Reason to watch: Calling a squad the best 6-6 team in the country isn't always a compliment, but it is in Louisville's case. Under first-year coach Charlie Strong, the Cardinals allowed just 18.7 points per game and recorded shutout victories over Fiesta Bowl-bound UConn (26-0) and Memphis (56-0). If defense doesn't do it for you, running back Bilal Powell, Louisville's one-man show on offense (1,330 rushing yards, 13 total TDs), is worth the price of admission alone.
Keep an eye on: Southern Miss quarterback Austin Davis, who finished the season in a frenzy, delivering 14 touchdowns over his final three games. Davis' sophomore season was cut short by a foot injury, but he's delivered big as a junior, passing for 2,898 yards and 18 touchdowns and rushing for 10 more scores while leading the Golden Eagles to their ninth consecutive bowl game.
Did you know: Southern Miss' Larry Fedora and Louisville's Strong were both once coordinators for Florida (Fedora on offense, Strong on defense), although not at the same time. The two schools also share a common history as former Conference USA rivals in the mid-80s and 90s. Southern Miss leads the alltime series 18-9-1, but Louisville has won the last four meetings.
Final analysis: The Golden Eagles put up 37.6 points per game during the regular season and scored 40-plus in seven of their last eight. But they did so against a weaker schedule than the Cardinals. Louisville could have some trouble keeping Davis and Co. in check, but its defense did not allow a team to reach Southern Miss' scoring average all season.
The pick: Louisville 27, Southern Miss 24
SI.com NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline shares his thoughts on the top pro prospects in this matchup:
Southern Miss: OLB Korey Williams -- Williams is a developing linebacker who forces the action in every area. He's a dominant run defender who also displays terrific skill on the blitz, menacing opposing signal callers. Williams offers potential for a variety of linebacker spots. Grade: Fifth-round prospect.
Louisville: CB Johnny Patrick -- Patrick is a corner with good size whom scouts have been watching the past two years. Labeled a terrific athlete with NFL speed, Patrick really improved his game as a senior and transitioned his physical skills onto the football field. He's being graded as a nickel back/special teams player for the next level. Grade: Fourth-round prospect.
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