How Much Better Will Southern Mississippi Be?
Southern Mississippi was 12-2 in 2011 and finished as Conference USA champions. This earned head coach Larry Fedora a position at North Carolina and he was replaced by South Carolina defensive coordinator Ellis Johnson. The Golden Eagles 2012 season was a total disaster as the team finished 0-12. It's hard to recall any team that ever plummeted so far so fast. Now, Southern Miss is bringing in another Oklahoma State assistant (like Fedora) in hopes of getting things back on track for a program that had been the best in Conference USA over the years.
Todd Monken spent just two seasons as offensive coordinator for the Cowboys. Both seasons saw OSU finish in the top five nationally in both scoring offense and total offense. That contrasts pretty sharply with the abysmal offensive performance by the Golden Eagles in 2012.
After a warmup at home against Texas State, The Golden Eagles will travel to Lincoln in the second game of the season to take on the Huskers. Southern Miss will be trying to improve greatly on both sides of the ball while Nebraska will be focused on shoring up the defense. While USM should find themselves heavy underdogs to NU, they may find smoother sledding elsewhere on the schedule. They'll have tough games at Arkansas and Boise State but then they'll hit their conference schedule which will be lightened by the departure of a handful of programs for the Big East and the addition of relative cupcakes to replace them.
Normally, you'd criticize a school for firing a head coach after one year, but given both the performance of Johnson's team and the turmoil surrounding the future of Conference USA, it seems justified. The Golden Eagles should expect to win more games in 2013. How many more will be the big question. Six wins may be possible, but twelve won't.