HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - Prior to the 2019 season, a panel of Conference USA media members predicted North Texas and Southern Miss to finish No. 1 and No. 2, respectively, in the C-USA West Division standings.
It appears Saturday’s matchup between the two will loom very large as to whether those predictions hold true. The Golden Eagles (3-2, 1-0 C-USA) host the Mean Green (2-3, 1-0 C-USA) for Homecoming on Saturday at 6 p.m.
USM is led by the conference’s leading passer Jack Abraham – the junior’s 69.4 completion percentage and 1,515 yards are tops in the C-USA. Senior Mason Fine leads North Texas with 1,293 yards passing and 11 touchdowns.
The two-time C-USA Offensive Player of the Year has given the Golden Eagles fits over the years, averaging 329 yards in two games.
USM is struggling to defend the pass this season – ranked 13th in the conference allowing 267 yards per game. Saturday presents a tremendous challenge for the “Nasty Bunch.”
"Southern Miss is a great defense,” said Fine, to North Texas media on Monday. “They're fast, they're physical. And if you go in there thinking I've had past success so we’re going to do it [again], that’s where it will get you. That's where it’ll bite you in the butt."
“Mason Fine, he’s a heck of a quarterback,” said USM junior defensive end Jacques Turner. “This is my third year playing against him and I haven’t won yet. We got to do something to stop him.”
“He’s kind of been our Achilles heel – my Achilles heel so I haven’t got a lot of sleep these last two weeks,” said USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings. “I’ve said from day one I thought he was an NFL guy. I think he throws the ball better than Russell Wilson. I call him the magician. He just pulls rabbits out of his hat all the time. He’s just a really, really good football player. He is a true gym rat. I love watching him except gameday when I’m playing him.”