Posted by Chip Patterson
HOUSTON WILL WIN IF: Case Keenum is healthy and the Cougars limit turnovers. If Houston is healthy and takes care of the ball they will win the Conference USA title and likely earn a BCS bowl berth. The Cougars' focus was never more apparent than in the 48-16 win against Tulsa in the regular season finale. The Golden Hurricanes were arguably the greatest test on Houston's schedule, and they played the undefeated Cougars to a 13-10 halftime score. But Tulsa's inability to score touchdowns in the third quarter resulted in their downfall once Houston finally broke out and ran away with the gave (and division) in the fourth quarter.
SOUTHERN MISS WILL WIN IF: They score touchdowns, fast and often. The Golden Eagles cannot settle for field goals on any scoring opportunities against Houston, because Case Keenum will find the end zone eventually. Quarterback Austin Davis and running back Jamal Woodyard have led a prolific offense themselves, but it will require a fast start at full steam to beat the Cougars. No one has held Houston under 35 points all season, and Southern Miss has not displayed the type of dominance on defense that suggests they will be the first. Since Keenum is so good at spreading the ball around and reading the defense, the Golden Eagles will need a surprise showing from their pass rush to keep the star quarterback uncomfortable. Hope for a slow start and score quickly, because once the Houston offense gets rolling your only hope is time expiring.
X-FACTOR: Houston head coach Kevin Sumlin and Southern Miss coach Larry Fedora have been listed as top names for basically every several recently vacated FBS coaching positions. Both coaches insist they are focused on the game ahead, but the discussions regarding the future of both coaches could be a distraction for the staff and players. The ability to block the outside noise from the locker room will be key in the preparation for Saturday's game.
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