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Tulane (6-6) vs. Southern Miss (7-5)
Location: Fort Worth | When: Jan. 4 (11:30 a.m. ET) | TV: ESPN | Line: Tulane -6.5
HOW THESE TEAMS GOT HERE
Tulane: While a lot of teams that made bowl games this year had poor starts to the season, Tulane was the opposite. The Green Wave started really well before things came crashing down at the end.
Tulane was 5-1 after wins over Army, Houston and Florida International in the first six games of the season. Then a 30-point loss to Memphis happened. And things spiraled. The Green Wave won just one game in the final six and that was a 38-26 win over Tulsa on Nov. 2. The season ended with losses to Temple, UCF and SMU.
Southern Miss: The Eagles got to a bowl game thanks to five wins over a six-game stretch to open Conference USA play. The Eagles won games over UTEP and North Texas to start the conference season before a 45-30 loss to Louisiana Tech.
Then Southern Miss reeled off three consecutive wins including a 37-2 win over UAB on Nov. 9 to get win No. 6 and ensure bowl eligibility.
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH
You need to do some pregaming before the NFL playoffs begin later in the afternoon. And what better way to get excited for the playoffs than to watch the penultimate bowl game of the season?
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Tulane QB Justin McMillan: McMillan does it all for the Green Wave. He’s 170-of-296 passing for 2,229 yards with 14 touchdowns and 10 interceptions. He’s also the team’s leading rusher with 152 carries for 704 yards and 12 TDs on the ground.
No other Tulane skill position player has more than seven total touchdowns. As McMillan goes, Tulane goes. Seven of the LSU transfer’s 10 interceptions came in Tulane’s six losses. As did 18 of his 26 TDs.
Southern Miss WR Quez Watkins: The junior leads the team with 1,024 yards and five scores on just 55 catches. He’s topped 100 yards in four games, including an explosive performance against Troy in September when he had seven catches for 209 yards and two scores. The Eagles are 4-0 when he scores a TD, so if he grabs one on Saturday, Tulane could be in trouble.
NFL DRAFT PROSPECT
Tulane CB Thakarius Keyes: Keyes will be tested in this game by Southern Miss WRs Tim Jones and Quez Watkins, the latter a late-round prospect for 2020. After two seasons of riding the pine for the Green Wave, Keyes has become one of their better defenders. The East-West Shrine Game invitee is better known for his coverage, using his 6-foot-1 frame and long arms to shield defenders. But Keyes needs major work with his tackling (don’t watch the Navy game, yikes), which makes him a late Day 3 prospect or priority free agent, we feel.
— Eric Edholm
WHAT’S ON THE LINE
Tulane: The Green Wave is going for consecutive bowl wins after winning the Cure Bowl in 2018. It’d also be consecutive winning seasons for Tulane. And that’s a really big deal. Tulane hasn’t been above .500 in back-to-back years since 1997 and 1998.
Southern Miss: Jay Hopson has already clinched a fourth winning season in his four seasons at the school. A bowl victory would be the team’s first since 2016 and would be just the second win outside either Louisiana or Alabama in the last 20 years.
Nick Bromberg: Southern Miss +6.5
Sam Cooper: Tulane -6.5
Picks from the Yahoo Sports College Podcast
Pat Forde: Tulane -6.5
Pete Thamel: Tulane -6.5
Dan Wetzel: Tulane -6.5
Sean Sullivan: Tulane -6.5
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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.