The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


The voice of and for USM students


Southern Miss Looks to Rebound and Find Confidence in Sun Belt Opener Against Arkansas State

Jackson Kennedy

After Tulane left a bad taste in their mouth last week, Southern Miss seeks a boost of confidence by opening the Sun Belt slate this week against Arkansas State.

Arkansas State and Southern Miss have played very similar schedules at the beginning of the season. Both took significant losses to powerhouse Florida State (USM) and Oklahoma (ASU), and both losses rather convincingly against AAC opponents.

The Golden Eagles and Red Wolves both seek to beat their first FBS opponent after both teams’ only wins came against FCS teams.

With all the hype and excitement coming into Southern Miss’s season, the past few weeks have hardly lived up to that excitement. This game against the Red Wolves plays into their hands, given that Arkansas State is rated as the 125th-best team in America according to the SP+ ratings. In simpler terms, they are the ninth-worst team in football currently.

It would be this if there were any game where Southern Miss could flex precisely what its offense can do.

What must Southern Miss do to start Sun Belt Play 1-0?

Establish the Run

If you had told anyone that Frank Gore Jr. would have just 87 yards of rushing through the first three games of the season, they would be slamming the panic button.

This is the game where Southern Miss has to be able to run the ball effectively. The offensive line has struggled tremendously over the season’s first three weeks. They rank near the bottom in rushing offenses in all of college football.

Moreover, Southern Miss could not run the football in the game where they should be winning at the line of scrimmage against Alcorn State.

The Red Wolves allow close to 153.3 yards a game on the ground. If Southern Miss gets significantly less than that, and the offense becomes one-dimensional like last week against Tulane, this game could be closer than any fan wants it to be.

Let Gore Jr. cook to regain his confidence, headed into two challenging games against Texas State and Old Dominion next week.

Blitz the linebackers

Arkansas State’s offense is terrible. They rank 118th in total offense in the country. That is one spot ahead of Southern Miss’s offense, which sits at 119.

The positive news for Southern Miss is that they can rely heavily on their defense, which shut down Tulane for most of last week’s game. Arkansas State is no Tulane, and their quarterback, J.T. Shrout, who is a good passer, could be better under pass rush. Don’t expect Arkansas State to be able to run the ball effectively on Southern Miss’s front seven.

Dan O’Brien should consider disguising blitzes with his linebackers when Shrout drops back to pass. They will throw Shrout off and give this secondary a chance to grab some interceptions to set up their sputtering offense.

Southern Miss should be in a good position to win this contest if the defense can set up the offense to score.

Get the receivers involved.

This game is a get-right game for Southern Miss’s offense, which means Hall has to find a way for these receivers to get involved in the vertical passing game.

A combined 15 completions to Jakarius Caston and Ti Mims through three games is unacceptable. USM must find a way to get the ball in their playmaker’s hands. Sure, it starts with Gore Jr, but it ends with these wide receivers. They have got to get open for Billy Wiles, and the offensive line has to give Wiles time.

Southern Miss fans should expect Caston to have 75-100-yard receiving yards every week and multiple targets. Anything short of that, it is hard for Southern Miss to sustain drives.

Where to Watch and Pick

When: September 23, 2023

Where: Jonesboro, Arkansas

Time: 6 p.m. CT

Watch: ESPN+

Line: USM -6, O/U 49


I do not know what to expect from Southern Miss’s offense anymore. I can see a similar game to last year’s game where it is close, and whoever is offense steps up just enough will get the victory

I trust Southern Miss’s defense not to allow many points to this Arkansas State team, and the offense will do just enough to win. Slam the under, however.

Pick: Southern Miss 17, Arkansas State 6

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