Huskies will try to ground another high-flying offense vs. Southern Miss in Heart of Dallas Bowl
Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl: Washington vs. Southern Miss
• Where: Cotton Bowl in Dallas
• Kickoff: 11:20 a.m. Saturday
• TV: ESPN
• Line: Washington by 9
At a glance: The Huskies (6-6) picked up plenty of momentum at the end of the regular season, outscoring Oregon State and then-No. 20 Washington State by a combined 97-17 in their final two games to just sneak their way into bowl eligibility. With their inclusion in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, they push their bowl streak to six straight, and Chris Petersen’s personal bowl streak hits 10 in just as many seasons as a head coach, starting with eight at Boise State (though he didn’t coach in the 2013 Hawaii Bowl after accepting the job with Washington). For Southern Miss (9-4), the game will be its first bowl appearance since 2011, and the Golden Eagles enter with a little less momentum after a 45-28 loss to Western Kentucky in the Conference USA title game on Dec. 5 ended a six-game win streak.
Matchup to watch: Washington’s secondary vs. Southern Miss quarterback Nick Mullens. The Huskies have been tested by air-centric offenses a number of times in 2015, usually with great results. They grounded the Cougars in the Apple Cup, though WSU didn’t have Luke Falk at the time, and they nearly upset Jared Goff and Cal in their fourth game of the season. The Golden Eagles will once again provide UW’s defensive backs with a busy day, as Mullens is seventh in the country 4,185 passing yards, and his top target, Michael Thomas, is tied for 14th in receiving yards at 1,201. Washington is tied for 15th in the country with 15 interceptions, though, and have allowed just 216 passing yards per game.
Key for Washington: Offensive balance. Things go well for the Huskies when they score 30 points – they’re 5-0 this season when they have – but it gets much more dicey when they don’t, as they’re 1-6 in the rest of their games. The common thread of those five games is production from Jake Browning and the passing game as well as Myles Gaskin and the running game. Washington has proven that it is hard to beat when their star true freshmen are running on all cylinders, especially with a stellar defense keeping opponents to just 17.8 points per game.
Prediction: Passing teams haven’t fared well against the Huskies. Sidney Jones, Budda Baker and company will make sure that trend continues in Washington’s final game of the year. Washington 31, Southern Miss 16.