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Southern Miss Golden Eagles vs. Marshall Thundering Herd Preview and Prediction

Author:
Nick Mullens

Nick Mullens

Southern Miss and Marshall are each coming off blowout wins and looking to stay at the top of their respective divisions in Conference USA. The Golden Eagles feature one of the premier passing attacks in the nation, led by quarterback Nick Mullens. It was that attack that nearly upset Nebraska in Lincoln three weeks ago. In the meantime, Marshall has proven to be one of the better teams in the country at defending the pass in 2015.

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On the other side of the ball, Southern Miss fields one of the worst defenses in the nation, allowing over 200 yards per game on the ground. Marshall's rushing attack accounts for over 150 yards per game on the ground.

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Southern Miss at Marshall

Kickoff: 7 p.m. ET (Friday)

TV Channel: CBS Sports Network

Spread: Marshall -6.5

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Three Things to Watch

1. Can Marshall slow down Nick Mullens?

Mullens has thrown for 1105 yards with 10 touchdown passes and no interceptions over the last three games. His deadly efficiency has been keeping defenses on their heels all season long. If he can turn this game into a shootout, Marshall may not be equipped on either side of the ball to keep pace. The Herd needs to get pressure and disrupt the timing routes — specifically on plays designed to go to Casey Martin. Martin is Wes Welker-esque in his ability to get open in traffic and do damage after the catch.

2. Can Southern Miss get off the field on defense?

Marshall may not pass the ball until Southern Miss proves it can slow down the running game. With monster back Devon Johnson still day-to-day with a back injury, a healthy dose of Tony Pittman could be what the Herd needs to control the clock and keep Mullens and the high-powered Golden Eagle offense off the field. Marshall would like a low scoring contest, and a healthy rushing attack is the best way to get that done.

3. Which team can reduce or control its penalties?

Both squads are among the most penalized teams in the nation. Southern Miss has been flagged 46 times this season, while Marshall has committed 38 fouls. This should be a close enough game where the team who commits more penalties ends up giving the game away, especially late.

Final Analysis

If the game was being played on a neutral field or in Hattiesburg, Miss., I'd give the edge to Southern Miss. The fact that it's at Marshall and given the troubles the Golden Eagles have had so far this season stopping the run makes me think Marshall will be able to feed off of a fired up home crowd and control the tempo. One or two defensive stops and a turnover will likely be enough for Marshall to win this one without Southern Miss shooting itself in the foot with penalties.

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Prediction: Marshall 28, Southern Miss 23

— Written by J.P. Scott, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Scott is the editor-in-chief of KnowItAllFootball.com, a Big Ten site for Big Ten fans. Follow him on Twitter @TheJPScott.