Southern Miss went back to the New Orleans Bowl for the second straight season and faced one of the nation's hottest teams, Middle Tennessee. Middle Tennessee reached nine wins for the first time since moving to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 1999 and was on a six-game winning streak going into the game, also a team high in that span. The New Orleans Bowl's Sun Belt Conference slot typically goes to the champion, but Troy, which lost 30–27 to Southern Miss in the 2008 New Orleans Bowl, played in the GMAC Bowl in Mobile, Alabama instead, opening the opportunity for Middle Tennessee. The bowl marked the Blue Raiders' second bowl appearance in four seasons. Southern Miss was playing in their 12th bowl in 13 years. It was also the fourth time Southern Miss played in the New Orleans Bowl in the game's nine-year history. They were 3-0 in New Orleans Bowl games before the loss. The game also marked the first meeting between the two schools.
Middle Tennessee wore their home blue jerseys, Southern Mississippi wore their away white jerseys.
The star of the game was MTSU quarterback Dwight Dasher, who rushed for 201 yards, the most ever by a quarterback in a bowl game. He broke the quarterback bowl rushing record of 200 yards set by Texas' Vince Young in the 2006 Rose Bowl against Southern California. Dasher also rushed for 2 touchdowns and passed for 2 more. Southern Miss quarterback Martevious Young completed 18 of 34 passes for 271 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions.
Southern Miss running back Damion Fletcher ran for 78 yards. He finished the season with 1,015 to become the ninth player in major college football to reach 1,000 in all four seasons. With 5,302 yards rushing overall, Fletcher passed Herschel Walker (5,259) and LaDainian Tomlinson (5,263) for eighth on the NCAA's career list.