Marshall (4-2, 2-0) at Middle Tenn. (3-4, 1-2)7:30 p.m., Johnny "Red" Floyd Stadium (30,788, Sportexe PowerBlade turf), Murfreesboro, Tenn.TV: Fox Sports 1TV crew: Justin Kutcher play-by-play, Petros Papadakis and Joel Klatt analysts, Kristina Pink sidelines
Line: Marshall by 81/2Series: Marshall leads series 2-0Last meeting: Marshall 49, Middle Tennessee 14, Division I-AA playoffs, Nov. 26, 1994 at HuntingtonTickets: Plenty available, $18-$24.Weather: Mostly cloudy, 52 at kickoff but dropping quickly through the 40s.
On the spotMarshall starting offensive line: It appears the top-five lineup is set for the homestretch - Garrett Scott, Sebastian Johannson, Chris Jasperse, Alex Schooler and Clint Van Horn. The goal for the final six (or more games): Be effective, be healthy.Tyler Williams, Marshall punter: A lot of MU punters would have killed for a 42.3-yard average, but Williams is mildly disappointing after a brilliant freshman year. The 12-day intermission might do him good.Whoever, MTSU quarterback: From an outsider's perspective, it seems improbable that coach Rick Stockstill has strayed from Logan Kilgore, the fifth-year senior with 6,428 career passing yards. But there was Austin Grammer, a fleet freshman running for 106 yards and a touchdown, the Blue Raiders' only score in a 34-7 debacle Oct. 12 at North Texas. Kilgore went 8 of 8, but for only 30 yards.MTSU offensive line: The Blue Raiders took on North Texas with only two starters - left tackle Darius Johnson and left guard Josh Walker. They have used three centers, always a recipe for ugliness. That 12-day intermission might help this unit, too.
Stats 'n' such
MTSU's average attendance of 21,371 is sixth of 14 C-USA teams and second among the six newcomers. Marshall's 27,434 is fourth behind East Carolina (44,308), Texas-San Antonio (32,912) and Texas-El Paso (27,999).In the stat rankings: Here's a recipe for domination - Marshall leads Conference USA in total offense (450.3), total defense (301.5), scoring defense (18.3), pass efficiency defense (98.9 rating), fewest first downs allowed (106) and opponents' third-down conversion rate (30.7 percent). MU is second in scoring offense (36.2), passing yardage (276.8), passing yards against (175.4) and third-down conversions (50.0). ... MTSU is tied for first in turnovers forced (20) and second in sacks (18) but 13th in pass efficiency rating (106.3) and fourth-down conversions (25.0 percent) and dead last in first downs allowed (170).Milestones: Rakeem Cato's 1,102 pass attempts rank fourth all-time at MU, six behind Michael Payton's 1,108, and his 64 TDs are five short of No. 3 Payton's 69. Cato's completion rate fell to 64.882 percent, putting him second behind Byron Leftwich's 65.118. ... Tommy Shuler has 167 career receptions to put him in 11th, one behind Randy Moss and Fuzzy Filliez and nine behind "Little Ricky" Carter. Shuler has 1,716 receiving yards, 89 behind No. 14 Denero Marriott. ... Gator Hoskins is tied for 10th with 18 career TD catches and needs four to reach No. 9 Jim Swierczek.
Over-unders41/2 Number of sacks suffered plus number of turnovers by Marshall.189 Rushing yards by Marshall. That would be 50 above MU's high against an FBS team not named Miami, and it would be a 114 yards fewer than MTSU was gashed for by North Texas.
60 MTSU completion percentage, which will be largely determined by how much Kilgore (he can throw) plays and Grammer (he can't throw, it appears) watches.Completely useless triviaFloyd Stadium is the oldest among the new memberhip of Conference USA, opening in 1933. Three existing members have older venues: Birmingham's Legion Field (1927), Tulsa's H.A. Chapman Stadium (1930, though it now looks as if it opened yesterday) and Southern Mississippi's M.M. Roberts Stadium (1932).NextNine days after tonight, Marshall begins a welcome two-game home stretch with a noon game against still-winless Southern Mississippi, which has lost 18 straight. CBS Sports Network has been saddled with that potential pounding. MTSU also plays Nov. 2, taking on Alabama-Birmingham at Legion Field.- By Doug Smock