Records: Marshall (3-0, 1-0 CUSA), Louisiana Tech (3-1, 2-0 CUSA)
Date/Time: Saturday, October 17th, 6:00 PM ET
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz/Aaron Murray/AJ Ross)
Location: Joe Aillet Stadium (Ruston, LA)
Betting Line: Thundering Herd -13.5 (O/U: 50.5)
For a team that was projected to finish fourth in the East division in the C-USA media poll, it’s fair to say that the Marshall Thundering Herd have exceeded the expectation for consistency. Playing for the first time in nearly a month in the Moonshine Throwdown last weekend, the Thundering Herd defense held its third straight opponent to less than 100 rushing yards, pressing the gas early before closing the door on a 38-14 victory.
Having outscored their first three opponents 114-21, last week the Herd offense continued to move the ball through their viable arsenal of skill players. Brenden Knox’s 107 yards rushing and three scores helped him reach the 20 career rushing touchdowns mark in what was his 12th time eclipsing the century mark on the ground. Grant Wells posted 162 yards through the air on a 16-for-22 line, helping Broc Thompson reach a new career-high of 94 yards on 6 catches. The game plan heading into this one has to be more of the same — remain poised and ride the strength of the front five.
The defensive unit spearheaded by Brad Lambert has been an absolute wrecking crew thus far in Huntington. Tied for first in the FBS for scoring defense at just 7.0 points per game, leading tackler Tavante Beckett’s three fumble recoveries last week tied a MU record. “They’ve done a good job of making tackles in the open field and running to the ball, and it’s really been a lot of fun to watch when we come in to watch the film on Sunday — watch how hard they play and how fast they play,” Lambert said. Marshall’s overall speed and agility getting to the ball will help neutralize Louisiana Tech’s screen game, forcing Preseason All-CUSA back Justin Henderson into carrying the load.
LOUISIANA TECH PREVIEW
Skip Holtz’s Louisiana Tech team comes into this matchup knowing it’s in dire need of a signature win. After a blowout loss to ranked BYU, the Bulldogs skated by last week in a 21-17 win over UTEP that the head ball coach said was the worst offensive performance from his team he’s seen in recent memory.
Shuffling in two quarterbacks starting behind a COVID-ravaged offensive line, LTU’s front gave up a season-high 10 tackles for loss, barely eclipsing the 200-yard mark as a unit. Getting receivers out into space to tackle Marshall’s weakest link in their secondary unit could be the key to gaining quarterback Luke Anthony’s trust back in this one, with Adrian Hardy and Smoke Harris having combined for 375 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
David Blackwell’s defensive unit is one that will present a lot of different looks for Marshall’s offense. Switching it up with multiple scheme fits in the front seven, the Bulldogs generate strength behind leading tackler Tyler Grubbs and All-CUSA Honorable Mention Milton Williams. With five tackles for loss and three sacks already, neutralizing the rush from #97 could allow the Marshall line to continue to open lanes for reigning Conference MVP Brenden Knox, and give Grant Wells the time he needs to make smart decisions in just his second career road conference start.
The devil in the details with this one lies in the fact that Marshall has shown zero signs of rust, and Louisiana Tech consistently proves year after year that they get better as the season moves along. The Herd are in a position where another decisive win puts them back into the realm of the AP Top 25, and Louisiana Tech sits in a spot where another conference win puts them in an outstanding spot from a comfortability standpoint in the West. Inevitably, I think the Marshall defense has shown too much formidability for the Bulldogs to truly get anything going this weekend on offense, and Grant Wells will stay comfortable enough behind his offensive line to sustain meaningful drives. The chinks in Tech’s armor were exposed last week, and if Marshall wins the turnover battle yet again, this could turn into a two-possession game or more.
Prediction: Marshall 35-17 Louisiana Tech