Washington v. Southern Miss
Cotton Bowl Stadium — Dallas, TX
December 26, 2015 — 2:20 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
What’s the perfect compliment for watching the vanquished team from this year’s Apple Cup? How about keeping the remote handy and flipping back and forth between CBS and ESPN, where you can catch the winning team from the rivalry game between Washington and Washington State. The Huskies will take on the Conference USA West division champions at the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas. (Despite the name of the New Year’s Six game that will serve as one of the semifinals for this year’s College Football Playoff, THIS is the only bowl game played at the Cotton Bowl.) Despite being relegated to second-tier status in the bowl calendar, there is no reason why you should deny yourself the pleasure of watching a football game live from one of the sport’s landmark venues.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
After losing their season opener against head coach Chris Petersen’s old team Boise State, Washington had to scale back their expectations of potentially contending in the Pac-12 North to set their sights merely on trying to obtain bowl eligibility. Only by upsetting state rival Washington State in the Apple Cup did the Huskies actually reach the six-win plateau. Washington was a mess on offense, ranking outside the top 40 in every statistical category, and they leaned heavily on a top-20 defense just to get to .500 in the standings. They never won nor lost more than two games in a row throughout the course of the season, which bodes poorly for the Huskies — they had to knock off Oregon State and Washington State in the final two games of November to earn their spot in Dallas, and will have to buck their season-long trend if they are to win at the Cotton Bowl.
Southern Miss Golden Eagles
Southern Miss had a resurgent season, bouncing back from four straight seasons of futility with a bang. The Golden Eagles knocked off Louisiana Tech in a de facto division championship on the last weekend of November, then took a two-score lead against Western Kentucky in the C-USA championship game before allowing the Hilltoppers to claw back into the contest in the second half of a game Southern Miss ultimately lost by 17. A well-balanced offense ranked just outside the top 40 in rushing yards per game, and was built around the accurate passing of veteran quarterback Nick Mullens. The defense was average, but was good enough to allow Southern Miss to win by an average of over 16 points per game. They will have to be better about scoring when they get to the red zone, though, if they hope to knock off Washington for their first Power Five victory of the season.
What is Likely to Happen
Vegas really likes Washington, installing the Huskies as an 8.5-point favorite to win at the Cotton Bowl on Boxing Day. That line, however, does a disservice to just how dangerous the Golden Eagles are offensively and how strong a defense they too bring to the table. There is little in this matchup to motivate Washington besides not being embarrassed against a Group of Five opponent, and that motivation alone won’t cut it against a skilled opponent like Southern Miss. Look for Nick Mullens to have a big day against a skilled Washington secondary, but for a costly turnover to flip the script. It won’t be pretty, but a game-winning score at the end will at least allow for the Pac-12 middleweights to escape Texas with their seventh win of the season.
Washington 30, Southern Miss 28
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