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November 16, 2011INSIDE SLANT
With only two regular-season games remaining, it's time for Southern Miss to relish was has been one of the best seasons in program history.
The streaking Golden Eagles-winners of eight straight games-need one more victory to clinch a spot in the Conference USA championship game. That next win also would give Southern Miss 10 for the season, which would mark only the third time in program history the team won double-figure games.
The last time that happened was 1988, when Brett Favre was the quarterback at the school.
Southern Miss almost certainly will be considerable favorites to win both its next two games. The opponents, UAB and Memphis, have mustered a combined four wins this year.
Barring an epic collapse, Southern Miss should face No. 11 Houston for the Conference USA championship. A win in that game would mean the first league title for Southern Miss since 2003.
Southern Miss has been dominant in the all-time series with its final two opponents. The Golden Eagles hold a 9-2 advantage in their series with UAB, but the Blazers have won two straight.
- With another win, the Golden Eagles maintained their slow ascent up the national polls. Southern Miss rose to No. 20 in the coaches' poll, No. 22 in the Associated Press poll and No. 20 in the BCS standings. The highest Southern Miss has been in the modern era of the AP poll was No. 9 during the 1981 season.
- Southern Miss PK Danny Hrapmann turned in his best performance of the season just when the Golden Eagles needed it most. He tied his conference and school records by booting five field goals in a tight game against UCF. For his efforts, Hrapmann was named Conference USA Special Teams Player of the Week for the second time this season.
- The Golden Eagles have shared the scoring glory in what has been a memorable season. Twenty-one different Southern Miss players have scored touchdowns this season, a school record.
Series History: Southern Miss leads, 9-2 (last meeting, 2010, 50-49 UAB)
Scouting The Offense: Third-down conversions were a rare commodity for Southern Miss against UCF last week. The Golden Eagles converted only 3-of-14 third downs in the game. As strong and balanced as Southern Miss has been on offense this season, the Golden Eagles don't convert third downs with the success you might expect. Southern Miss ranks 42nd nationally in conversion percentage.
Scouting The Defense: No team in Conference USA has a better red-zone defense than Southern Miss. The Golden Eagles stop opponents from scoring on 30 percent of possessions inside their red zone, the 10th best percentage in the country.
Quote To Note: "The guys can see the light at the end of the tunnel. We're in the fourth quarter of our season. They understand that. They know how important each one of these are."-Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
This Week's Game: At stake in this game for Southern Miss are a milestone and a title. Should the Golden Eagles win the game-one in which they are heavily favored-it will mean their third 10-win season in school history, and a Conference USA East Division crown.
Keys To The Game: There appear to be mismatches all over the field, all favoring Southern Miss. Perhaps the most glaring: The Golden Eagles' offense ranks 24th nationally, while UAB's defense ranks 115th in total defense. UAB has allowed at least 56 points in two of its past three games.
Players To Watch:
DB Marquese Wheaton - Southern Miss fans have taken notice of Wheaton this year. He has three return touchdowns this season, one from an interception, fumble and blocked field goal. He notched a career-high 10 tackles against Central Florida. He also broke up a pass.
K Danny Hrapmann - He hasn't been a star like last season, but Hrapmann stepped up when Southern Miss needed him. His performance was critical to the Golden Eagles' win against UCF. He tied his own school record with five field goals. He didn't miss a kick.
QB Austin Davis - Against one of the best defenses in the country, Davis threw for a season-high 364 yards and had two touchdowns with no interceptions. The game against UCF marked his first 300-yard passing game since September.