NEW ORLEANS (Ticker) -- North Texas makes its fourth straight appearance in the New Orleans Bowl when it takes on Southern Mississippi in the first of 28 bowls over the next three weeks.
The Mean Green (7-4) captured their fourth straight Sun Belt title while extending their conference winning streak to 25 games. Darrell Dickey is the only active coach to win four straight league titles in the same conference.
Southern Mississippi (6-5) has only 10 days to prepare for the contest as it closed the regular season with a 26-16 loss to California on December 4. The contest was postponed from September 16 due to Hurricane Ivan.
The Golden Eagles allowed California's J.J. Arrington to rush for 261 yards, the highest total ever against Southern Miss. Dustin Almond passed for a career-high 304 yards against California.
The Golden Eagles' defense will face another difficult test as North Texas is led by true freshman running back Jamario Thomas, who is arguably the nation's best-kept secret.
Despite missing two games, Thomas leads the nation in rushing, having run for 1,709 yards, which is a school and Sun Belt Conference single-season record. Thomas, who had four games with more than 200 yards, needs 155 yards to break Ron Dayne's NCAA rushing mark for freshmen.
Southern Miss, which tied for second in Conference USA, is making its seventh bowl appearance in eight years, but has dropped its last two postseason games, including a 17-0 defeat to Utah in last year's Liberty Bowl.
North Texas is 1-2 in its previous three New Orleans Bowl appearances.
The all-time series is tied at three wins apiece, with Southern Miss posting a 22-0 victory in the last meeting, in 1981.