Since getting blasted by Ohio State and UCF to open the year, FAU has won four straight games under third-year head coach Lane Kiffin. The Owls are one of only two East Division teams still undefeated in conference play and are coming off a 28-13 victory over Middle Tennessee State.
Marshall evened its record last week with a 31-17 victory over Old Dominion. An upset of FAU would be the best win of the young season for the Thundering Herd. Marshall won last season’s contest in Huntington, 31-7.
Marshall at Florida Atlantic
Kickoff: Friday, Oct. 18 at 6:30 p.m.
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Florida Atlantic -5
When Marshall Has the Ball
Marshall will enter Friday night’s contest ranked fourth in Conference USA in total offense, but the Thundering Herd have been held to 14 points or fewer in three of their six games so far this season. Sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green is a dual-threat, but he must protect the football for his team to have a chance.
The heart and soul of the Marshall offense in running back Brenden Knox, who has nearly 500 yards rushing on 5.3 yards per carry and five rushing touchdowns. Green has added almost 250 yards on the ground and has nine total touchdowns. Armani Levias, a senior tight end, is the top receiver for the Thundering Herd with 18 catches for 199 yards. Marshall likes its tight ends, who have combined for six of the team’s nine touchdown receptions. The experienced Marshall offensive line, which consists of all upperclassmen, has allowed just 10 sacks this season.
Florida Atlantic ranks just 12th out of 14 teams in Conference USA in total defense, but the Owls have done a good job of bending without breaking. At plus-eight (+8), the Owls lead the conference in turnover margin and rank sixth nationally. Against Marshall last season, FAU gave the ball away five times without forcing a turnover.
Meiko Dotson, a senior cornerback, ranks third nationally and leads Conference USA with four interceptions. Linebacker Akileis Leroy and defensive tackle Ray Ellis each have 3.5 sacks this season, while defensive end Tim Bonner has three.
When Florida Atlantic Has the Ball
After a slow start, sophomore quarterback Chris Robison has been lights out of late for the Owls. Robison was quiet last week, but over the last four games, he has averaged more than 300 passing yards per game with 10 touchdown passes and just one interception. Robison ranks second in Conference USA with 1,557 yards passing and second with 13 touchdown tosses.
Replacing Devin Singletary was no small task, but freshman Malcolm Davidson and the running game came alive last week. Fresh off a 149-yard rushing effort, Davidson leads FAU with 295 yards on the ground on 6.9 yards per carry. Fellow freshman Larry McCammon leads the team with five rushing touchdowns. Tight end Harrison Bryant, who stands 6-foot-5, leads FAU with 413 receiving yards. Bryant, receiver Deangelo Antoine and fellow tight end John Raine, all seniors, have four touchdown catches apiece this season.
For Marshall to emerge victorious, its defensive line must win in the trenches against a Florida Atlantic front that has had its issues in pass protection. Sophomore defensive end Darius Hodge is a force on the edge with six sacks this season. That ranks second in Conference USA and eighth in the country.
Junior linebacker Tavante Beckett leads Conference USA with 60 total tackles this season, while Omari Cobb, a senior, is also very good. Safeties Nazeeh Johnson and Brandon Drayton each like to come up and stop the run, but the Marshall defense is susceptible to big plays through the air.
For Marshall to pull the upset on the road, it will need to pressure Chris Robison and win the turnover battle, which has been a key component of Florida Atlantic’s recent success. The Thundering Herd will also have to find a way to put up points, which they haven't done in recent weeks. When all is said and done, Marshall will have a tough time scoring enough points to beat the Owls.