By Chris Talbott/The Associated Press
Southern Miss is headed back to the New Orleans Bowl for the second straight season and will face one of the nation’s hottest teams, Middle Tennessee.
Coach Rick Stockstill’s Blue Raiders (9-3) reached nine wins for the first time since moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999, tying the conference record for total wins, and enter the postseason on a six-game winning streak.
“One of our goals entering the season was to play in a bowl game and I am extremely proud of our team and coaching staff for accomplishing this,” Stockstill said. “It has been a great year and to win nine games with our schedule is a testament to our players. This team is very deserving of a 13th game.”
The Dec. 20 New Orleans Bowl’s Sun Belt Conference slot typically goes to the champion, but Troy headed to the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Ala., instead, opening the opportunity for Middle Tennessee. It will be the Blue Raiders’ second bowl appearance in Stockstill’s four seasons.
Larry Fedora’s Golden Eagles (7-5) fell a game shy of playing for the Conference USA championship this season. They beat Troy 30-27 in an exciting 2008 installment of the New Orleans Bowl that was decided in overtime. This will be their eighth straight bowl and the 12th in 13 years.
“We are extremely excited about going back to New Orleans,” Fedora said. “Last year, the bowl did a great job of taking care of our football team. Our guys had a great time while we were down there and our fans did a great job of coming to the game. We know that we will have another great crowd this year.”