There are only two games on Thursday night in the traditional opening night slot for Week 1 with conferences around the country either delaying the start of the season or postponing the season to spring. But Southern Miss and South Alabama forge on (along with Central Arkansas and UAB) in the hopes of playing a complete season this fall.
The game is the first between FBS programs for this unusual season between Conference USA and Sun Belt teams. Fans dying for a little bit of levity get it when these two take the field in Hattiesburg. It’s also the first ever meeting between these two teams that sit just 90 miles apart. Let’s take a closer look at what to expect and make a pick for who will win.
South Alabama: The Jaguars finished the 2019 season with a 2-10 record thanks partly to a dubious 1-3 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer. But they finally found some offense late in the year when Desmond Trotter took over at quarterback. Now back as the full-time starter in his redshirt sophomore season, Trotter will look to pick up where he left off in a season-ending win over a bowl-bound Arkansas State team last season. Trotter threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns in that game and ran for another 58 yards.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are coming off their fifth straight winning season, and star quarterback Jack Abraham is returning to lead the team once again. Abraham threw for 3,496 yards last season and even cobbled together respectable outings in losses to SEC foes Mississippi State and Alabama. But it’s not all roses for Southern Miss. For one, the lack of spring practice kept the team from a getting an early grasp on the systems of new coordinators on both sides of the ball. The Golden Eagles also received bad news in preseason camp when four key players announced their plans to opt out of the season and transfer. Southern Miss still has a decent bit of continuity under fifth-year coach Jay Hopson, but there are plenty of questions, too.
Date: Thursday, Sept. 3 | Time: 9 p.m. ET
Location: M.M. Roberts Stadium — Hattiesburg, Mississippi
Game prediction, pick
South Alabama only lost by 16 points or more in four of its 10 defeats last season, and three of those losses came against teams that finished in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense. Southern Miss finished last season ranked 81st nationally in scoring offense, and the Golden Eagles are replacing three of their top four offensive playmakers. When you consider this will also be the first game for Southern Miss with new offensive coordinator Matt Kubik after a disjointed offseason, it’s hard to see the Golden Eagles racking up a ton of points. Even if South Alabama’s defense gives up 30, the Jaguars’ offense, anchored by a veteran line, should have enough life to contribute a couple of scores and keep the deficit within the 15.5 point spread. Pick: South Alabama (+15.5)