South Alabama (2-5) at ULM (5-2)
The Sports Network
DATE & TIME: Saturday, October 27, 7:00 p.m. (et)
FACTS & STATS: Site: Malone Stadium (30,427) -- Monroe, Louisiana. Television: None. Home Record: USA 2-2, ULM 1-1. Away Record: USA 0-3, ULM 4-1. Neutral Record: USA 0-0, ULM 0-0. Conference Record: USA 1-2, ULM 3-0. Series Record: First-ever meeting.
GAME NOTES: Fresh off their first win as a member of the Sun Belt Conference, the South Alabama Jaguars travel to Monroe to take on the first-place ULM Warhawks on Saturday night.
South Alabama snapped a four-game losing streak last week by coming from behind to defeat Florida Atlantic in a double-overtime thriller, 37-34. The Jaguars have come on in their last two games, scoring a combined 66 points against FAU and Arkansas State after putting up just 67 points in their first five games. Winning back-to-back games for the first time this season will be a tough task as they haven't won on the road this season.
ULM has proven to be one of the strongest mid-major programs in the country with a 5-2 record, with its only two losses coming in close battles against BCS schools Auburn (31-28 in OT) and Baylor (47-42). The Warhawks won their fourth straight game last week in come-from-behind fashion, defeating Western Kentucky on the road, 43-42, in overtime, and they are now the only unbeaten team in conference play.
This is South Alabama's inaugural season as a member of the FBS, so these two programs have never played each other.
Only Florida Atlantic possesses a worse offense in the Sun Belt than South Alabama (19 ppg, 318.9 ypg), but since a switch was made at quarterback it has put up its two highest point totals since the season opener.
In two games as the starter, Ross Metheny has been a noticeable upgrade over C.J. Bennett (543 yards, three TDs, four INTs), combining for 420 yards and four touchdowns against Arkansas State and FAU, while throwing just one interception in that span.
Gabe Loper is coming off a career-best day receiving with four catches for 91 yards and a touchdown. The Jaguars have several adequate receiving threats but none that stand out from the pack, with Jereme Jones leading the team with only 18 catches for 223 yards and three touchdowns.
The running game has been bottled up for most of the year as it averages just 3.3 yards per attempt. Demetre Baker leads the way with 367 yards and he is coming off a two-touchdown performance in last week's win.
The Jaguars defense (28.3 ppg, 361.1 ypg) has suffered in its first season in the FBS, allowing 30 points or more in six of seven games.
Jake Johnson quarterbacks the defense with 68 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, a sack and a fumble recovery. Alex Page (5.5 TFL, four sacks) and Pat Moore (8.5 TFL, 4.5 sacks) are solid on the defensive line, and Tyrell Pearson has two of the team's seven interceptions.
ULM has the conference's best offense and ranks 19th in the nation in points per game (39.4) and 21st in yards per game (471.3), thanks mostly to the outstanding play of its quarterback.
After scoring six touchdowns last week and converting a gutsy two-point conversion in overtime, Kolton Browning claimed the SBC's Offensive Player of the Week award for the third time this season. There's been no stopping the signal-caller, whether it be through the air (1,914 yards, 18 TDs, five INTs) or on the ground (361 yards, five TDs). He has been clutch as well with two come-from-behind overtime wins.
Browning doesn't play favorites with his receiving corps, as four players have at least 29 catches, 300 yards and two touchdowns. Brent Leonard has been the most sure-handed of the bunch with 42 catches, and Je'Ron is the most explosive with 493 yards and three scores.
Jyruss Edwards certainly benefits at running back from having a dual-threat handing him the ball. He has racked up 413 yards and six touchdowns, although he put up a dud last week (three carries, nine yards).
The defense has been far from sharp, but for the most part it has played well enough to win, allowing 27.4 ppg and 365.4 ypg.
R.J. Young has a team-high 46 tackles and six tackles for loss and he's also contributed to the turnover battle with an interception and a fumble recovery. Isaiah Newsome and DaCorris Ford have two picks each, and ULM as a team leads the conference with 10 interceptions.
There's no doubt that South Alabama has shown improvement as the season has gone on, and with a more reliable quarterback the rest of the way it figures to be much more competitive. That said, ULM sits alone in first place after an emotional win, and it should have little trouble dismissing the Jaguars in front of its home fans.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: ULM 45, South Alabama 17
10/24 10:33:34 ET