Washington vs. Southern Miss Prediction, Heart of Dallas Bowl Preview

    Washington vs. Southern Miss prediction and 2015 Heart of Dallas Bowl preview for the matchup between the Huskies and Golden Eagles.

    December 14, 2015


    The Washington Huskies (6-6) and the Southern Miss Golden Eagles (9-4) will be meeting for the first time in this fifth edition of the Heart of Dallas Bowl. Check out the Washington vs. Southern Miss prediction and game preview.


    Washington vs. Southern Miss Game Preview

    Broadcast

    Date: Saturday, December 26
    Game Time: 2:20 ET
    Network: ESPN

    Follow and/or Contact @Rich Cirminiello

    Why You Need To Care

    U-Dub will arrive at the Cotton Bowl looking to finish 2015 with a winning record. Southern Miss, on the hand, sees the Pac-12 Huskies as a measuring stick opponent.

    The Golden Eagles are back, though beating a Power Five opponent would serve as an exclamation point. Southern Miss used to be a mid-major force, going to 18 consecutive bowl games from 1994-2011. However, then there was a lull after Larry Fedora left for Carolina, with the program winning just four times over the last three seasons, Well, USM is back, thanks to Todd Monken and his assistants. The Eagles have won nine times this year, and came within a sloppy half of football at Western Kentucky from winning a Conference USA title. This is a complete squad that gets it done on both sides of the ball. And with a genuine appreciation for this moment, minus any entitlements, the players are fired up to be in Dallas.

    Some .500 teams view bowl trips as a chore … Washington isn’t one of those programs. Chris Petersen’s second Husky team is among the youngest in the country. As such, it will really benefit from the 15 practices and four additional quarters that come with a bowl berth. U-Dub went with underclassmen just about everywhere, including the backfield pair of QB Jake Browning and RB Myles Gaskin. So, for Washington, this is more the beginning of 2016 than it is the end of 2015. While the Huskies frustratingly lost three nail-biters, they also earned a signature win at USC and closed with victories over Oregon State and rival Washington State.

    Why Southern Miss Will Win

    The Eagles possess more offensive firepower than the Huskies.

    While Washington was hit-or-miss as it adjusted to a youthful backfield and poor blocking, Southern Miss was a neatly balanced attack. USM averages 40 points and 519 yards per game, getting major contributions from QB Nick Mullens, backs Ito Smith and Jalen Richard and receivers Mike Thomas and Casey Martin. And at seven yards per play, it ranks No. 8 in the country. The Huskies must also contend with the Golden Eagle pass rush. Southern Miss will get after a middling Washington O-line with DE Dylan Bradley, LB Brian Anderson and the rest of a front seven responsible for this year’s 31 sacks and 91 stops for minus yards.

    Why Washington Will Win

    This is the best D Southern Miss has faced since the opener with Mississippi State.

    Coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski has done a bang-up in 2015 with a group that was supposed to be rebuilding. Instead, the Huskies retooled on the fly with a mix of veterans and sophomores to lead the Pac-12 in scoring and total defense. Washington has the antidote for the Eagle balance, stuffing the run and cutting off passing lanes equally well. CB Sidney Jones and S Budda Baker were two of eight defenders named at least honorable mention All-Pac-12, bolstering a secondary that’s yielded nine touchdown passes in 12 games and is No. 19 nationally in pass efficiency D.

    Player Who Matters

    How will Southern Miss stack up against the stout Washington front seven?

    The Golden Eagles boast a quality offensive line by the Conference USA bar, but the Huskies were dominant at the point of attack, even against a Pac-12 slate. Plus, U-Dub’s best run stuffer, NT Elijah Qualls, is rejoining all-leaguer Taniela Tupou on the interior after missing most of November with an injury. Mullens must also contend with the athleticism of Petersen’s linebackers, Travis Feeney, Azeem Victor, Cory Littleton and Keishawn Bierria, who thrive at charging hard and wreaking havoc from the second level.

    What’s Going To Happen?

    Great year, Southern Miss. But Washington will prove to have too much talent, particularly on defense.

    The Huskies are a program on the rise, with a chance to showcase it in Dallas. They’ll flex their defensive muscles, frustrating a Golden Eagle team that’s grown accustomed to facing Conference USA-caliber talent for the better part of the year. On offense, Browning and Gaskin will continue to evolve into reliable playmakers. Gaskin will go on to be the Heart of Dallas Bowl MVP, ripping off 125 yards on the ground and introducing himself to the large swath of the country that’s yet to see him in action.

    Washington vs. Southern Miss Prediction

    Final Score: Washington 34, Southern Miss 23, Line: Washington -8.5, o/u: 55.5
    Must See Rating: 5: Star Wars: Episode VII – The Force Awakens – 1: Property Brothers at Home on the Ranch… 2.5

    MORE: 10 Best College Football Bowl Games

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