The Line: Marshall -20
The Battle for Respect
This week, Marshall was left out of the playoff committee's top 25 rankings again. This week's opponent might be one of the few teams less respected than the Herd themselves. The University of Alabama board of trustees are considering ending the Blazer's football program. Speaking strictly as an outsider, this is a travesty. In Tennessee, the UT system has not done anything to stifle the football programs at Tennessee-Chattanooga or Tennessee-Martin. Why Alabama trustees feel this is necessary for the UAB program I don't know, and it is asinine. But it does seem par for the course for the Alabama trustees.
Despite everything off the field that could distract this program, first year coach Bill Clark has done a tremendous job with this Blazers team. UAB currently sits at 5-5 on the verge of bowl eligibility for the first time since 2004. UAB has games against Marshall and Southern Miss to achieve this goal. At this point, it is hard to argue that Clark should be Conference USA's coach of the year.
Meanwhile, Marshall remains unranked by the college football playoff committee despite winning games by 30 points per game and having three awards semi-finalists. This week it was announced that Doc Holliday is a semi-finalist for the Maxwell Coach of the Year, Devon Johnson is a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker award, and Rakeem Cato is a sem-finalist for both the Maxwell and Walter Camp Awards. Holliday has also emerged as a potential candidate for the opening with the Florida Gators. It will be interesting to see how these accolades combined with the lack of committee ranking might affect the Herd.
Blazer to Watch
Jordan Howard - The Blazers' success has all come on the legs of Howard. Jordan Howard is the third leading rusher in Conference USA with 1,157 yards on the season with 10 touchdowns. Howard has 6 100-yard rushing games on the year, the second most in the conference behind Marshall's Devon Johnson. Howard is averaging 5 yards per carry while carrying the ball over 25 times in 4 different games, including the previous 2. For the Thundering Herd to be successful, Marshall must do their best to contain Howard and prevent big plays from the sophomore.
Son of Marshall to Watch
Devon Johnson - The nation's fifth-leading rusher has been having a season for the ages. In the 9 games he has played, Johnson has rushed for over 100 yards in 8 games. After sitting out Marshall's 46-point victory over Southern Miss, Johnson returned to the field to the tune of 199 yards and 1 touchdown in Marshall's victory over Rice. UAB's most lopsided loss came to Arkansas, a team made up of big, bruising, powerful running backs, which is exactly the way Johnson runs. Look for Marshall to get Rockhead going early and often.
UAB is a vastly improved team with a lot to prove to the city of Birmingham and Conference USA. However, if there is one team that has something to prove nationally, it's Marshall. Marshall has lined up for 10 games, won them all by at least two touchdowns, and done everything in their power to get some national recognition. Ever since Marshall was left out of the first playoff committee poll, the Herd has been on an absolute tear, finishing their game against USM on a 63-3 en route to a 46-point win and then shutting down the Rice offense for a 41-14 win.
UAB could potentially present the Herd with problems offensively with their running game of Howard and DJ Vinson. On the other side of the ball, UAB's defense has struggled mightily against some of the more potent offenses they have faced. Marshall might get off to a bit of sluggish start, which they have been prone to do this season, but expect the Herd to get into gear and continue to try and impress the 12 on the committee. Marshall wins, but barely cover the spread
Marshall 42 - UAB 21
In closing, not only is it We Are Marshall, but in the larger scale, we are all in Conference USA together. #FreeUAB