GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles will try to halt the nation's longest active losing streak on Saturday afternoon, as they play host to the Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders in a Conference USA clash at M.M. Roberts Stadium.
Middle Tennessee's first season as a member of C-USA has been a successful one, as it sits at 4-2 in league play and in third place in the East Division. The Blue Raiders have won three straight games for the first time all season, most recently shutting out FIU on Nov. 9 (48-0), to improve to 6-4 overall and become bowl eligible for the fourth time in five years.
On the other hand, USM has gone winless this season at 0-10 (0-6 C-USA), and on the heels of an 0-12 campaign in 2012 has now lost 22 consecutive games, the ninth-longest losing streak in FBS history, and the longest since Duke also dropped 22 in a row from 2005-07. The Golden Eagles were defeated at home by Florida Atlantic last Saturday, 41-7, and they have lost each of their last five games by at least 23 points.
Middle Tennessee won the only previous meeting between these two squads in the 2009 New Orleans Bowl, 42-32.
The Blue Raiders boast the fifth-best scoring offense in C-USA with 28.1 points per game, and they had one of their most impressive outings of the season in their 48-0 rout of FIU, posting 556 yards.
Logan Kilgore was nearly flawless with 269 yards and a touchdown on 17-of-20 passing against the Golden Panthers, and he now has 1,792 yards and 13 touchdowns on the season on nearly 62 percent completions. The signal caller has had his issues with turnovers, however, tossing 10 interceptions.
With Jordan Parker (658 yards, five TDs) out with a foot injury, Shane Tucker stepped up at tailback against FIU with 95 yards and two touchdowns on just 11 carries. Expect Tucker and Reggie Whatley (622 yards, three TDs) to shoulder the load if Parker can't suit up this week.
Tavarres Jefferson has been Kilgore's top option down field with 37 catches, 460 yards and three touchdowns, while Marcus Henry (29 catches, 407 yards, two TDs) has shown some big-play ability.
While Middle Tennessee's scoring defense (27.9 ppg) ranks in the middle of the C-USA pack, the unit certainly made a statement in its shutout victory the last time out. The key to the Blue Raiders' winning season has undoubtedly been their ability to create turnovers, as their 28 takeaways is tied for third-most in the nation.
T.T. Barber is one of the best defensive playmakers in the league, as he's tallied 103 tackles, 7.5 TFL, 3.0 sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles. Kevin Byard (80 tackles) has picked off four passes, while Stephen Roberts (53 tackles) has two picks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
It's not especially surprising the winless Golden Eagles have one of the worst offenses in the nation, as they rank 120th out of 123 FBS teams in scoring (12.2 ppg) and 118th in yardage (294.3 ypg).
After Allan Bridgford started the first six games to disappointing results (.541, 1,133 yards, six TDs, 11 INTs), USM turned to Nick Mullens, although the results have been much of the same, as he has completed less than 45 percent of his passes for 1,117 yards, five touchdowns and 11 picks.
Tyre'oune Holmes (316 yards) is the team's leading receiver with 44 receptions, but he has yet to score a touchdown. Markese Triplett (23 receptions, 389 yards, three TDs) has more yardage than Holmes on about half the number of catches.
The USM rushing attack is virtually non-existent at just 69.1 yards per game. Neither Kendrick Perry (62 carries, 258 yards) nor Jalen Richard (74 carries, 255 yards) has scored a touchdown.
Amazingly enough, the Golden Eagles defense has played just as poorly as the offense, ranking 119th in the FBS in allowing 43.4 points per game.
DeBarriaus Miller has a team-high 84 tackles and has one of the team's five interceptions. Dasman McCullum has played well along the defensive line with 9.5 TFL and three fumble recoveries.
It has been another lost season for the Golden Eagles, who are floundering on both sides of the ball and have shown absolutely no signs of improving. Even on the road, the Blue Raiders won't have much issue extending USM's streak of futility.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Middle Tennessee 44, Southern Miss 13
11/20 10:44:35 ET
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