UNT-USM prediction art

North Texas head coach Seth Littrell prepares to lead his team on to the field in a game last season. The Mean Green will face Southern Miss in Hattiesburg on Saturday.

North Texas at Southern Miss

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Where: M.M. Roberts Stadium

Records: UNT 2-3, 1-0 Conference USA; Southern Miss 3-2, 1-0 C-USA

Last week: Both UNT and Southern Miss had byes 

Last meeting: UNT 30, Southern Miss 7 (2018)

TV: Stadium via Facebook

What’s on the line?

UNT and Southern Miss were picked to finish first and second, respectively, in Conference USA's West Division in the league's preseason media poll and are off to 1-0 starts in league play.

A win would be a key step toward a spot in the conference title game for either team.

For UNT, a win would also help get it back on track after dropping three of its last four games. All of those losses came during a tough nonconference slate that included games against Cal, SMU and Houston, which rolled by UNT 46-25 two weeks ago.

The Mean Green's schedule is much more manageable the rest of the season but a loss to Southern Miss would leave UNT a little less room for error in its pursuit of a fourth straight bowl berth.

Southern Miss is also in a key spot in its schedule. The Golden Eagles will face Louisiana Tech, another C-USA West Division contender, next week. The Bulldogs (4-1) are 2-0 in league play.

Southern Miss could quickly fall out of the West Division race if it drops its next two games.

When UNT has the ball

The Mean Green rolled to a 45-3 win over UTSA in their C-USA opener earlier this season and are hoping to show that type of punch offensively again against Southern Miss. 

UNT is averaging 33.0 points per game but has not been as consistent as it hoped heading into the season. The Mean Green have been held under 28 points in all three of its losses. 

Mason Fine posted his best performance of the season when he threw for 353 yards and two touchdowns in UNT's loss to Houston in the Mean Green's last game. UNT is hoping that is a sign of what is to come the rest of the season.

Tre Siggers is averaging 120.0 rushing yards per game for UNT.

The Mean Green will need both Fine and Siggers to be at their best against Southern Miss.

The Golden Eagles are allowing 30.4 points per game, a deceiving total considering their two losses have come against Alabama and Mississippi State. The two SEC schools combined to score 87 points against the Golden Eagles.

Southern Miss has 16 sacks on the season and held UTEP to 13 points in its C-USA opener.

When Southern Miss has the ball

UNT will face C-USA's leading passer in Southern Miss junior Jack Abraham this week. Abrham is averaging 303 passing yards per game while completing 69.4 percent of his passes.

The Mean Green played well defensively in their C-USA opener while holding UTEP to three points. UNT didn't fare nearly as well defensively in nonconference play and is allowing 30.4 points per game.

UNT will need a good performance from its secondary, which is allowing 189.2 passing yards per game to keep Abraham and Southern Miss in check.

Prediction

UNT and Southern Miss appear evenly matched.

The Golden Eagles will have the advantage of playing at home, but the Mean Green know just how big this game is in terms of their hopes to reach their goals.

Falling to Southern Miss early in conference play would put UNT in a tough spot, both in the C-USA title chase and in terms of becoming bowl eligible.

Fine appeared to find his groove in UNT's last game against Houston and Southern Miss is not as stout defensively as it was last season.

UNT will find a way to pull out a close game.

Prediction: UNT 31, Southern Miss 28

BRETT VITO can be reached at 940-566-6870 and via Twitter at @brettvito.

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