Southern Miss Golden Eagles (8-4, 6-6 ATS) vs. Louisville Cardinals (6-6, 6-6 ATS), Tuesday December 21st 8:00PM Eastern Tropicana Field St. Petersburg, Florida
By Jay Horne, College Bowl Game Handicapper, Predictem.com
Betting Odds: Southern Miss +3/Louisville -3
The Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl is fairly new to the College Football postseason. Formerly the St. Petersburg Bowl, the game is in just its 3rd year of existence. Annually this bowl game features teams from the Big East and Conference USA. The Big East actually holds a 2-0 advantage after delivering blowouts each of the past two seasons over Conference USA opponents. This year will represent possibly the most interesting match-up in the Beef ‘O’ Brady’ Bowl’s brief history when the Southern Miss Golden Eagles and the Louisville Cardinals collide at Tropicana Field. It will be a classic battle between a high powered Golden Eagles offense against a stingy Cardinals defense that should be likeable for all college football fans.
Southern Miss is a team that definitely knows how to move the football. The Golden Eagles sport a balanced offense that has produced 458 yards on average this season. The Golden Eagles rank 15th in scoring averaging a healthy 37.5 points per game. The offense is loaded with playmakers that can find the end zone. Junior QB Austin Davis may be the best of the bunch. Davis is an effective passer that can also keep plays alive with his legs. Davis has completed 63% for 2,898 yards, 18 touchdowns, and 6 picks on the season. Davis has a pair of veteran wide outs at his arsenal in Kelvin Bolden and Johdrick Morris. Both wide receivers have caught more than 40 passes while tallying 650 plus receiving yards on the season. The Southern Miss offense is stacked with veterans at the skill positions in the passing game, but they also sport some promising talent in their backfield as well.
Freshman running back Kendrick Hardy has been very explosive this season averaging 6.7 yards per carry. Hardy did not take a snap in 3 games this season, but has rallied to post 855 rushing yards and 7 touchdowns on the season. Sophomore running back Desmond Johnson has contributed with an additional 509 rushing yards and 7 scores. Johnson will likely get some touches again, but Hardy is a special player that could become a difference maker in the outcome. The Louisville defense ranks 9th in the country against the pass allowing just 162 yards per game. If the Golden Eagles have trouble moving the football through the air, they will likely put the ball in the freshman’s hands often in hopes to make some big plays on the ground.
While Southern Miss has racked up a ton of yardage this season, the Cardinals defense will likely be one of the best groups the Golden Eagles have faced this season. Coach Charlie Strong really made a huge difference in his first season on the defensive side of the ball. The former Florida Gators defensive coordinator turned a Cardinals defense that ranked 69th in America in 2009 to one of the best defenses in the entire country in 2010. Louisville ranks in the top 15 in both total and scoring defense. The Cardinals have only allowed 302 yards and 18 points per game this season. Despite inconsistencies on offense, the Cardinals defense has constantly kept them in contention this season. The Cardinals face a tough task slowing down the Southern Miss offense, but rest assured they will be up for the challenge.
On offense the Cardinals have had a ton of troubles averaging just 26 points per game to rank 76th in the country in scoring. Senior quarterbacks Adam Froman and Justin Burke have both shared time behind center. Froman started the season, but has battled some injuries during the 2nd half of the year. Burke has started the last 4 games and has been fairly solid. On the season, Burke has completed 56% passing with 8 touchdowns and just 3 picks. The Southern Miss secondary has just been horrible against the pass this season so Louisville will have the chance to fire some shots down the field. Unfortunately, the Cardinals are missing the “go to guy” at the wide receiver position. Tight end Cameron Graham leads all receivers with 439 receiving yards and 4 touchdowns. Therefore, it will be interesting to see if any of the Cardinals other wide outs can step up and exploit the Golden Eagles secondary.
The Cardinals offense does have a star running back in senior Bilal Powell. Despite being slowed by a knee injury during the latter part of the season, Powell still managed to rack up 1,330 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns on the season. Powell has been the workhorse for the offense this season and the guy they look to when the passing offense has faltered. Powell is a guy that can post big rushing numbers and has went over 140 yards on 5 different occasions this year. If the offense can not get rolling, look for Powell to be the man the Cardinals turn to against a Southern Miss defense that has struggled badly this season allowing nearly 30 points per contest.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Golden Eagles really match-up well in this contest. The Golden Eagles have a balanced offense that can frustrate the Louisville defense. Also, the Southern Miss defense is pretty solid up front which will be key to stopping the Cardinals rushing attack. I’ve seen both of these teams many times this season and the Golden Eagles will be the better team on the December 21st when the two meet. Take Southern Miss +3.