It’s not quite a Conference USA semifinal, but it is a must-win for a pair of teams hoping to play in the conference’s title game the following week.
Florida Atlantic got some much-needed help last week and can clinch a second trip to the Conference USA Championship in three years by beating Southern Mississippi at home on Saturday. The Owls have won four straight, but got some much-needed help when Marshall fell at Charlotte last week. They will clinch the East division with a win or a Marshall loss at home to Florida International.
Southern Mississippi can win the West division with a victory and a Louisiana Tech loss to UTSA. The Golden Eagles are currently in a 3-way tie in the division at 5-2 in conference with the Bulldogs and UAB. If all three teams win, Southern Mississippi will likely lose the tiebreaker.
The quarterback match-up will be a good one to watch between Southern Miss’ Jack Abraham, Conference USA’s leading passer and Florida Atlantic’s Chris Robison. Robison ranks second behind Abraham in passing yards and has 19 touchdown tosses this season.
The Owls lead Conference USA in total offense and points per game with more than 34 per contest. Running back Malcolm Davidson leads the team with 570 yards rushing on 6.6 yards per rush and nine touchdown runs. FAU tight ends have combined for eight of the team’s 20 touchdown receptions. Harrison Bryant, a 6-foot-5 senior, leads the team with 58 receptions and ranks second in C-USA with 890 yards receiving. John Raine has a team-high five touchdown catches.
The Golden Eagles have the conference’s leading receiver in Quez Watkins. The junior has more than 1,000 yards receiving this year and five touchdown catches. Running backs Kevin Perkins and De’Michael Harris have combined for more than 1,000 yards rushing and eight touchdown rushes.
Southern Miss ranks third in Conference USA in total defense while Florida Atlantic ranks 10th. The Owls however, are actually yielding fewer points per game. FAU leads Conference USA in takeaways and ranks second nationally in turnover margin.
The Golden Eagles rank second in the conference in sacks with 35. Terry Whittington leads the team with 6.5 sacks. Junior linebacker Akileis Leroy has that same number for FAU. Florida Atlantic cornerback Meiko Dotson leads C-USA with six interceptions and ranks fourth nationally in that category.
Saturday’s contest in South Florida will be just the second meeting between the schools. FAU won the first meeting by a 41-7 score in 2013. The game begins at 3:30 p.m. ET and airs on NFL Network.
Prediction: Florida Atlantic 34, Southern Miss 23
South Florida (4-7) at UCF (8-3)
Friday, Nov. 29 at 8 p.m. ET (ESPN)
South Florida will miss a bowl game for the first time since 2014 after last week’s 49-10 loss at home to Memphis. UCF has never defeated the Bulls in three straight seasons.
Prediction: UCF 52, South Florida 24
Florida International (6-5) at Marshall (7-4)
Saturday, Nov. 30 at 12 p.m. ET (CBS Sports Network)
Florida International got its biggest win in program history last week by knocking off Miami at Marlins Park. The Golden Panthers will now try to put an end to Marshall’s Conference USA title hopes.
Prediction: Marshall 31, Florida International 24
Miami (6-5) at Duke (4-7)
Saturday, Nov. 30 at 3:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2)
After winning three straight games, Miami suffered an inexplicable loss to Florida International. Duke has lost five straight since a 4-2 start.
Prediction: Miami 28, Duke 23
Florida State (6-5) at No. 8 Florida (9-2)
Saturday, Nov. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET (SEC Network)
Florida snapped its 5-game losing streak to Florida State last season in Tallahassee. The Gators will look to beat FSU at home for the first time in a decade and cement a New Year’s Six bowl bid on Saturday.
Prediction: Florida 38, Florida State 17
Philadelphia Eagles (5-6) at Miami Dolphins (2-9)
Sunday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
The Philadelphia Eagles are one of the NFL’s bigger disappointments this season in the NFL, but Sunday’s contest in Miami will begin a very manageable stretch. The Dolphins have allowed an average of 39 points per game over the last two weeks.
Prediction: Philadelphia 34, Miami 18
Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) at Jacksonville Jaguars (4-7)
Sunday, Dec. 1 at 1 p.m. ET (FOX)
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will look to build on a strong offensive performance against a Jacksonville team that has allowed 75 points over the last two weeks. Tampa Bay has been better on the road than Jacksonville has at home this season.
Prediction: Tampa Bay 31, Jacksonville 21
Mike Ferguson is a contributor for The Grueling Truth, covering Florida sports and sports history. Follow Mike on Twitter at @MikeWFergusonMikeWFerguson”>@MikeWFerguson/a>. To keep up with all of his work, like his Facebook page.