Saturday, December 26th, 11:20am, on ESPN
Washington vs. Southern Mississippi
The Huskies are 6-6, coming off of a transition season that saw us breaking in true freshmen at both the quarterback and running back positions.
The Golden Eagles are 9-4, coming off of a defeat in the Conference USA championship game to the mighty Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (one word, Hill-toppers, mascot of mascots).
Right off the bat, you have to look at the broad differences: conferences. The Huskies are a bigtime Pac-12 school; the Golden Eagles play against teams like Louisiana Tech, Marshall, UTEP, Rice, North Texas, and Old Dominion. So, who do you trust more? A Pac-12 school that’s 6-6, or a Conference USA school that’s 9-4?
Next, let’s look at the non-conference schedules. The Huskies didn’t exactly make it difficult on themselves: a close loss to Boise State having a down year (breaking in a new quarterback of their own), and wins against the lowly Sacramento State and Utah State. Not a lot to go on there, though playing close on the road against Boise is pretty good. For the Golden Eagles, they lost on the road to Mississippi State, defeated Austin Peay (don’t know, don’t care to know), defeated Texas State (3-9 in the vaunted Sun Belt conference), then lost on the road to Nebraska, who ended up 5-7 and getting a cheap-o bowl berth. You could say losing by 8 to the Cornhuskers on the road is pretty impressive, but you’d be wrong because Nebraska was up 22 going into the fourth quarter before a garbage points bonanza made it look respectable.
Southern Mississippi’s only really “impressive” win, if you want to call it that, is a victory over Louisiana Tech, as it was their ONLY victory over a Conference USA team with a winning record (having lost to both Marshall and the aforementioned Western Kentucky). They had the easiest road to nine wins I think I’ve ever seen.
The Huskies, meanwhile, get to boast a meaningful road win against USC, a trouncing home win over the Wildcats, and they walked all over the erstwhile-ranked Cougars without their starting quarterback. More importantly, the Huskies took care of business against the bad teams on their schedule. Including the non-conference duds, the Huskies made Oregon State look like a Conference USA school. Most importantly, the Huskies have some big-name talent on their roster, and no one is going to be taking this game lightly, considering most of the guys playing now haven’t won a bowl game (our last win coming in 2013, and considering all the turnover we’ve had the last couple years, might as well have been a decade ago).
When you play the matchup game, it looks like this one has the potential to be interesting. The Southern Miss offense is 10th in the nation in yards per game, with 520; 12th in the nation in passing yards per game, with 327.9; and 41st in rushing yards per game with 191.9. Junior Nick Mullens is 7th in the nation with 4,145 yards passing, so that’s something to keep in mind.
I guess it’s a good thing that the Huskies’ strength is their defense, 28th in the nation in yards per game. Considering their quarterback doesn’t apparently have any rushing stats to speak of, I think it’s safe to say we’re not talking about a very mobile guy. This should be right in our wheelhouse.
Southern Miss doesn’t look to be too terrible on defense, but again, I’d always be looking at their schedule. I haven’t seen a bigger group of patsies since the Washington Generals came to town.
The only thing they really have going for them is they have a lot of upper classmen, so I suppose they’ve got experience on us. Which sort of brings us back to the original question of who would you rather trust, a 6-6 Pac-12 team or a 9-4 Conference USA team; who would you rather trust, experienced nobodies, or athletically superior youngsters?
I’m putting my money on the Huskies, probably in a rout, with an outside chance of a close game.