The red-hot Marshall Thundering Herd returns home Saturday to battle the Florida International Panthers in a battle of two of the top teams in C-USA’s East Division up to this point.
The Herd has won five games in a row including a beatdown of Middle Tennessee on the road Oct. 20. Marshall sits tied atop the East Division of C-USA at 3-0 in league play and 6-1 overall, becoming the first C-USA team to gain bowl eligibility in 2017.
FIU has gotten off to a strong start in year one of Butch Davis’ tenure as head coach and the Panthers sit at 4-2 overall and 2-1 in C-USA play after a bye week following a 23-10 win over Tulane on Oct. 14.
Marshall has dominated the all-time series with FIU with a 4-1 advantage and has won by an average margin of victory of 33 points, but the Panthers got their first win over the Herd in 2016 at home in blowout fashion.
FIU has gotten off to a good start, but it hasn’t been as impressive as a 4-2 record might suggest. Three of the Panthers’ wins include having defeated Alcorn State of the FCS by seven points, 1-6 Rice by six points, and 1-7 Charlotte by one point.
The odds are in the favor of Marshall in this game and the current spread sees the Herd as a 17-point favorite and ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Marshall an 89.9 percent chance of defeating FIU.
A key matchup to watch for in this game will be which team protects the football better. Turnovers are key in any game, but especially a game where weather could be a factor. The projected weather in Huntington for Saturday calls for chilly temperatures in the low 50’s and a strong chance of rain.
The weather could greatly affect the passing game of both teams and FIU quarterback Alex McGough has thrown five touchdowns so far this season, but six interceptions and the stout defense of Marshall coupled with the projected weather conditions could lead to turnovers offensively for a group that has had a case of the turnover bug at times this season.
The Herd is rolling into this game with a lot of momentum and C-USA East Division Championship aspirations, but the Panthers have momentum as well with a winning record and are fresh off a bye week to further prepare for Marshall.
Marshall has already gotten revenge on two C-USA teams that defeated the 3-9 Herd last season and will definitely be out to do the same against FIU on Saturday. This is a tougher Panthers team than the Herd has seen in recent years, however, and will come in with confidence.
Can FIU prove it’s a legitimate C-USA East Division contender or will Marshall keep its momentum rolling and stay atop the East Division standings? Those questions will be answered soon enough.
The Herd and the Panthers kickoff Saturday at 2:30 p.m. at Joan C. Edwards Stadium in Huntington, West Virginia and the game will be aired by Stadium.