HEART OF DALLAS BOWL
Washington (6-6, 4-5 in Pac-12) vs. Southern Mississippi (9-4, 7-1 in Conference USA)
11:20 a.m. PT, Saturday, Dec. 26
Cotton Bowl Stadium, Dallas, Texas
RADIO: KOMO 1000 AM/97.7 FM
THE LINE: Washington by 8.5
First of all, Merry Christmas and happy holidays. We certainly appreciate everyone who stops by to read our Huskies coverage, and hope your holiday season is a happy one.
And this year, Christmas Day also means it’s time for our traditional day-before-the-UW-game prediction post, as the Huskies prepare for their season finale against Southern Mississippi in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.
These bowl games between Power 5 teams and Group of 5 teams can be kind of like trying to predict the season opener, especially when the two programs haven’t played against any common opponents. For that reason, it can be difficult to project exactly how competitive a C-USA team might be against a Pac-12 team -- or exactly how much trouble a Pac-12 team might have with a C-USA team that has a 4,000-yard passer at quarterback (Nick Mullens) and two 1,000-yard rushers (Jalen Richard and Ito Smith).
(For what it’s worth, USM lost to the only two power-conference schools it played this season, Mississippi State and Nebraska.)
That will be the foremost challenge for UW -- slowing an offense that ranks eighth nationally in yards per play and 11th in scoring offense. And the Golden Eagles obviously move the ball a lot of different ways. UW cornerback Sidney Jones described their offensive approach as being similar to Arizona, in that they mix the run and the pass and also show the defense some run-pass option. The Huskies have succeeded against those kind of teams in the past -- they held Arizona to three points this season -- but USM’s offensive numbers speak for themselves. This is a legitimate offense with talent at every skill position, and another interesting test for a UW defense that allowed fewer points than any Pac-12 team this season.
The Golden Eagles’ defense has been solid this year, too, ranking 33rd nationally in yards per play allowed and 46th in scoring defense -- though obviously against a different caliber of opponent, week in and week out.
Often times, bowl games are won by the team that most wants to be there. It seems both teams should be excited to play in this one, though -- Southern Miss coach Todd Monken has referred to it as a “measuring stick” game for his team against a power-conference opponent, and the Huskies obviously feel like they played their best football of the season in their last two games. It’s a chance for their young roster to finish this season on a positive note.
The way UW’s defense has performed all season, and the way the Huskies’ offense moved the ball in its final three games, makes me believe they’ll head into the offseason with a 7-6 record.
The pick: Washington 35, Southern Mississippi 20.
Christian Caple can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @ChristianCaple