The Marshall Thundering Herd will be riding high into its first road game of the 2017 season Saturday night following a win over rival Miami (OH) on Sept. 2. But will the Herd’s momentum be enough to slow down the North Carolina State Wolfpack of the ACC?
Marshall got a narrow 31-26 win over the RedHawks in a game that came down to the final play and a game in which the Herd was a home underdog, extending its winning streak over Miami to four games.
NC State is coming off a tough 35-28 loss to South Carolina of the SEC on Sept. 2 and will be hosting Marshall in its first home game of the 2017 season. Despite the loss, the Wolfpack was impressive against the Gamecocks, especially offensively where it racked up 504 total yards.
The Herd and NC State have met on the gridiron only three times in history (1991, 1993 and 1995) with all three games going to the Wolfpack. Marshall, however, was competitive against NC State in those three games, losing by a combined 25 points.
This will be the first game of a recently-signed home-and-home series that will conclude in Huntington in 2018. Despite the Herd coming in at 1-0 and the Wolfpack coming in at 0-1, the odds appear to be stacked heavily against Marshall in this contest.
The current spread sees NC State as a 24.5-point favorite over the Herd and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Marshall just a 5.9 percent chance of getting the win. Can the Herd pull off the major upset and give C-USA a key non-conference win? It will take much more than it took to beat Miami in Week 1 to do so.
A key matchup to look for in this game will be the play of Marshall’s offense against NC State’s defense. Despite scoring 31 points against the RedHawks in Week 1, the Herd sputtered on offense throughout most of the game and only accounted for 267 total yards on the night and just 10 points on offense.
To have any chance at pulling off the big upset against the Wolfpack, Marshall’s offense must play a nearly perfect game and be mistake-free. The Herd will need to get the running game going as well after only racking up 59 total rushing yards against Miami.
NC State’s offense was electric against South Carolina and looks to continue to put up points in this game, so the pressure will be on Chase Litton and the Marshall offense to play much better than it did in Week 1.
A trend going in the Herd’s favor, however, is its recent success on special teams. Marshall had two special teams touchdowns via kickoff returns against Miami and the Wolfpack gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to South Carolina itself.
If Marshall can play at a high level on special teams against NC State, it should increase the Herd’s chances at pulling off the upset. Marshall’s last true road win at a Power Five conference opponent was in 2011 at Louisville. And for the Herd to knock off the Wolfpack in this game, a lot will have to go right.
But one thing that’s for sure is if college football has taught us anything over the years, it’s that everybody has a puncher’s chance and upsets happen all the time. Can Marshall shock the college football world and defeat NC State or will the Wolfpack get a big rebound win after a narrow defeat in Week 1?
We’ll soon find out. Kickoff between Marshall and NC State is set for 6 p.m. Saturday night at Carter-Finley Stadium in Raleigh, North Carolina and will be televised by the ACC Network.