Thundering Herd, Bulldogs look to stay undefeated in Conference USA when they meet in Ruston on Saturday night
Marshall (3-0) has the league's top overall record and arguably has the conference's best win of the season after upsetting then-No. 23 Appalachian State 17-7. The Herd boast one of the nation's top running backs in Brenden Knox and have gotten excellent play from a defense that ranks No. 1 in the conference by a wide margin, and is 10th nationally, allowing just 275 yards per game.
The Bulldogs (3-1) had a rough go of it last weekend against UTEP despite coming out victorious as they were held to just 210 yards of total offense and were 7-of-18 on third downs Head coach Skip Holtz was disappointed in the offense, but pleased by the team overall as they had just three penalties all game and did not turn the ball over once. More will be needed, though, against undefeated Marshall.
Marshall at Louisiana Tech
Kickoff: Saturday, Oct. 17 at 6 p.m. ET
TV: CBS Sports Network
Spread: Marshall -13.5
When Marshall Has the Ball
Pretty simple here — get the ball to Brenden Knox. The junior running back has continued where he left off back in 2019 with five rushing touchdowns in the first three games to start the season, averaging more than 100 yards per game and 5.4 yards per carry. Knox had his best outing of the season last Saturday against WKU with 107 yards and three TDs on 15 carries. Unlike last year, the Herd are getting contributions elsewhere in the backfield, namely backup Sheldon Evans who topped 60 yards with a touchdown as well last week. If Saturday ends up being a tightly-contested matchup, though, Marshall typically leans on their workhorse to carry the load.
Quarterback Grant Wells has slowed down since his five-TD performance to open the season, with no scoring strikes in either of the last two games, but continues to play effective football at the position, completing 61.4 percent of his throws with a 153.3 QB rating. Wells will have his opportunities Saturday against a Louisiana Tech pass defense that has surrendered 11 TD passes in four games and allowing opposing QBs to complete 66 percent of their passes. Sophomore wide receiver Broc Thompson has been the primary option with a team-high 12 receptions, along with stud tight end Xavier Gaines, one of the best in the conference.
When Louisiana Tech Has the Ball
Louisiana Tech needs better play from their quarterback(s) on Saturday if the Bulldogs are to upset Marshall because that was about as ugly as it could get against UTEP last weekend with Luke Anthony and Aaron Allen combining for just 119 passing yards. Anthony will again get the start on Saturday and has to be able to threaten this Marshall secondary that is susceptible to allowing a big play or penalty for being too overaggressive. Prior to the UTEP debacle, Anthony had thrown for 10 combined TDs in three games so he can challenge a defense.
The Bulldogs also have to do something to get running back Justin Henderson, their best player, going. After rushing for 1,062 yards and 15 TDs a year ago, Henderson has just two rushing scores in four contests and has failed to top 80 yards in a game — something he did seven times a year ago. Unfortunately for Henderson, Marshall is the wrong team to fix any rushing woes against. The Herd are giving up just three yards per carry and have surrendered a grand total of one touchdown on the ground.
Saturday will come down to quarterback Luke Anthony for Louisiana Tech if the Bulldogs are to pull an upset over Marshall as no team has been able to run the ball against the Thundering Herd with any success. Tech's ability to avoid the costly turnover and play sound defense should keep the home team in the contest for four quarters, but Marshall is playing as well as any Group of 5 team in the country.
Prediction: Marshall 31, Louisiana Tech 20
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— Written by Mike Bainbridge, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Bainbridge is a graduate of Northern Illinois University. Follow him on Twitter @MBainbridgeCFF.