In what seems like a bizarre twist of fate for 2020, South Alabama’s trip to play Southern Miss in the opening game for both teams is actually happening during the same week as originally scheduled. In fact, the game actually got moved up two days, even as college football teams and leagues around the country pushed their start dates back due to COVID-19 concerns.
What it means is that Thursday night’s meeting between the Jaguars and Golden Eagles will be the first game of the 2020 season pitting two teams from the FBS against each other. In that sense, the first-ever meeting between these Group of Five schools from the Deep South will take on a historic significance as the 2020 college football season creeps closer to full swing.
South Alabama: The Jaguars finished the 2019 season with a 2-10 record thanks partly to a dubious 1-3 record in games decided by 10 points or fewer. But they finally found some offense late in the year when Desmond Trotter took over at quarterback. Now back as the full-time starter in his redshirt sophomore season, Trotter will look to pick up where he left off in a season-ending win over a bowl-bound Arkansas State team last season. Trotter threw for 279 yards and four touchdowns in that game and ran for another 58 yards.
Southern Miss: The Golden Eagles are coming off their fifth straight winning season, and star quarterback Jack Abraham is returning to lead the team once again. Abraham threw for 3,496 yards last season and even cobbled together respectable outings in losses to SEC foes Mississippi State and Alabama. But it’s not all roses for Southern Miss. For one, the lack of spring practice kept the team from a getting an early grasp on the systems of new coordinators on both sides of the ball. The Golden Eagles also received bad news in preseason camp when four key players announced their plans to opt out of the season and transfer. Southern Miss still has a decent bit of continuity under fifth-year coach Jay Hopson, but there are plenty of questions, too.
Date: Thursday, Sept. 3 | Time: 9 p.m. ETLocation: M.M. Roberts Stadium — Hattiesburg, Mississippi
TV: CBS Sports Network (Channel finder)Live stream: CBSSports.com | Mobile: CBS Sports AppStreaming of this game requires authentication.
Game prediction, pick
South Alabama only lost by 16 points or more in four of its 10 defeats last season, and three of those losses came against teams that finished in the top 25 nationally in scoring offense. Southern Miss finished last season ranked 81st nationally in scoring offense, and the Golden Eagles are replacing three of their top four offensive playmakers. When you consider this will also be the first game for Southern Miss with new offensive coordinator Matt Kubik after a disjointed offseason, it’s hard to see the Golden Eagles racking up a ton of points. Even if South Alabama’s defense gives up 30, the Jaguars’ offense, anchored by a veteran line, should have enough life to contribute a couple of scores and keep the deficit within the 15.5 point spread. Pick: South Alabama (-15.5)