2008 R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl Preview
Southern Mississippi (6-6, 4-4 C-USA) vs. Troy (8-4, 6-1 Sun Belt)
December 21st, 2008 @ 8:15 PM (EST) – ESPN – New Orleans, Louisiana
The New Orleans Bowl features the Sun Belt Champions from Troy facing off against Southern Mississippi. Troy won their first outright conference title in school history and won 8 games going against a very tough schedule that featured both of last year’s National Title game participants. Meanwhile, USM struggled out of the gates in their first season in 14 years without Jeff Bowers at the helm. Brett Favre’s alma mater was 2-6 before rallying for four straight wins to achieve bowl eligibility.
Southern Mississippi definitely felt some growing pains early in the season. Despite a 2-1 start, the Golden Eagles lost three straight home games to kick off a five game losing streak and were considered out of the bowl picture by most observers. However, quarterback Austin Davis played very well down the stretch and the USM defense absolutely dominated their last four opponents, allowing less than 9 points per game. Included in that stretch was a surprising 21-3 win over eventual C-USA champions East Carolina.
Troy had a much more consistent season. Aside from a mid-season loss to Louisiana-Monroe by a single point, their losses came against good to very good BCS teams. Their highest profile game was a 40-31 loss at LSU where the Trojans were ahead 31-3 in the second half before folding. Road losses to Oklahoma and Ohio State were their only other blemishes. The Trojans have found new life on offense with quarterback Levi Brown leading the attack and their defense has been impressive down the stretch, capped off by an impressive performance against Arkansas State to close out the season in what was a defacto Sun Belt title game.
Common opposition for the two teams included Louisiana-Lafeyette and Arkansas State. Both teams went 2-0 but Troy was much more impressive in victory, winning both games by a minimum of 26 points.
In this game, the deciding factor will be which hot quarterback can break through against a strong defense. The player to watch for USM will definitely be freshman wide receiver DeAndre Brown, who was one of the country’s top ten receiver prospects last year. If Troy can bottle him up, the Trojans will be in much better position to win because USM’s second leading receiver doesn’t have half of the receiving yards that he does. In terms of overall talent and based upon their tougher schedule, I think that Troy is going to win this game. Their defense has been playing very well against tough opposition and their offense is capable of scoring on anyone. Look for Troy’s solid defense to continue their excellent play and the Trojans should win this game handily.
New Orleans Bowl Pick: Troy 31 - Southern Mississippi 13
by Matt Baxendell
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