HATTIESBURG, Miss. (WDAM) - USM’s third straight win on Saturday also marked its seventh of the season – earning the Golden Eagles bowl eligibility for the fifth consecutive season.
However, Southern Miss still has much more to play for in its final two regular season games.
The Eagles are tied atop the Conference USA West Division standings with Louisiana Tech at 5-1. The Bulldogs own the tiebreaker with their win over USM on October 19.
There stands a small chance Southern Miss (7-3, 5-1 C-USA) sneaks its way into the C-USA championship but it starts with a win over Western Kentucky on Saturday at 2:30 p.m.
The Hilltoppers (6-4, 4-2 C-USA) are fighting to secure a bowl berth and climb the East Division standings. WKU boasts the conference’s second-best scoring defense, yielding just 20.5 points per game and 181.5 passing yards per game.
Coach Tyson Helton knows his unit is in for a challenge against the C-USA’s top-ranked pass offense. The Golden Eagles are putting up 297.5 passing yards per game.
"I think they're probably the most complete team to be honest with you,” said Helton, in his first season as head coach of Western Kentucky. “If you look at them statistically, they're leading the league in passing, total offense and they're up there in the top four, top three in defense .They got good kicking specialists. They just make it really hard on you."
"They remind me a lot of UAB,” said USM offensive coordinator Buster Faulkner. “Kind of their structure of what they're doing, the discipline that they play with. Coach Helton's a good football coach and he's got that team playing really hard right now."
“It’s going to be a really, really good football game and we’re going to have to prepare well for them,” said USM defensive coordinator Tim Billings. “The negative for us is they’ve had two weeks to prepare for us.”