FIU (0-4) at Southern Miss (0-4)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 5, 4 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Roberts Stadium (36,000) -- Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Television: CSS. Home Record: FIU 0-2, USM 0-1. Away Record: FIU 0-2, USM 0-3. Neutral Record: FIU 0-0, USM 0-0. Conference Record: FIU 0-0, USM 0-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Something has to give as the FIU Panthers and Southern Miss Golden Eagles square off as Conference USA rivals for the first time in history at Roberts Stadium.
FIU will be making its debut in a C-USA league matchup after migrating to the league from the Sun Belt Conference.The Panthers are 0-4 after their 72-0 shutout loss to Louisville concluded their non-conference schedule. Coach Ron Turner's team also lost to Maryland (43-10), UCF (38-0) and FCS foe Bethune- Cookman (34-14) before being dismantled by the Cardinals, a team FIU defeated in 2011.
While the Panthers try to pick up their first-ever C-USA win, USM will be attempting to snap its current 16-game losing streak that dates back through the entire 2012 season. It is the longest active streak in the nation. Coach Todd Monken is 0-4 in his first season with the school. The former Oklahoma State assistant knew he had his work cut out for him as only 32.9 percent of the total offense returned from the 2012 team that failed to win a game. Monken's Golden Eagles were routed, 60-7, by Boise State last Saturday.
This will be the first meeting between these programs. Both schools are in the C-USA's East Division.
FIU was limited to just two first downs and 30 yards of total offense by Louisville, which amassed 464 yards of offense with 254 of them coming through the air. The game was so lopsided that the coaches agreed to play with a running clock for much of the second half. The Panthers have the lowest scoring offense in the nation at just 5.8 ppg and also own the worst total offense mark at just 150 ypg.
With starting QB Jake Medlock out with a concussion, E.J. Hilliard passed for 27 yards on 4-of-9 efficiency and was sacked four times. FIU averaged 0.1 yards per attempt on 34 carries.
Hilliard may get the starting nod again this week with Medlock listed as questionable. He has been slightly more efficient than Medlock in less work, completing 14-of-22 attempts for 102 yards with one touchdown and one interception. T.J. Lowder has made a team-best 12 catches for 169 yards. He is the only player on FIU averaging more than 20 receiving yards per game.
Though the Panthers ranked third in the Sun Belt in total defense (402.9 ypg) last season, they were not able to get stops in the red zone and thus allowed 31.7 points per game. FIU had several new starters on the defensive side of the ball for 2013 which has made it even more porous. In addition to having the worst scoring offense of 123 FBS schools, FIU also has the last ranked scoring defense in the nation with 46.8 points allowed per game. Greg Hickman has registered 6.5 tackles for loss, one sack and two forced fumbles to serve as one of the bright spots.
Southern Miss has yet to score more than 15 points in a game this season. Its scoring offense (10.3 ppg) ranks 120th out of 123 qualifying FBS teams, and its total offense (312.7 ypg) isn't much better at 112th.
Most of the Golden Eagles' production comes through the air, with Allan Bridgford throwing for 875 yards through the first four games, although the signal caller's efficiency (three TDs against nine INTs) has been lacking. Bridgford went 18-of-30 for 143 yards with one touchdown against a pair of interceptions in the loss to the Broncos in week five. USM was held to 266 yards of total offense and turned the ball over three times, while Boise State amassed 545 offensive yards. The Golden Eagles converted only 2-of-13 third- down plays.
Kendrick Hardy paced USM on the ground with 80 yards on 10 carries at BSU. He is the team's leading rusher with 171 yards on the season. Hardy is 349 yards shy of becoming the 13th player in school history with 2,000 career rushing yards. USM has not scored a rushing touchdown through its first four games.
The Golden Eagles allowed BSU to score on all nine of its red zone trips (seven TDs) as they surrendered 60 points, which was the most allowed for the school in a game since 1987. USM has let up an average of 40.5 points, despite having the second best pass defense in the conference (178.2 ypg).
Alan Howze has been the leader with 38 tackles, 3.5 TFL and one forced fumble. Octavius Thomas has registered two of the team's four sacks.
These teams both have nowhere to go but up at this point. The Golden Eagles hold a slight edge in this matchup due to their homefield advantage. USM has been waiting a very long time to end its losing slide. FIU seems like a good chance to end the skein.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Southern Miss 27, FIU 17
10/02 10:34:13 ET