Start Time: 6:30 PM ET
TV: BEIN SPORTS
Betting: Marshall is favored by 12.5, according to Oddsshark.com.
The Series: Each school has four wins in this rivalry. WKU has won the last three meetings. Last season, the Tops came in to Huntington and left with a dominant 60-6 victory behind 462 yards from the offense.
In last week’s loss to Vanderbilt, Western Kentucky (5-4) didn’t play some significant pieces of their offense. That included wideouts Kylen Towner and Cameron Echols-Luper along with tight end Deon Yelder. Echols-Luper appears to be off the injury report, but Towner and Yelder are both listed as questionable for Saturday. Mike White also took several large hits from the Vandy defense which prompted him to be removed from the game in the final couple of minutes. White was listed as day-to-day earlier in the week, but has since been upgraded to probable. The type of injury he sustained has not been disclosed.
To make matters worse, the Tops lost running back Quinton Baker for the remainder of the year to an upper body injury. Not that their running game was looking that strong (they had -6 net rushing yards last week), but Baker added another dimension to the pass game as well. The pass game will now lean even more heavily on Lucky Jackson who turned in a career high seven receptions for 135 yards against the Commodores.
Defensively, WKU has also found the injury bug in several different position groups. Defensive back Devon Key is questionable for Saturday along with linebackers Daeshawn Bertram and Masai Whyte. Linebacker Demetrius Cain is also done for the year with a lower body injury. Given that the line backing corps is now more or less depleted, it should hinder the defense a bit. But the remaining defensive backs have been impressive this year allowing a league best 186.4 yards through the air per game. They’ll have to step up even more now.
Marshall (6-3) started the season 6-1, but have lost their last two contests, which were against Florida International and Florida Atlantic. In those two games, quarterback Chase Litton has combined for six interceptions. Last week against the Owls, the Marshall offense managed to outgain their opponents 381-353, which shows just how costly their four turnovers in that contest were. Western Kentucky has a similarly skilled passing defense, so Litton will have to be on point and shrug off his last two performances in order to get the victory.
Perhaps the biggest factor in Marshall’s overall successful offensive year has been the offensive line. Anchored by some relatively young bodies (Two RS juniors, two RS freshmen, and a RS sophomore), that unit has given up just four sacks this year, which is second in all of FBS. Also look for tight end Ryan Yurachek to continue his impressive year.
The Marshall defense has also been exceptional this season allowing the fewest points in the league with 171, which is also in the top 25 of FBS. Junior linebacker/safety Chase Hancock has been a big part of that with 9.8 tackles per game, plus a sack and a fumble recovery. Defensive back Chris Jackson has also made a big impact on the Thundering Herd with three interceptions and eight passes defended this year. Marshall’s defense overall has allowed 197.3 passing yards per game and 131.3 yards per game on the ground.
The Thundering Herd will most likely get their first win over WKU since 1996 on Saturday. Marshall has the #1 scoring defense in the league and the Western Kentucky offense is significantly banged up. That will be enough for Chase Litton and the offense to put some points in between themselves and Mike Sanford’s squad before end of the game. Herd win 31-21.