While the move to the Sun Belt Conference has dominated headlines, Southern Miss (1-6, 0-3 C-USA) has an important game Saturday at Middle Tennessee State (3-4, 1-2 C-USA).
The Golden Eagles have never defeated the Blue Raiders, with the all-time record being 3-0 in favor of MTSU.
While this season has not resulted in success on the field, Head Coach Will Hall sees the remaining five games as building blocks for the future.
“Some of our guys that we were redshirting who are really talented…we’re down to five games left. They can play in four,” said Hall. “Young guys like My’Kal McLeod and Zay Franks are guys I would expect to see playing for us down the stretch because we can still play them now and they can still be redshirted. That’s a positive not only for them but for our future and where we are building.”
Roster turnover has been a factor for Hall as well, with wide receiver Antoine Robinson entering the transfer portal.
“He is not the first and he won’t be the last,” said Hall. “We wish him well. We will have more attrition in the coming days as we mold this roster back to a championship level.”
Southern Miss was beat down against UAB – both on the scoreboard and physically. Chandler Pittman, who took snaps at quarterback, is out for the season after suffering a lower leg injury. Starting quarterback Jake Lange suffered an injury as well as he did not finish the game. Tee Webb took over at quarterback, marking the total of Golden Eagles to take snaps under center to six.
“[Lange] could have played in the second half. We just felt like with the way the game was going and with the game being out of hand, we wanted to give some other guys a shot to try and keep him healthy for the rest of the year,” Hall said. “He just had an ankle injury. He should be back.”
Lange will indeed be the starter after having a bye week to recover.
Middle Tennessee has won two out of its last three games, including a 44-13 rout of UConn. Blue Raiders quarterback Chase Cunningham has been efficient this season after taking over the starting job from Bailey Hockman, who entered the transfer portal. Cunningham has completed nearly 63% of his passes for 12,70 yards, 16 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
MTSU has scored nearly 30 points per game compared to Southern Miss’ 14.1. The Blue Raiders have a superior passing offense, but they only have a seven-yard advantage in the rushing game compared to Southern Miss.
While offense has been the strong suit of the Blue Raiders, defense has been their downfall. Middle Tennessee has allowed 28.7 points per game and 416.3 yards per game compared to Southern Miss’ 351. In order to win Saturday, Southern Miss has to take advantage of the Blue Raiders’ weakness on defense.
The underdog Golden Eagles look to win their first conference game of the season. Kickoff is at 2:30 p.m. in Murfreesboro, TN. The game will be available to watch on ESPN+.