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North Texas vs. Southern Miss preview: Mean Green look to move to 2-0 in C-USA

North Texas vs. Southern Miss preview: Mean Green look to move to 2-0 in C-USA

September 29
19:44 2017

North Texas returns to the road after snatching its first Conference USA win in a 46-43 shootout last Saturday against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Mean Green (2-2, 1-0) will face off against the University of Southern Mississippi (2-1, 0-0) at 6 p.m. Saturday in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

What to Watch For 

Mason Fine vs. the Golden Eagles pass defense

Sophomore quarterback Mason Fine has had a tremendous start to the season, completing 63.4 percent of his passes for 1,076 yards and nine touchdowns. The receiving corps has helped Fine a lot throughout the season as sophomore Jalen Guyton provides a deep threat and sophomore Michael Lawrence gives Fine a reliable target in the slot.

But as good as Fine has been, this week will mark his toughest challenge to date.

He will be facing the No. 6 ranked pass defense in the country this week in Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles allow just 241.3 yards through the air per game and have faced solid competition in their previous three games.

However, Southern Miss does allow 14.2 yards per reception, which opens the doors for the Mean Green receivers to make their mark down the field.

“They’re an aggressive, blitzing team,” Fine said. “They can do a lot of things coming out. We don’t really know what they’re going to do, but we’re just going to take what they give us. Tfhat’s our mindset.”

Southern Miss’ extraordinary third down defense

The Golden Eagles rank No. 2 in the nation in third down defense as their three opponents have only converted 6-of-41 third down attempts. 

Meanwhile, the Mean Green offense has had issues getting past the sticks on third down this year, converting on just 15-of-45 opportunities in four games.

Going against this defense could lead to short drives for North Texas and better field position for Southern Miss.

“Not only third down, they’re good across the board on every down,” head coach Seth Littrell said. “There’s a reason they’re high in the country in a lot of statistics defensively. Their safeties are very aggressive so we also need to hit explosive plays on the perimeter.”  

Two fast starting offenses meet

In three games, Southern Miss has outscored its opponents 35-0 in the first quarter. They also played Kentucky to a 0-0 draw through one period, showing their defense is ready to go from the first snap.

Comparatively, the offense for the Mean Green has been sharp early on in games as well. North Texas has put up 44 points in four first quarters.

The first quarter will be an important one for two teams used to sprinting out of the gate. 

“They start fast,” Littrell said. “They do a good job game-planning and finding the looks they want to. We have to match their excitement and we’ve done a pretty good job of starting fast offensively, getting points on the board.”

Changes from 2016 to 2017

Last season in Denton, the Mean Green pulled off a somewhat surprising 29-23 win over the Golden Eagles on the back of Alec Morris at quarterback and Willy Ivery in the backfield. 

Southern Miss also has a different starting quarterback and appears to be more settled into their second-year coach’s system.

With all of that in mind, along with the game being in Mississippi this year, there’s not too much that distinctly carries over from last year’s meeting.

The Golden Eagles will be prepared for Fine and company, and the Mean Green will look to remain unbeaten in conference play before heading into their bye week.

“Obviously we want to keep it rolling, but at the same time we have to remain humble” senior running back Jeffery Wilson said. “Right now, we’re just staying level-headed, steady working and trying to be 2-0 [in conference].”

Score prediction: Southern Miss 30, North Texas 28

Featured Image: North Texas head coach Seth Littrell stands on the sideline during a third down late in the game against the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The Mean Green won 46-43. Colin Mitchell

About Author

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune

Matthew Brune is the Senior Sports Writer for the North Texas Daily, covering football and men's basketball.

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