Southern Mississippi (8-4) vs. Louisville (6-6) (-3)
It seems crazy now that anyone would think Charlie Strong would head back to Florida when Urban Meyer left. He did a hell of a job while in Gainesville, but there’s no reason he would go back there as a Meyer re-tread, with all the fans hoping he’d just keep the same systems in place and maybe make the offense a little better with a splashy coordinator hire. Getting hired as a CEO to keep things essentially the same sucks. Just ask Norv Turner.
Instead, Strong gets to shape Louisville in his own image. A year in, it’s kind of hard to figure out what that image is, but hey, they guy’s working at it. He even managed to get them to .500 and a bowl game in his first season, something Steve Kragthorpe made UL fans think would never happen again. Believe it or not, Louisville HAS actually won before, so it’s not like he’s trying to turn Ball State into a consistent winner.
As for Southern Mississippi, the only two times I heard anything about that program was when three players were shot during a fight in November and when they came up periodically in Pony Exce$$ and The Best That Never Was.
I hear they have a good offense, which should surprise no one since that’s why Larry Fedora got the job down there, and a crap defense. And while Louisville isn’t exactly a juggernaut, the experts seem to assume that the Cardinals will be able to score enough to beat Southern Miss. I don’t see it at all.
Strong should be able to get his D to handle the Golden Eagles’ attack to a point, but Louisville better hold them under 30 because I seriously doubt their offense can get that without any special teams or defensive touchdowns. USM’s defense is bad, but they’ve had plenty of time to prepare.
Which is my other point. Bowl games this close to the regular season are always good for the offenses because it doesn’t screw their rhythm up with a six-week layoff. I expect USM to score a ton of points and win a shootout that very, very few people watch.
Pick: Southern Mississippi