Game 1 Preview USC vs. Southern Miss Golden Eagles

Southern Mississippi University

Location: Hattiesburg, MS

Students: 16,050

Head Coach: Larry Fedora (14-12, 2 years at Southern Miss)

2009 Record: 7-6 overall, C-USA 5-3

Returning Starters: Offense 3 Defense 9, returning 1 kicker from last season

Famous Alumni: Brett Farve, Ray Guy and Jimmy Buffett, yes that Jimmy Buffett

USC Offense Vs. Southern Miss Defense: The strength of the Golden Eagles team this season will be their front 7 on defense.  Ranked 80th nationally last season in total defense, allowing over 390 yards per game, and giving up on average 26 points per game.  Players to watch out for on Thursday that could have an impact on the outcome of the game are LB Korey Williams, LB Martez Smith, NT Anthony Gray and Cordarro Law.  Korey Williams might be the top linebacker in C-USA, and will be a handful for the Gamecock O-line.

USC offense ranked 82 overall last season averaging 347 yards per game, and scoring an average of 20 points per game.  USC returns a solid foundation of receivers and running back this season that should help in improving their offense stats.  Stephen Garica and true freshman Connor Shaw will both play QB on Thursday night.  I expect Garcia to play the majority of the game, as he has the experience to lead the offense.  Another player to watch out for is highly touted freshman running back Marcus Lattimore.  As of now Kenny Miles will probably get the start but look for Lattimore to get his chance early and often.

Best Match Up:  USC Offensive Line vs. Southern Miss Front 7: The offensive line gave up 37 sacks last season, so Southern Miss will be looking to blitz and exploit any weakness they can find on the o-line.  Spurrier has seemed to be pleased with first year O-Line coach Shawn Elliot, and I expect an improved line this season.

USC Defense vs. Southern Miss Offense: Southern Miss is returning 3 starters on the offensive side of the ball that ranked 31 overall last season in total offense.  The Golden Eagles averaged 416 yards per game and averaged a 33 points per game last season.  Players to watch on the offensive side of the ball for the Golden Eagles are QB Austin Davis and WR DeAndre Brown.  Davis is a mobile QB that threw for 1165 yards and 10 TD last season.

Eric Norwood might be in the NFL, but the Gamecock’s return the majority of their defense from last season.  Ranked 15 nationally in overall defense, allowing on average 300 yards per game, and 20 points.  Some national experts are saying, that USC might have one of the best secondaries in the Nation.  I might have to agree with them, as Culliver, Gilmore, Holloman and Augusta have the talent and ability to shut down opponents passing games.  Another strong spot for the Gamecocks defense will be Senior Defensive End Cliff Matthews, who started 33 games in the past 3 seasons and accounted for 105 career tackles including 17.5 for loss and 10 sacks.

Best Match Up: Brown Vs. GilmoreThis is a NFL scouts dream match up, as both Brown and Gilmore have next level talent.  Brown a 6′”6 Jr has the hands and speed to change a game on his own.  He will be handful for the Gamecock secondary, but Gilmore has the intangible to shut him down.  Look for Coach Johnson to play a safety over top just in case Brown does get a break down field.

What might happen: South Carolina has had trouble scoring points in their season openers the past few season, so it could be another defensive battle. I think USC has the ability to move the ball and score points against Southern Miss, but it will come down to USC turning the ball over.  If the Gamecock’s can play a turnover free game, it could get ugly quickly.  As the size of USC’s receivers could come into play against Southern Miss’s smaller defensive backs.  Look for Gurley, Moore and Jeffrey to each have big games.

Prediction: Golden Eagles 17 Gamecocks 27

Carolina will not cover the opening spread of 14 points.