Records: FAU (4-2, 2-0), Marshall (3-3, 1-1)
Game Time: 6:30 p.m. ET, Friday, October 18
Location: FAU Stadium, Boca Raton, FL
TV: CBS Sports Network
Stream: CBS Sports App
All-time series record: Marshall leads 5-1, winning the last meeting 31-7.
Betting Line: FAU -6, Over/Under 59
Doc Holliday picked up a much needed win last week against Old Dominion to pull even in conference play as it kept Marshall alive in the race for a conference title and perhaps more importantly, kept a restless fan base at bay.
The running theme during Holliday’s tenure is that the offense lack an identity and this season is no different. Marshall is averaging 22 points per game in conference play. The performance of this year’s unit is no way indicative of recruiting rankings and should be better.
Isaiah Green is back as this year’s starter and looks more or less like the same QB from last year’s team. Green has completed 57 percent of his passes for 1,175 yards, with 8 TDs and 5 INTs. Just like last year, he is an inaccurate passer. Unlike last year, he doen’t have the benefit of Tyre Brady to throw the ball to. Tight ends Armani Levias and Xavier Gaines have tried to pick up the slack as they are the most targeted options and have combined for 35 catches for 382 yards and 3 TDs. Neither Levias or Gaines have been game-breakers though. The receivers aren’t much of a deep threat either. Florida native Willie Johnson is averaging a team-best 20 yards per catch but he only has 7 catches this year.
The offense is only good when the rushing attack is going. Brenden Knox is their best player but given Green’s inability to stretch the field, Knox has had a relatively quiet season. With Tyler King being dismissed from the team during the season, Sheldon Evans has earned more carries to spell Knox and he’s been solid as he’s averaging 5.8 yards per carry.
Defensively, it’s hard to gauge where the Herd stands. They’ve allowed Ohio to score 33 points, Cincinnati to score 52 points, and a very bad ODU offense to score 17.
The Herd rank in the middle of the conference in rushing defense, passing defense, and scoring defense. The biggest weakness Marshall has is their passing defense, as they are allowing 229.5 yards per game through the air.
After a rough start to the season where FAU had to play Ohio State and UCF, the Owls have found their stride as they are currently on a four-game winning streak. The versatility during the winning streak has been pretty impressive as they have shown they can win shootouts (Ball State), or a gritty-type of game (Middle Tennessee).
Harrison Bryant and John Raine have been undoubtedly the stars of the offense. Raine leads the team with 4 TDs, while Bryant leads the team in catches (25) and yards (413). Both are not only critical to the success of the passing game, but the rushing offense too.
Malcolm Davidson, Larry McCammon and James Charles have each had their moments this season but no one has seized the role of lead back. Davidson has flashed big play potential, while McCammon has shown that he can be an excellent goal line back.
While the offense has certainly lacked the big play potential fans have accustomed to from a Lane Kiffin offense, I think the shift to a more methodical approach has suited the personnel well. The offense looks a lot more mature, and that is a product of Chris Robison’s progression as a second-year starter.
Robson has 13-2 TD-to-INT ration with 1,557 yards. As long as he stays away from turnovers, FAU should be in every game and that’s due to the improved play of the defense.
Star LB Rashad Smith leads the team with 42 tackles with 3 fumble recoveries. FAU leads the conference with 11 INTs as Meiko Dotson has 4 of them. The defense is playing with a swagger we haven’t seen since the Owls won the conference in 2017.
The run defense can be had at times and with Marshall’s strength being in that department, FAU should consider stacking the box and forcing Green to try to beat you.
Marshall has dominated the series since FAU joined C-USA. Even when Marshall hasn’t exactly looked like a juggernaut, they have always saved their best for the Owls. Considering how many Florida natives are on Marshall’s roster, this revelation isn’t a surprise.
I say this because on paper FAU should win. They have a slight advantage in just about every phase of the game and yet I can shake the feeling that Marshall will give their all tonight. Defense plays a pivotal role Friday night with the Owls making a few more plays to secure the win. FAU 24 Marshall 13.