Southern Miss (0-11) at Memphis (3-8)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, November 24, 4:30 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium (61,000) -- Memphis, Tennessee. Television: CBS Sports Network. Home Record: USM 0-6, Memphis 2-3. Away Record: USM 0-5, Memphis 1-5. Neutral Record: USM 0-0, Memphis 0-0. Conference Record: USM 0-7, Memphis 3-4. Series Record: Southern Miss leads, 40-21-1.
GAME NOTES: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles will try to avoid their first winless season since 1925 when they invade Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium to take on Memphis as the Tigers say farewell to the Conference USA.
The rivalry between these schools has come to be known as the Black and Blue Bowl over the years. This is the last scheduled game between these teams as Memphis will begin its membership in the Big East Conference in 2013.
Southern Miss leads the all-time series, 40-21-1, after picking up wins in the last three encounters. However, The Golden Eagles hold a narrow 18-16 edge in games played in Tennessee. Former Memphis head coach Tommy West who led the program to five bowl appearances, will on the opposite sideline serving as the Golden Eagles' defensive coordinator.
The Golden Eagles went from the 2011 Conference USA champions to the owners of the longest active losing streak in the FBS at 11 games. First year coach Ellis Johnson's team came very close to its first win of the season last week versus Texas-El Paso. The Golden Eagles trailed 34-27 in the fourth quarter before Arsenio Favor rushed two yards for a touchdown with just under three minutes remaining to make the score 34-33 and USM elected to go for two. However, Favor's pass was intercepted and the Miners hung on to that lead the rest of the way, which dropped the Eagles to 0-7 in C-USA action. Southern Miss has not finished a season without a win since 1925 went it went 0-6.
The Tigers went into last week's game at UAB hoping to pull off back-to-back wins for the first time this season. Memphis achieved its goal in a convincing fashion with a 46-9 rout of the Blazers at Legion Field. The team now has a chance to end the season on a three-game winning streak. First-year head coach Justin Fuente seems to have finally found a winning formula after his squad endured a pair of four-game losing slides earlier in the season.
The Golden Eagles' lack of success so far is clearly due to its inconsistent offensive unit. Southern Miss is last in the C-USA in scoring offense (19.3 ppg) and 10th out of 12 in total offense (326 ypg) after finishing second in the conference in both categories last season. However, USM has reason to be optimistic going into its season finale after compiling a season-high 532 yards of total offense last week.
The Golden Eagles have given five different quarterbacks the chance to lead the offense this season. Not one had any success at all until Favor returned from a one-game suspension last week to go 16-of-22 attempts for a career-high 374 yards and two touchdowns.
The USM receivers stepped up last week with a QB finally able to pass the ball to them. Quentin Pierce made just two receptions to gain 125 yards and a touchdown while Dominique Sullivan turned two catches into 80 yards and a score.
Tailback Desmond Johnson also returned from a one-game suspension to add 59 yards and a touchdown to his team-best totals. The senior comes into his final collegiate game with 519 yards on 98 carries, despite missing the past two of the past three games.
The Golden Eagles are slightly better on the other side of the ball with allowed averages of 37.5 points and 425.6 yards per contest, which rank ninth and seventh in the C-USA, respectively. USM failed to force a turnover in each of its past two games.
Jamie Collins has been one of the lone bright spots on the team as he has amassed 88 tackles, 20 tackles for loss and 10 sacks. Collins is leading the conference and ranks fifth in the FBS in tackles for loss. Unfortunately, Collins has not had very much help as the team's second leading tackler, Alan Howze, has 27 less stops.
Jacob Karam has been on fire over the past two games. The Tigers' signal caller has gone 28-of-34 for 417 yards and five TDs during the span of the winning streak. DThe junior QB has thrown 12 touchdowns to just three interceptions in 2012.
Brandon Hayes had a career performance versus UAB by rushing 19 times for 127 yards and three touchdowns. The junior halfback came into the game with only 334 yards and one touchdown in seven games.
Although Karam and Hayes were great, Keiwone Malone was the MVP versus UAB. The speedy sophomore was sensational as he handed the Tigers great field position on multiple occasions by racking up 112 yards on five punt returns. He also helped the team as a wideout with 42 yards and a touchdown on two receptions.
The Tigers' defense is coming off its second consecutive strong shower. It held Tulane to 291 yards of total offense and picked off Ryan Griffin four times two weeks ago before limiting UAB to 213 yards of total offense and forcing two more turnovers. The only other opponent Memphis managed to hold under 350 yards of total offense prior to UAB and Tulane was Rice (221), which is the only other team it has defeated.
Sophomore linebacker Charles Harris is the team-leader in tackles with 74. Martin Ifedi (910 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks), Tank Jakes (8.5 tackles for loss, two sacks), and Johnnie Farms (9.5 tackles for loss) have been effective in stopping opposing ball carriers in the backfield.
With the homefield advantage, Memphis holds an edge over the struggling Golden Eagles. However, look for USM to make this one a game if Favor can repeat last week's success.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Memphis 34, Southern Miss 27
11/21 10:50:44 ET