Opponent Breakdown: Southern Miss

Jamie Rhodes-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

No one in college football has been more consistently above average over the past decade than Louisville's old rival, Southern Miss. But with the Golden Eagles currently winless after three games, can that be said this season?

Louisville's long standing rivalry with the Golden Eagles has been one of the more even series we've seen over the last decade or so. This year Southern Miss comes in at 0-3 and has struggled under new Head Coach Ellis Johnson. Bringing in a defensive minded coach after an offensive guru like Fedora can lead to problems and USM has it's share of them.

OFFENSE:

Ellis Johnson went with the old "If I hire his head coach, maybe he'll sign with us" move when bringing on offensive coordinator Steve Buckley. Buckley coached highly touted quarterback Anthony Alford at the high school level. Alford was a top ten quarterback with offers from pretty much every SEC school including Alabama and Auburn. Buckley has told anyone that would listen that he told Alford to go elsewhere, but even with an opening at quarterback and his old coach running the offense, I doubt Alford chose USM just for the girls. Bringing a high school coach in to run your offense is a very risky decision and so far it has seemed to be the wrong one. The Golden Eagles offense is averaging 4.3 yards per play this season which is good for 119th out of 120 teams. Ricky Lloyd will get the start at Quarterback this weekend due to injuries, so we won't get to see the three quarterback rotation that Johnson has used so far this season. Even though Lloyd is a redshirt freshman with limited experience, playing free without having to look over your shoulder is a positive for the USM offense.

Louisville will have to wait another week to get a break from the spread offense. Buckley brought his spread option attack from Petal High School when he got the job. It's hard to really analyze the offense because it's been flat out bad so far. Five offensive touchdowns is probably not what they envisioned at the start of the season. Desmond Johnson has run the ball well so far, but with the team trailing so much he hasn't been able to get a rhythm. Bedford will bring a lot of pressure at Lloyd but USM does have the athletes outside to get some big plays. The question is whether or not the quarterbacks can get it to them. The offense is similar to FIU in that they will run some of the spread option that FIU had some success with last week. Lloyd isn't the running threat that the two injured quarterbacks are, but he's not a statue either.

KEY PLAYERS: QB Ricky Lloyd, RB Desmond Johnson, WR Tracey Lampley

DEFENSE:

Tommy West had one of the better press conference moments ever a few years ago and now heads an athletic Golden Eagles defense. West and Johnson are well respected defensive minds that should find success in the coming years. But for now they are taking their lumps. Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez threw an uncharacteristic 5 touchdown passes in the opener and USM couldn't force a turnover against a sloppy ECU team. Western Kentucky somehow managed to give USM it's first takeaway last week on a broken screen play turned interception. There are a lot of athletic players on the defense but they don't seem to be picking up the scheme well. Guys were out of position a lot against Nebraska and they have given up some easy touchdowns. Louisville will face a great player in Jamie Collins though. He finished last year with 19.5 tackles for loss and is leading the team in, literally, every defensive statistic other than that lucky interception.

The Golden Eagles have a ton of talent on both sides of the ball. They returned 13 starers between the offense and defense but for some reason they haven't had the success they had last year. The coaching staff has made some questionable decisions and has done a poor job at getting their big play guys the ball in space. The defense gave up 17 explosive plays (10+ yard runs 15+ yard passes) last week and are being pretty much just as bad on defense as they are on offense. Rotating three quarterbacks is a perplexing decision and so is sticking to only man coverage after giving up multiple touchdown passes. The natives are very restless and a bad loss at the hands of the Cardinals could really cause some problems down there.

KEY PLAYERS: OLB/DE Jamie Collins, DT Khyri Thornton, CB Deron Wilson, S Jacorius Cotton

NOTES:

  • Jamie Collins somehow only received honorable mention honors on the all-conference team with those 19.5 tackles for loss.
  • Tracey Lampley is arguably the best return man Louisville will see this season. He has four career returns for touchdown, including a 100-yard kickoff return against Nebraska this year.
  • Anthony Alford signed a baseball contract with the Toronto Blue Jays after being drafted in the third round in the 2012 draft. The deal made headlines because the Blue Jays decided to pay Alford "first-round money" even though he wasn't drafted there. However, Alford was projected as a first-rounder.
  • At the time of this post, USM has the worst statistical offense and defense that Louisville will face for the remainder of the season.
  • Southern Miss didn't have a single quarterback on it's roster at the beginning of the season that had played in a FCS game.
  • Ricky Lloyd threw for over 4,400 yards and 52 touchdowns as a senior at Concord High School. He ran for 303 more yards and 9 scores.
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