2008 New Orleans Bowl Preview
by Matt Severance - 12/18/2008
Southern Miss (6-6) vs. Troy (8-4)
Conference matchup: Conference USA vs. Sun Belt
When: Dec. 21, 8:15 p.m. EST (ESPN)
Location: Louisiana Superdome
Spread: Troy -4.5, total at 54.5
Line movement: It opened at four nearly everywhere and has moved a half-point toward Troy, while the over/under has been fairly steady, with a few sites listing it at 55.
Bowl history: Southern Miss is 8-10 in bowls and 2-0 in the New Orleans Bowl, beating North Texas, 31-10, in 2004 and Arkansas State, 31-19, in 2005 under former coach Jeff Bower. This is the third bowl overall and second New Orleans Bowl for Troy, which routed Rice in the 2006 game and lost in the 2004 Silicon Valley Classic.
How they got here: Southern Miss won its final four games to reach its sixth straight bowl game; one of those victories was over eventual C-USA champ East Carolina. With a win against Troy, USM would extend its streak of winning seasons to 15 in a row.
Troy won three of its final four games and routed Arkansas State on Dec. 6 to win the Sun Belt title. The Trojans had a hiccup at Louisiana-Monroe this year, 31-30, but otherwise their losses were to BCS conference teams Ohio State, Oklahoma State and LSU - that last game Troy led LSU, 31-3, but allowed 37 points in the final 16 minutes. Thus, Troy is 0-2 in Louisiana this year.
Key trends: Troy is 5-0 ATS in its past five as a favorite of 3.5-10. The over is 7-2 in the Trojans' past nine non-conference games. Southern Miss has covered its past four games. The under is 8-1 in the Golden Eagles' past nine following a win.
Lucky to be playing: Southern Miss star freshman WR DeAndre Brown set the single-season school record with 66 receptions and leads Division I-A freshmen in receiving yards (1,108) and touchdown catches (12). That earned him C-USA Freshman of the Year honors. That's all nice. But he was ejected from the second half of the regular season finale with SMU after a scuffle with SMU cornerback Derrius Bell.
C-USA officials reviewed the film of the fight and decided a suspension wasn't necessary for Brown, being that he wasn't technically ejected for "fighting." Under NCAA rules, players ejected during the second half of a game for fighting are subject to being suspended for the first half of their next game.
Bet the over? The Golden Eagles set a single-season record with 5,220 yards of total offense this year (238.2 passing yards and 196.3 rushing yards per game). In QB Austin Davis (USM freshman-record 21 touchdown passes, breaking Brett Favre's mark, and 2,852 yards passing, 30 total TDs), RB Damion Fletcher (five 100-yard games this year, 6.0 yards per carry, school's all-time leader in rushing yards with 4,209) and DeAndre Brown, the Golden Eagles have a stellar threesome at the key skill positions.
Troy's offense averages 33 points per game. Junior Levi Brown replaced injured starter Jamie Hampton at QB in the sixth game of the season and has thrown for 1,775 yards, 14 touchdowns with only three interceptions. Sophomore RB DuJuan Harris rushed for 1,025 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.
Overview: Both teams can score, but both can play some D as well. Southern Miss led C-USA with a plus-13 turnover margin and allowed only 35 total points in the final four games. Troy's defense is aggressive, ranking third in Division I-A in sacks with 38. The Trojans also allowed just 12 total points in their final two games. Southern Miss beat two Sun Belt teams this year: 51-21 over Louisiana-Lafayette and 27-24 over Arkansas State. Troy beat those two teams by scores of 48-3 and 35-9, respectively, in its final two games of the season. Both teams were 0-2 vs. ranked teams this year. Southern Miss has found itself and wins a close one.