Week Nine Conference USA College Football Picks: Marshall Thundering Herd at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders

Marshall Thundering Herd at Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders
Floyd Stadium – Murfreesboro, Tennessee

Thursday, October 24, 2013, 7:30 pm Eastern, TV: Fox Sports 1
Opening Line: Marshall -8 1/2
Current Line: Marshall -8 1/2
Opening Total: 55 1/2
Current Total: 56 1/2
Opening Money Line: Marshall -330 / Middle Tennessee +270
Current Money Line: Marshall -340 / Middle Tennessee +280 

Marshall is an 8.5 point favorite on the road at Middle Tennessee Thursday in Conference USA action.
Marshall is an 8.5 point favorite on the road at Middle Tennessee Thursday in Conference USA action.

The 4-2 Marshall Thundering Herd lead the Conference USA East Division with a 2-0 record. The Thundering Herd travel to the 3-4 Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders Thursday night. The Blue Raiders are 1-2 in Conference USA. This is only the third meeting between the schools. Marshall won both previous meetings in Huntington in 1992 and 1994 in the then Division     I-AA playoffs. Marshall is making their first ever trip to Murfreesboro.

Marshall is coached by Doc Holliday. The Thundering Herd have home wins over Miami-(OH) 52-14, Gardner-Webb 55-0, and Texas-San Antonio 34-10, along with a road win at Florida Atlantic 24-23. Marshall has road losses at Ohio 34-31 and Virginia Tech 29-21 in triple overtime. The Thundering Herd are 4-2 ATS and the total is 1-5 this season. Marshall was a 10 point favorite at Florida Atlantic and the total was 56.

Marshall took a 7-3 lead at halftime against Florida Atlantic. The Herd would trail 16-14 going into the fourth quarter, but the Owls missed a crucial extra point. FAU expanded the lead to 23-14 early in the fourth. Marshall pulled to within 23-21 with just under 7 minutes to go in the game. The Owls drove to the Marshall 36 and took more than 4 minutes off the clock. FAU pinned Marshall deep with a punt to the Marshall 9. The Herd took over with 2:19 left in the game. Marshall drove down the field and kicked the game winning 41 yard field goal as time expired. The Thundering Herd had 355 total yards including 216 passing yards. The Owls had 395 total yards including 208 rushing yards. each team had one turnover.

Marshall is outscoring teams 36-18 this season. The Thundering Herd are #27 in scoring and #14 in points allowed nationally. Marshall is averaging 450.3 yards per game including 276.8 passing and 173.5 rushing yards. The Herd are #41 in total offense and #32 in passing. On defense, Marshall is allowing 298.2 yards per game, including 180.3 passing and 117.8 rushing yards. The Thundering Herd are #10 nationally in both total and passing defense, and #22 against the rush. Marshall is +2 in turnovers with 13 takeaways. The Thundering Herd are averaging 55 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 44. Marshall is 54/109 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 31/96. The Herd have forced 15 sacks and allowed 15 as well. Marshall is 26/29 scoring in the red zone with 20 touchdowns and opponents are 16/20 with 12 touchdowns. Marshall has a punt return for a touchdown and 2 pick sixes this season and has allowed a fumble return for a touchdown.

Marshall quarterback Rakeem Cato has completed 59.3% of his passes for 1,572 yards with 12 touchdowns and 5 interceptions along with 52 carries, 175 yards and 3 touchdowns. Running back Essray Taliaferro has 88 carries, for 368 yards and 3 touchdowns, along with 3 catches. Steward Butler has 42 carries, 311 yards and 4 touchdowns, plus a catch. Kevin Grooms has 46 carries for 175 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with 5 catches. Wide receiver Tommy Shuler has 43 catches for 456 yards and 2 touchdowns. Devon Smith has 20 catches, 369 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with a punt return for a touchdown. Gator Hoskins has 12 catches for 210 yards and 5 touchdowns. Craig Wilkins and Demetrius Evans will both get significant catches as well. Three defensive players and three offensive linemen are listed as questionable or out Thursday.

Middle Tennessee is coached by Rick Stockstill. The Blue Raiders have home wins over Western Carolina 45-24 and Memphis 17-15, along with a road win at Florida Atlantic 42-35 in overtime. Middle Tennessee has road losses at North Carolina 40-20, at BYU 37-10 and two weeks ago at North Texas 34-7, along with a home loss to East Carolina 24-17. The Blue Raiders have lost 3 straight games. Middle Tennessee is 2-5 ATS and the total is also 2-5 this season. The Blue Raiders were 6.5 point underdogs at North Texas and the total was 54.

Middle Tennessee tied the game with North Texas at 7 early in the second quarter. However, the Mean Green would score the last 27 points of the game to win 34-7. The Blue Raiders had 205 total yards and 13 first downs. North Texas had 416 yards including 303 rushing yards. Both teams had 3 turnovers, but North Texas returned an interception for a touchdown.

Middle Tennessee is being outscored 30-23. Middle Tennessee is #99 in scoring and #86 in points allowed nationally out of 125 teams. The Blue Raiders are averaging 336.7 yards per game including 176.9 passing and 159.9 rushing yards. MTU is #107 in total offense and #108 in passing nationally.  On defense, Middle Tennessee is allowing 449.7 total yards including 254.3 passing and 195.4 rushing yards. The Blue Raiders are #102 in total defense,  #94 against the pass and 195.4 rushing yards. Middle Tennessee is +6 in turnovers with 20 takeaways. MTU averages 40 penalty yards per game and opponents are averaging 66. The Raiders are 52/120 on third and fourth down conversions and opponents are 73/131. MTU has forced 18 sacks and allowed 14. The Blue Raiders are 16/25 scoring in the red zone with 14 touchdowns and opponents are 25/33 with 18 touchdowns. Middle Tennessee has a punt return and a fumble return for touchdowns. and has allowed a punt return and a pick six.

Quarterback Logan Kilgore has completed 62.2% of his passes for 1,086 yards with 6 touchdowns and 8 interceptions. Back-up Austin Grammer has a touchdown and two interceptions in 42 snaps this season, along with 151 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. He could see some snaps. Running back Jordan Parker has 115 carries, 526 yards and 4 touchdowns, along with 12 catches for 27 yards. Reggie Whatley has  57 carries, 343 yards and 3 touchdowns. William Pratcher has 21 carries, 110 yards and 2 touchdowns. He is out for the season with a leg injury. Receiver Tavarres Jefferson has 25 catches for 320 yards and a touchdown. Marcus Henry has 18 catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.  Kyle Griswould has 24 catches, 191 yards and 2 touchdowns, along with a punt return for a touchdown.

Marshall is 5-2 ATS overall, 2-5 in Conference USA games, 1-4 against teams with losing records, and on turf, 2-9-2 against teams with losing home records, and 0-5 in Thursday games.

Middle Tennessee is 4-0 ATS after a bye week, 4-1 after allowing 200 rushing yards or more, 8-3 in Conference USA games, 5-2 after failing to cover, 14-6 after allowing 170 passing yards or less, 3-7 against teams with winning records, and after gaining 275 total yards or less, 2-5-1 after a straight up loss of more than 20 points, 2-6-1 overall, 3-9-1 on turf, 3-10-1 at home, and 1-6 in Thursday games.

Marshall has a top 10 defense and Middle Tennessee is one of the worst offensive teams in the country. The Blue Raiders also have a terrible defense. Even on the road in front of a fired up crowd, this could get ugly in a hurry. I think the Thundering Herd roll to an easy victory.

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