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Previewing the Southern Miss Game and the Spread

We are 1/3rd of the way through the regular season and we are still unbeaten. On Saturday night, we will face an old rival, The Golden Eagles of Southern Miss. The two schools have been playing one another since the 1940s, with the bulk of their matchups coming in the Glory days of Conference USA. With losses to Nebraska, ECU, and most recently, Western Kentucky, they have yet to win a game, and on paper appear extremely overmatched. Coming off of 6 quarters of underwhelming football, the CARDS have one final opportunity to tune up their engines before heading to league play.

Again, here is how this works.

At the end of each section, I rate the advantage or disadvantage on a 5 point scale. -2, -1, Even, +1, or +2. 2 point advantages are reserved for very big advantages or disadvantages. Let’s begin.

  1. Offensive Line Play -- When looking through the numbers in the media guide this week, it is pretty clear that they have trouble holding their Offensive line, whether that is to pass or run the ball. Their Passing game is 118th in the nation, and run game is 82nd. That isn’t very good. And that offensive line will be protecting a new quarterback this week, with Ricky Lloyd taking over at the helm. This is an O-Line that, to date, has given up 9 sacks through three games. Expect the O-Line of the CARDS to come out able to protect Bridgewater and open up holes the way it did against UNC in the first half. Could be a big day for one of two of our backs. CARDS +1
  2. The Run Game -- Speaking of the running game, as I just stated, we could see a big day from our run game. One or two backs could eclipse the century mark. Southern Miss has given up an average of 235 yards per game on the ground. It would not surprise me to see something in this region this week. Louisville will look to hold Southern Miss below its average of 146 yards. The Defense has got to step up and put the issues fans have with them to bed. I know Vance has been working on this and only this all week. I don’t expect Dom will play in this one either, the first we see of him, if we do, could be after the bye week against Pitt. CARDS +1
  3. Special Teams -- One area where USM could really do some damage is in the return game. They average over 30 yards per kickoff return and have a couple guys who can turn it on, Lampley alone averages almost 37 yards and has taken one to the house. They also have a pretty decent punter, but he does have some difficulties pinning it deep inside the 20 (5/17). Their Kicker is 3-4 on the season, with a long of 47, but he did miss one from 38 in the same game against Western. Louisville’s special teams are coming off of a game where they were able to recover a fumble on a muffed punt and benefited from a roughing call late in the game. But to say we have an advantage here would be an overstatement. We have shown we do have some trouble getting it out quickly. And I don’t know if Kai Dominguez is the answer, but he did have one decent punt return last week. Still, this one is Even until the CARDS can show they can dominate on the return game. EVEN
  4. Impact of "New" Players – Getting his first start will be Ricky “Bobby” Lloyd. Lloyd has played in two games this season and is 4-8 with 72 yards with 1 TD and 0 INT's. He does have a QB Rating of 168 if anyone is interested. Lloyd can scramble as well. So do expect the pace of the game to speed up and slow down with the addition of the Freshman and that familiar no huddle spread. However, don’t expect him to be able to adapt quite as well as he would hope, with some dumb penalties and ill-advised throws. I have not heard of any new players being thrown into the mix on the Red side of the ball. But don’t expect that to slow down the CARDS. The fewer new players we have, the more experience that is on the field. So with that being said, UofL has an advantage. CARDS +1
  5. CoachingPerrin Johnson - Ellis Myles - Ellis Johnson is in his first year as a head coach of the Golden Eagles, and it has been a rocky one. If you read this website, you certainly know that. He is 0-3 and fans are already calling for his head. He was unable to stop a Western Kentucky team that he says runs a lot of the same formations that we do. That is bad news for him. However, with the fire lit under his hind-quarters, this could be a “must-win” game in his eyes. Do his players have enough loyalty and faith in him to put up a big one? On the other side of the ball, the Charlie Strong X-press (Get on this train!) continues to roll. While it is supposed to rain again Saturday night in Hattiesburg, I don’t expect it to affect the play calls too much. I expect to see it pretty balanced with a little bit more run than pass. That is why I look for the running game of the CARDS to put up some big numbers. On a defensive note, Bedford and Co. have been on his men getting them prepared for what is to come. I think coaching is an area we have a big advantage, and look for that to be a big difference in the game. CARDS +2
