Boise State (3-1) at Southern Miss (0-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 6, 12:00 p.m. (et).
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: FSN. Home Record: BSU 2-0, USM 0-2. Away Record: BSU 1-1, USM 0-2. Neutral Record: BSU 0-0, USM 0-0. Conference Record: BSU 1-0, USM 0-1. Series Record: Boise State leads, 2-0.
GAME NOTES: Once again, the Boise State Broncos find themselves on the outside of the AP Top-25 poll this week as they prepare for their visit to Southern Miss for a non-conference showdown.
Actually, the Broncos are rather lucky to be where they are right now, sporting a 3-1 record, because they could easily be .500 or possibly a game below given how difficult it has been for them to gain separation from their last two opponents.
After defeating BYU at home on a Friday night by just a single point (7-6), the Broncos managed to get back into the AP rankings on their way to facing New Mexico in the Mountain West Conference opener last Saturday. The Lobos didn't go down without a fight, in fact the 32-29 battle was so close that BSU failed to earn enough votes in order to remain in the national rankings this time around.
As for the Golden Eagles, they've come up empty in all four of their outings in 2012, although the team did final narrow the gap against the competition last week when it lost to 17th-ranked Louisville, 21-17. Prior to that, Southern Miss had lost all three matchups with the likes of Nebraska, East Carolina and Western Kentucky by double digits.
Boise State, which has not lost a game in the month of October since 2001, is 2-0 in the all-time series thanks to a 24-7 victory back in 2008.
Ahead by a score of 25-0 at the break on Saturday in Albuquerque, the Broncos took their foot off the gas pedal just enough to allow New Mexico to make a serious run at an upset bid. In fact, once the smoke cleared, the visitors escaped with just a three-point win against a program that has been bringing up the rear in the MWC for several years.
Joe Southwick, who a week earlier had head coach Chris Petersen scratching his ahead with regard to some of his decisions, bounced back with a fine outing as he converted 24-of-34 passes for 311 yards and three touchdowns. Matt Miller reeled in nine passes for 68 yards and a score and Jay Ajayi combined with D.J. Harper to post 216 yards and one touchdown on the ground as well.
Against the Lobos, the BSU run defense was challenged over and over again, the unit giving up a lefty 330 yards and four scores on 54 attempts by UNM. With plenty of stops to be made, J.C. Percy stepped up with a team-best 13 tackles, while Mike Atkinson, the hero against BYU, forced a pair of fumbles and Samuel Ukwuachu came up with a couple of recoveries.
Through four games the Broncos have taken advantage of many mistakes by opponents, coming up with six fumbles and picking off six passes, giving the squad a turnover margin of plus-1.50 per game which is good enough for second in the conference and ninth in the nation.
Some of the other stats for Boise State might be a bit skewed and not truly representative of what the team is capable of on a regular basis. A perfect example of that would be the pass defense which is fifth in the nation with just 132.8 ypg, thanks in large part to holding UNM to a mere 44 yards last week. Because the Lobos pounded the ball on the ground, the BSU run defense is probably better than the 182.8 ypg permitted indicates.
Southwick is still growing into his position as a starter, throwing for just five touchdowns thus far, but the Broncos have been spoiled for quite some time at signal-caller so maybe the program is having a hard time adjusting to the new man in the huddle.
Southern Miss rattled off 17 straight points in a span of less than 17 minutes between the first and second quarters last week against Louisville, but that's as good as it would get for the Eagles as they let a potential win over a nationally-ranked squad from a BCS conference get away.
Reggie Hunt began the run with a 23-yard return of an interception for a touchdown, but considering how poorly the offense was playing for the Eagles, the team needed many more plays like that to pull off the upset. Quarterback Ricky Lloyd completed just two of his eight attempts for a grand total of 25 yards, although much of that was due to the horrible weather conditions.
The running game was a bit more productive as he came away with 224 yards and a score, thanks to Jalen Richard.
If the Broncos thought they were having trouble at the quarterback position this year, they haven't come anywhere close to what USM has had to endure. A freshman, Lloyd made his first start for the Golden Eagles against the Cardinals because both Chris Campbell and Anthony Alford were on the sideline due to injury.
Even with taking into account the awful weather last weekend for the Golden Eagles, the team is still one of the weakest passing squads in the entire nation, averaging only 108.5 ypg (117th in the country). Beaten up by the Cornhuskers and Hilltoppers, USM is surrendering 34.0 ppg as teams generate 422.3 ypg which is enough to make any opponent look good.
Even with improved field conditions this weekend, the Golden Eagles will still be at disadvantage if Boise State, specifically Southwick, can kick the offense into gear.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Boise State 38, Southern Miss 14
10/03 10:38:40 ET