HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - Even with a coaching change, the expectation is that Southern Miss football will sit atop the Conference USA West Division once more this fall. The Golden Eagles were the top vote-getters in the league's preseason media poll released Thursday.
The West Division poll rounded out with Louisiana Tech, Rice, UTEP, UTSA and North Texas. Middle Tennessee has been picked to win the East, followed by Western Kentucky, Marshall, Florida Atlantic, Florida International, Old Dominion and Charlotte.
Senior quarterback Nick Mullens shared his thoughts on the team's expectations before the Golden Eagles loaded up a bus headed to Jackson to start the first leg of the team's Big Three Party tour.
He is well aware of the attention the team has been getting but isn't getting caught up in the hype.
"I think one thing I've kind of been thinking about is now we have a bulls eye on our back," Mullens said. "Last year maybe (we did) not (have) some big expectations or anything so we just kind of could go surprise people but now we have a bulls eye on our back so we're excited. We're going to take that role on and really attack the season game by game and enjoy it one last year. You never know what you'll get as far as tomorrow comes. This is my last year so as a group we're going to enjoy it."
Mullens has had to deal with expectations individually with his name on multiple preseason watch lists. He's also been voted as C-USA's preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
He said this all a testament to last year. The 2016 story is still unwritten.
"Those are really team awards," he said. "All it says is that we had a great season last year. To be able to receive those awards, (I'm) definitely thankful. Definitely an honor. But it's really about what you do this season. Nothing happens in the preseason so how can I be identified for that? It's all about what's happening this season and really just ready to attack that"
Conference USA Media Preseason Poll
1. Southern Miss
2. Louisiana Tech
6. North Texas
1. Middle Tennessee
2. Western Kentucky
4. Florida Atlantic
5. Florida International
6. Old Dominion