While the Southern Miss offense has been objectively horrible over the first three games of the season, the Golden Eagle defense has been a rather solid unit. They held South Alabama to only 24 points of offense (with former South Carolina starter, Jake Bentley, at QB), shut out Grambling, and held Troy to 0 points at half time until falling apart in the second half against the Trojans.
The Golden Eagle defense features an aggressive defensive line that’s always looking to disrupt the offense for a big loss. They’ve held all three of their opponents to 3.1 yards per rush and only 5.5 yards per pass attempt. The Southern Miss game vs Troy last week was billed as a defensive matchup, and lived up to that billing until the Trojans pulled off a few scores at the end of the game last week.
Formationally, the Golden Eagles prefer a base 3-4 defense that stay in nickel packages and is fairly aggressive in terms of linebacker blitzes. Safety Malik Shorts is the key player, and leads the team in both tackles and passes defended. Shorts is generally all over the field in a role that allows him to roam around the line of scrimmage and in the box.
Linebacker Josh Carr is the primary edge rusher, and leads the team with 3 sacks in 3 games. The Golden Eagles also have solid depth along the line, with Eriq Kitchen, Tahj Sykes, Michael Pleas, and Josh Ratcliff all rotating in regularly.
Linebacker Santrell Latham has been a speedy playmaker for the Golden Eagles, and has forced two fumbles so far while racking up 13 tackles.
Overall, the Golden Eagle defense is aggressive and has the front seven to end a few more offensive drives earlier than Alabama fans are going to be happy with. While their secondary is vulnerable, their rushing defense and pass rush are solid enough to make up for it. Alabama will score quite a bit, but it likely won’t surpass the 45-point spread that Vegas gave the game.
I’m thinking more like 42 points, and the Tide just barely being below covering the spread.