In case you missed it, Southern Miss is awfully good. The Orlando Sentinel, in a series where they’re ranking the top 128 college football programs in the nation in reverse order, pegged the Golden Eagles at #55 in the nation, three spots ahead of West Virginia at #58 and only one spot lower than South Carolina at #54. Here’s the kicker: they ranked Kentucky #79–a whole 24 spots higher
Back in April, our own Freddie Maggard took an in-depth look at the Golden Eagles, highlighting the return of offensive stars and the addition of Shannon Dawson as OC. Yesterday, the Sentinel pointed to the same strengths as justification for Southern Miss’s relatively high ranking:
“Southern Miss joins Clemson as the only two FBS schools to return a 4,000-yard passer and 1,000-yard rushed during the 2016 season. Mullens has shown no signs of slowing down and was named co-winner of the Air It Out Quarterback Challenge at the Manning Passing Academy.
Despite the Golden Eagles’ recent problems adapting to coaching changes, Hopson inherits some solid ingredients and Southern Miss should remain competitive in Conference USA…
Strengths: QB Nick Mullens played a big role in Southern Miss’ resurgence and returns to lead the offense during the 2016 season. Mullens was the first Golden Eagle to be named C-USA Offensive Player of the Year. He ranked second in the league in yards (4,476) and touchdown passes (38), both school records, while tying for fourth nationally in touchdown passes.
Junior RB Ito Smith rushed for 1,088 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He delivered 139.5 all-purpose yards per contest and should pair well with Mullens again this season.
Weaknesses: Hopson previously coached at Alcorn State and was a former assistant coach at Southern Miss, mentoring elite defenses. Southern Miss could use the help strengthening its pass defense after ranking No. 70 last season in passing yards allowed per game (227.6).
While the offense returns some strong playmakers, the Golden Eagles lose their top two receiving threats from the 2015 season. WR Casey Martin and WR Michael Thomas accounted for 2,316 receiving yards last season. The offense also has to offset the departure of two starting offensive linemen.”
Lets hope the players and coaches can turn this into hype fodder for the Cats’ home opener on September 3rd. I think our secondary should be strong enough to stymie Mullens, but it looks like we’ll have to prove it come September to earn our due respect. For now, let the haters be our motivators.