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Opponent preview: Southern Miss' two-man team

OBNUG’s game previews are written by reader-turned-contributor Stephen Grettenberg. Because not every article should contain pinings for Marty Tadman.

Boise State vs. Southern Miss

Damion Fletcher ran for 260 yards on 34 carries last week, and Southern Mississippi still lost. Since Boise State struggled with power running at times last year (East Carolina and Nevada, most notably) expect new coach Larry Fedora to give his star running back a lot of carries. The offense is starting to come together, but it hasn’t led to a lot of victories. The Southern Mississippi defense is going to have a hard time containing Boise State.

Southern Mississippi has gone bowling in 10 of the last 11 years. Fedora is a first-rate offensive coach, and his offenses at Oklahoma State and Florida were diverse and very successful. This is not the same team Boise State faced last year in many ways. Offensively the Golden Eagles are getting a diverse attack going. Defense does not appear to be Fedora’s forte, at least so far, although the defense returned only four starters from last year's team.

Boise State has not always been the best non-conference road team, but the Broncos should be able to win this one comfortably.

Southern Mississippi on Offense and Special Teams:

The Eagles' offensive attack adjusts to the defense and often runs a no-huddle spread attack. They have been much better at gaining yards than earning points, partly due to turnovers and missed field goals.

Southern Mississippi is ranked 17th in total offense. The emerging Eagle offense has pretty good skill players but has a light offensive line. They usually split running and passing fairly evenly. Kellen Moore is not the only freshman quarterback in this game. Southern Miss frosh QB Austin Davis went 21-for-37 for 264 yard, 2 TDs, 1 fumble, and 1 interception last week. Davis scrambles a bit.

I was a bit surprised that Damion Fletcher took 34 carries but had no receptions last week. Usually he and fellow RB Tory Harrison are a larger part of the passing game. WR DeAndre Brown and TE Shawn Nelson are their best receivers. I expect Kyle Wilson will get the nod to try to lock down WR DeAndre Brown for the night. Brown is a 6’6" true freshman five-star recruit, making this one of the more interesting matchups of the game.

Southern Mississippi has only converted 3-of-6 field goals with two kickers last week, but they have good return teams.

With the quality of corners and safeties for BSU, I envision Boise State stacking against the run with some stunts to try to disrupt QB Austin Davis’ pass timing and trap Damion Fletcher in the backfield before he gets a full head of steam. Southern Mississippi is a work in progress and still does not have quality depth in the receiving department.

Southern Mississippi on Defense:

The Eagles should have trouble stopping Boise State from succeeding at anything offensively. They seem particularly vulnerable to the run, making this a great time to get the running game in gear. They have at least one stellar player though: LB Gerald McRath (#24) is tied for seventh in the nation at 11 tackles a game. Despite his efforts, Southern Mississippi is 92nd in the nation in scoring defense and 97th in run defense. One area Southern Mississippi does better in is forcing turnovers, so Boise State needs to protect the ball (yes, I mean you, Titus Young!)

The Game:

Expect Damion Fletcher to get his yards, but don't expect the Golden Eagles to be able to stop the Boise State offense. The lack of a good field goal kicker could haunt Southern Mississippi as well, because the Boise State defense seems at its best defending the red zone.

The pick:

Boise State by at least two touchdowns.