Start Time: 7:00 P.M. ET, Friday, Oct. 9
Location: Joan C. Edwards Stadium, Huntington, West Virginia
Records: Southern Miss 3-2, Marshall 4-1. The overall series is tied 5-5.
Live Stats: here.
Betting Line: Marshall -5. Over/Under: 56.
Southern Miss Outlook: The Southern Miss Golden Eagles head into this game as one of the better offensive teams in the nation. With an IsoPPP of 1.55, only five teams in the nation are more explosive on positive offensive plays than Southern Miss. Not only are they explosive, but the offense knows how to finish in scoring 5.29 points per trip inside the 40-yard line.
The run game is a bit spotty with a 41.6% success rate, just below the national average. The Golden Eagles more than make up for that with the #17 ranked rushing IsoPPP of 1.24. The three headed group of Ito Smith (45/365/3TD), Jalen Richard (66/365/5TD), and Justice Hayes (35/163/2TD) is responsible for a rushing offense that averages 176.0 yards per game.
While also right around the national average in success rate at 41.4%, the Southern Miss passing game, led by quarterback Nick Mullens (124-188/1,691/14TD), is also one of the nation’s most explosive. Casey Martin (29/339/5TD), D.J. Thompson (17/247/2TD), and Mike Thomas (18/336/3TD) are the top targets for Mullens, with 54.0% of all passes headed their way. The only major worry for the Golden Eagles passing game is the low catch rate to the outside receivers as Thompson and Thomas both have a catch rate of under 65%. Overall, the passing game is good for 338.2 yards per game.
Defense is where Southern Miss has struggled this fall in giving up lots of explosive players. A defensive IsoPPP of 1.53 is nearly as high as their #6 nationally ranked offensive IsoPPP, a major concern. Stopping the run has been decent with an offensive 39.7% success rate, but again, explosive run plays really hurt the Southern Miss defense. Teams are averaging 201.8 yards per game on the ground versus the Golden Eagles defense. Teams are fairly successful passing versus this defense with 241.8 yards per game in the air. While still giving up explosive plays, the pass defense is solid in holding offenses to a 37.3% overall passing success rate. The defense will give up some points, but the offense is usually good enough to overcome those issues.
Marshall Outlook: The Marshall Thundering Herd head into this game as a very confusing team to judge. This game versus Southern Miss will go a long way in determining just how good Marshall can be. The key to the run game for Marshall is the health of Devon Johnson (59/390/3TD). He is still battling an injury and is uncertain for Friday’s game. In steps Tony Pittman (61/288/3TD) as the starter. He has been solid stepping in, but if Johnson cannot play, the run game will struggle a bit. Overall, the run game accounts for 154.8 yards per game.
Chase Litton (59-102/633/8TD) looks to be the choice for a passing game that averages 196.4 yards per game. The passing game has struggled with accuracy as Litton only completes 57.8% of his passes. Top targets Deon-Tay McManus (14/141/1TD) and Davonte Allen (16/142/2TD) have combined for a catch rate of only 54.3%. Only tight end Ryan Yurachek (20/202/3TD) and wide receiver Deandre Reaves (13/184/2TD) have a catch rate of over 70% among players with 10+ targets.
The Marshall defense has been very good in the early portion of their schedule with the #24 ranked IsoPPP (1.10), #33 offensive success rate (35.6%), #28 in points per trip inside the 40 allowed (3.80), and average starting field position (25.4 yard line). If there is a problem with the defense, it is versus the run game. While Marshall does not give up big plays to run games, they struggle to get off the field in allowing a 41.3% success rate. Teams are running for 187.8 yards per game versus the defense. Pass defense is much more effective with Marshall ranking #21 in S&P+ (128.0) and #9 in success rate (28.7%). They are susceptible to the big play, but only give up 160.4 yards per game in the air.
Prediction: Advanced stats say that Marshall is the better team by far, but I am not inclined to agree. These two teams are very evenly matched, and I could see this game going down to the final moments of the fourth quarter. Only for the fact that it is a home game, I have to pick Marshall. Marshall 28, Southern Miss 24.