae and force the Bobcats to try to throw to win. It won't work. The USM corners will do a good job of preventing the big play.

Line: Southern Miss -6.5 ... CFN Prediction:
Southern Miss 34 ... Ohio 13