Since 2010, Southern Miss has played nine games against SEC opponents. The game Saturday will be the Golden Eagles’ first against the Auburn football program since 2008.
In the nine games against the SEC this decade, Southern Miss is 1-8:
- 2017: Lost to Kentucky (24-17), lost to Tennessee (24-10)
- 2016: Beat Kentucky (44-35), lost to LSU (45-10)
- 2015: Lost to Mississippi State (34-16)
- 2014: Lost to Mississippi State (49-0), lost to Alabama (52-12)
- 2013: Lost to Arkansas (24-3)
- 2010: Lost to South Carolina (41-13)
And it won’t stop there for the Golden Eagles. They have Auburn this season. In 2019, they play Mississippi State and Alabama, followed by Auburn again in 2020 and Alabama in 2021. Southern Miss has games set against Mississippi State in 2023 and 2025.
Southern Miss coach Jay Hopson arrived in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2015 and has coached the Golden Eagles in five of those games against SEC teams, including the win in 2016 against Kentucky.
He shared his thoughts on meeting Auburn in Jordan-Hare Stadium on Saturday:
They’re an athletic team. They beat Arkansas 34-3, it could’ve been worse than that. They’re a good football team, there’s no “ifs” or “buts” about that. We know we’ve got a good challenge and we know we’re playing a really good football team so we have to prepare. I always say this – I worry about one team, I worry about us. So we’ve got to get better from week three to week four and that’s our journey and that’s our climb.
A few points on Hopson’s quick-hitting analysis of this Auburn football team:
- Yes, Auburn is athletic. Very athletic.
- Yes, Auburn beat Arkansas, 34-3, and it could have been much worse. But it depends on which way you’re looking at it. Could it have been 56-3? Yes. I think most Auburn football fans would agree that the final score should have resembled something closer to that. Could it have been 21-3 or closer? That’s very possible, too. But the defense and special teams stepped up (big time) and didn’t allow that to happen.
- It sounds like Hopson has his team on the same “climb” that Gus Malzahn and his staff have the Tigers on — making improvements each week. Did Auburn improve from the Week 3 loss to LSU to the Week 4 win against Arkansas? That’s debatable. This is not debatable: If the Tigers don’t make noticeable leaps forward this week, there will be unrest. Oh yes, there will be unrest among the Auburn faithful.
Hopson had more to say about Auburn and the SEC this week:
At Southern Miss we play SEC teams every year. That’s part of our DNA. We know they’re an athletic football team and a good football team. We’re going to prepare the same way we always do. That’s what we always have done and always will do. We know Auburn is a good football team, that doesn’t surprise us. We’re going to do what we do and prepare and get ready to play our best.
Southern Miss is not your typical non-conference opponent. Hopson is right, the Golden Eagles have played enough games against SEC opponents to not be scared off by the big, bad SEC. Southern Miss went to a bowl game every season from 2002 through 2011. In fact, Southern Miss has played in a postseason game in 17 of the past 21 seasons.
In other words, not showing up on offense would be a poor strategy for Auburn this week. Southern Miss is 2-1 with wins against Jackson State and Rice. The Golden Eagles lost to Louisiana-Monroe, 21-20, in Week 2, and had their Week 3 game against Appalachian State canceled.
Southern Miss has watched film of Auburn’s games against LSU and Arkansas. The coaches certainly are injecting confidence in the team, telling them they beat Kentucky in 2016, they can beat Auburn in 2018.
It would be comforting to see Auburn come out and play like a top-10 team.
On defense, special teams and offense.