  6. Depth – At many positions, Louisville is just a deeper team. That says a lot about a team that is Freshman and Sophomore heavy. Southern Miss has 19 Seniors/RS Seniors. However, they have no real depth at QB. As we have seen this week, Lloyd will be slinging the ball for the Golden Eagles, with a Sophomore Cole Weeks backing him up, but neither have really been exposed to big game situations. This could seriously affect Offense as far as drive killing penalties, inopportune time outs, and poor passes. Lampley, a Senior Wide out and Dez Johnson, the RS Senior RB should get their names called a bit in this one. Anthony Alford was limited in drills this week but is their leading rusher. The CARDS have been lucky this season, with only Mike Marra being ruled out for this week (poor Mike, haha). As far as depth goes, we all know the CARDS are 2-3 deep at all positions. CARDS +1
  7. Defensive Pressure – We have got to get to the QB. And when we get there, we have got to get him on the ground or on his back. This just has to happen. Their O-Line gives up 3 sacks a game. If we can get to the QB at least 3 times, this will be a good day. Solid pressure hurries the QB and affects the run game. It can take a team completely out of their element. As GoCardsGuy stated in his preview, Jaime Collins is the guy to watch on Southern Miss’ defense. He is their team leader. And he certainly does lead by example at LB/DE. Check this feature on him out. Nice Feature. I am looking forward to a couple of Corner and Safety Blitzes this week that we haven’t seen to this point from Louisville. Expect them to be effective this week forcing some unbalanced throws errant throws and maybe a sack or two. With a First Time Starter, this could be a great time to really tune up the defense. CARDS +1
  8. Expectations – The CARDS defense is in a position where the fans expected one thing and have seen something different. This week, the team we play on paper again makes us want to raise L’s and Expectations for the defense. And coming off of his worst performance of the season, Teddy Bridgewater hopes that those two picks were just water under the bridge and he can fly high again this week. The weather may try to halt him again, but expect for him to continue to be picky with where he puts the ball. He is just so smart. I can’t get over it, nor do I want to. In Hattiesburg, expectations can’t get much lower. They are doing their best by trying to make this a Black Out game (with complete support from DJ McHatesBlacks) and the crowd should be in it early until one team or the other gives them a reason to quiet down. Expectations are high for the CARDS with the opportunity to move to 5-0 for the first time since ’06. CARDS +1
  9. Position Edges -- TD Bridgewater is a clear advantage over a first time starter Lloyd who does look just like Keanu Reeves from The Replacements. Our running backs should be able to win the battle against theirs as well. Our Receivers are many and a bit more sure-handed than theirs’, but do watch their senior, Lampley(#1) who can really burn you. Their O-Line fair at best when run block, but have been suspect on pass blocking. The one to watch is the Defensive Line. I expect to see a big game from the CARDS this week, so ours should be better than theirs. But again, watch out for Jaime Collins. Our secondary is also an edge over theirs. And their Special Teams is a push. All this being said, CARDS have a pretty good advantage. +1.5
  10. Offensive Improvement – This week, expect the offense to improve from last week. The CARDS had a tough time moving the ball on a senior laden FIU team, only mustering 28 points. It is nice to say only 28 when last season through 4 games, we were only averaging 18.75 points per game. I do expect to put up more than 28 this week as the CARDS should roll in this one. As long as the field is in good shape, look for the run game and the pass game to come out of this one looking good. On the other side of the ball, there is a lot to prove. A first time starter running the shotgun spread, but honestly, he could have a good game with no fears of being yanked for someone else. And he can scramble and turn losses into gains. So look for USM to look a little bit improved, but not enough to make this one a shootout. CARDS +1 Also, I hope I come out of this one feeling more at ease with the Defense. Come on D.

As of Friday night, I have seen the line with the CARDS as a 10.5 point favorite. I have them as an 11 point favorite. It’s a close one, the spread could be right on. I expect for it to be close to that line for a while with the CARDS playing on the road again, but I expect the CARDS to beat the spread this week. I see USM’s offense moving the ball a little bit early, and putting up the first points of this game. But don’t panic, the D will step up and the CARDS offense will play well in this one, especially on the ground. We will see if this continues this week. I like the CARDS to roll to their 1st 5-0 start since 2006 with a victory over Southern Miss. OSM Pick: 41-23

Man, last week sucked watching that one on ESPN3. Write your congressman about that experience. Seriously a long detailed explanation of the entire experience of your game-watch. I don’t know if it will help, but they need to know. Thank goodness it is on a real TV channel (Kind of). We may have to get used to CBS Sports Network though, if ESPN continues low-balling us on the negotiations. I’m interested to see how they do with this game. Maybe Anastasia Saunders can make the trip from Miami to harass the coaches again this week! I'd poop myself. Keep the Faith, let’s keep the CSX rollin!

Beat Kentucky!!! Then Beat the Bears!!! Then Beat the Tar Heels!!! Then Beat FIU!!!

Then Beat Southern Miss!!! Go CARDS!!!

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