Time and Date: 3:30 PM PT, 2:30 PM CT
Broadcast Network: CBS Sports Network
Location: Joan C. Edwards Stadium - Huntington, West Virginia
Spread: Marshall -1.0
ESPN FPI: Marshall 56.7%
All-Time Series: Marshall leads the series 8-4
Last Meeting: Marshall beat Western Kentucky 38-14 in Bowling Green in 2020. WKU’s last win against Marshall was in 2016 and the team’s have played every year since 2014.
C-USA’s best statistical offense against C-USA’s best statistical defense. The rivalry known as the Moonshine Throwdown rarely disappoints with entertainment value and this year looks to be no different. This matchup will feature two teams with conflicting strengths and weaknesses. The winner takes the C-USA East division and moves on to the league title game.
The Marshall Thundering Herd missed out on the C-USA Championship after a tough skid that resulted in losing their last three games of the year. This season, first-year head coach Charles Huff looks to have made some big corrections that have resulted in more consistent quarterback play, a running back leading the nation in rushing touchdowns, and a defense causing many a problem for opposing quarterbacks.
With both teams boasting identical 7-4 records, someone will have to break out something special in order to break through. For Marshall that means, Rasheen Ali and the run game will likely be a huge part of the game plan. Ali leads FBS with 20 rushing touchdowns. However, Marshall is second-to-last in a key category: time of possession with an average of 27:40 per game. In order to combat a fast-paced attack like WKU’s air-raid, Marshall will need to establish control of the clock immediately. WKU can build leads quickly, making an effective run game largely pointless when playing from behind. In this case, Grant Wells will need to continue a successful season in his own right that has included 15 touchdowns, but 12 interceptions to compliment 3360 passing yards.
Did I mention that Marshall has sacked opposing quarterbacks 37 times? Because that’s also been a huge part of their success this season.
Meanwhile, Western Kentucky have won their last six games thanks, in-large part, to historic production from Houston Baptist graduate transfer quarterback Bailey Zappe. With 48 touchdowns, Zappe is one shy of WKU’s single season record, which also happens to be the Conference USA record, of 49 set by Brandon Doughty in 2014. Zappe’s current head coach, Tyson Helton, was Doughty’s offensive coordinator in 2014. Zappe is also 415 yards shy of breaking the school’s single season passing yardage record of 5,055, also set by Doughty.
Zappe is also 12 touchdowns shy of the single-season FBS record of 60 set by Joe Burrow a in 2019. Expect the Tops to continue to throw the ball like their life depends on it. Zappe has only thrown less than 40 passes once this season.
As the season winds down, both of these teams are playing with chips on their shoulders. However, the performance of the Western Kentucky offense has been fantastic and constantly improving over the course of the last six weeks or so. I’m expecting Western Kentucky to earn their first victory in the Moonshine Throwdown in five years in a high scoring affair.
WKU wins 45-31