Alabama-Birmingham (2-6, 1-3) at Marshall (5-3, 3-1)
Noon, Edwards Stadium, (38,227, FieldTurf), HuntingtonTV: Comcast Sports SoutheastTV crew: Matt Stewart play-by-play, Chuck Oliver analyst, Hannah Chalker sidelinesLine: Marshall by 24Series: Marshall leads 6-2Last meeting: UAB 38, Marshall 31, Nov. 10, 2012 at Birmingham, Ala.Tickets: Plenty available, $25-$35Weather: Sunny, high 62, winds SW 9-14 mph
On the spotJames Rouse, Brandon Sparrow and other Marshall defensive tackles: In last year's debacle, the Herd had just six tackles for loss, and three of those were on QB sacks. That meant UAB's Darrin Reaves at least got to the line, often finding a hole and averaging nearly 6 yards a carry. MU's tackles are getting a better push this year, for the most part, and that must continue.Rakeem Cato, Marshall quarterback: Starting with the game-winning drive at Florida Atlantic and spanning the two games afterward, he is 44 of 65 for 521 yards and eight touchdowns vs. one irrelevant "Hail Mary" interception. By most accounts, his check-down skills are crossing the line from good to great. But can he adjust if UAB makes an off-the-wall change in its defense?Justin Haig, Marshall kicker: When UAB kicker Ty Long lines up for a field goal, you can pencil in three points for the Blazers. Can the Thundering Herd say the same thing about Haig?
Stats and such
This is the 23rd season of UAB football, 18th at the Division I-AA/FBS level. In the stat rankings: Marshall's Devon "Moo Moo" Smith is fifth nationally in punt returns (18.5), and second in Conference USA. Cato's 20 passing TDs have him ranked 10th nationally, tops in C-USA. ... Team-wise, the Herd is sixth in the FBS punt returns (17.43) and second in C-USA, but is 121st in net punting (31.72). In C-USA, MU leads in first downs (207), first downs against (155) and scoring offense (40.9) and is second in many other categories: third-down conversion rate (.504), third-down defense (.346), passing yardage (278.5), scoring defense (21.8), pass efficiency rating (144.02), pass efficiency defense (107.11), tackles for loss (7.9) and total defense (346.4). The Herd is 13th in fewest penalties (6.63).
UAB's Ty Long is ninth in field goals per game (1.8). The Blazers are fourth nationally in red-zone offense (.957) and seventh in punt returns (17.17), and lead C-USA in fewest fumbles lost (four) and turnovers (10). The Blazers are 14th and last in the league in passing yards allowed (273.2) and 13th in turnovers gained (nine).
Completely useless trivia
UAB numbers 55 players from its home state of Alabama, which isn't out of the ordinary. The Blazers surely don't have to compete with Marshall - the Herd has not had an Alabama native on its roster since 2010, when it had sophomore linebacker Terrell Edwards-Maye and senior safety Kevin Perry. Edwards-Maye, recruited by coach Mark Snyder as a running back, left the program.
Marshall must keep the pedal pressed, entering a short week leading up to its game at Tulsa, the West Division preseason favorite which has tumbled to a 2-6 start. Starting time in this Fox Sports 1-televised contest is 7:30 p.m. EST. UAB faces another tough one next Saturday, traveling to East Carolina for a 2 p.m. contest.