Preview and Early Picks: Southern Miss to face familiar foe in LendingTree Bowl

HATTIESBURG, MS – Southern Miss has accepted their bowl bid to play a familiar foe, Rice, in the LendingTree Bowl in Mobile, Alabama, on December 17, 2022, at 4:45 PM. The game will air on ESPN.

The Golden Eagles finished the regular season 6-6, earning a bowl bid after coming off a 20-10 victory over ULM. Rice finished the season at 5-7 but earned a rare bowl bid without reaching six wins. They were the only 5-7 team to claim a bowl berth in 2022. Rice snapped the C-USA’s longest bowl drought and clinched their spot in the postseason for the first time since 2014.

Southern Miss fans might remember the LendingTree Bowl, as it is familiar ground for the program. The Golden Eagles played in Mobile in 2000 against TCU and in 2007 against Ohio; they won both matchups.

This will be the first bowl berth for both head coaches, Southern Miss’s Will Hall and Rice’s Mike Bloomgren. Rice won its last bowl game in the 2014 Hawaii Bowl, and the last Southern Miss victory in a bowl game was in 2016 in the New Orleans Bowl.


Early Preview on Rice

For the Owls, the 2022 season started with a trip out west to California, where they were drubbed by Heisman candidate Caleb Williams and USC 66-14.

They beat FCS foe McNeese State 52-10 the following week, faced Southern Miss opponent Louisiana, and beat them 33-21. They lost to Houston and beat UAB 38-24 on their home turf.

They lost to FAU, beat Louisiana Tech in overtime, and got blown out by Charlotte. They beat UTEP in a shootout on a Thursday night before ending the season with three straight losses to the hands of WKU, UTSA, and North Texas. The Roadrunners and Mean Green played for the C-USA Championship.

Starting quarterback TJ McMahon has thrown for 2,102 yards with 18 touchdowns. He has started all but two games.

The Owls have not been able to run the ball that well this season, but they have been able to distribute across Cameron Montgomery and Juma Otoviano, who are nearly at 400 yards rushing on the season.

They have a good trio of receivers with Bradley Rozner, Luke McCaffrey, and Isaiah Esdale. Rozner has 834 yards, along with nine touchdowns. McCaffrey has 656 yards, along with six touchdowns.

Comparing Both Teams

Rice’s defense allows 33.83 points per game, to Southern Miss’s 23.5 per game. The Golden Eagles allow 228 yards per game passing, whereas Rice allows 210 yards per game.

An important stat that got ULM in trouble with Southern Miss is that Rice allows 166 yards per game rushing. Southern Miss’s attack on the ground could be a huge factor going into the game next weekend. Southern Miss has averaged 123 yards on the ground per game this season.

Southern Miss’s offensive averages 332 yards per game to Rice’s 370.

They are very balanced and similar teams, which should make for an exciting matchup next weekend.

Series History

Southern Miss and Rice meeting in the LendingTree bowl renews an old C-USA rivalry between the Owls and the Golden Eagles.

The teams have met since 2007 and have split the series with a perfect 6-6 tie. Rice won the last two meetings, including last season against Will Hall and company 24-19.

The last Southern Miss win came in 2019, with a 20-6 victory in Houston. 2019 is also the year Southern Miss last went to a bowl game.

Early Pick

LINE: Southern Miss -6, O/U 48 (DraftKings)

Southern Miss has been waiting for an opportunity to get back to a bowl game since 2019. The fan base is eager and easily within driving distance, making the game feel like a home game for Southern Miss.

With the rushing attack, the defense, and what should be like home-field advantage, expect Southern Miss to claim their first bowl victory since 2016.

Southern Miss 27, Rice 17