Noon, Joan C. Edwards Stadium(38,227, FieldTurf), HuntingtonTV: CBS Sports Network (Suddenlink channel 512). Crew: Ben Holden play-by-play, Corey Chavous analyst, Lisa Byington sidelines. Line: Marshall by 31/2. Series: ECU leads 10-4. Last game: ECU 65, Marshall 59, 2 OT, Nov. 23, 2012 at Greenville, N.C. Tickets: Plenty available, $20 (Black Friday special). Weather: Mostly sunny, kickoff temperature 35 rising to high of 42.
On the spotCorey Tindal, Marshall nickel back: He has started nine times in the Herd's base 4-2-5, and he's going to have to come up larger than ever today. Can he or someone else slow down inside receiver Justin Hardy, and keep him from being isolated against linebackers? Rakeem Cato, Marshall quarterback: He has made up three second-half deficits in conference play, and he did it in last year's ECU game. Somewhere along the line, he's going to have to prove that he's "The Man," the one who was named the league's MVP a year ago.
Stats 'n' suchIn the stat rankings: Individually, MU's Rakeem Cato and ECU's Shane Carden are third nationally in TD passes with 32. For the Herd, Gator Hoskins is fourth with 12 receiving TDs (12), Devon Smith is fifth in punt returns (16.5) and Cato is sixth in points responsible for (216).
In conference stats: Marshall and ECU are ranked highly in many categories. Marshall leads in scoring offense (43.3), total offense (510.9) and third-down defense (32.8 percent). ECU leads in rushing defense (103.9), passing yardage (335.2), pass efficiency rating (159.0), kickoff returns (26.9), sacks (33), first downs (294), third-down conversions (53.1 percent) and fourth-down conversions (76.9 percent).A note about that: In six of those categories, the teams are ranked 1-2.
Milestones: Rakeem Cato is close to rising to No. 3 on MU's all-time passing yardage and total offense lists. Cato has 9,302 passing yards, 109 behind Michael Payton's 9,411; his 9,613 total yards are 91 behind Payton's 9,704. His completion rate has fallen a full percentage point behind leader Byron Leftwich, 65.1 percent to 64.1 percent. Of course, Cato is aiming to throw a TD in his 30th consecutive game. . . . Tommy Shuler's 204 career receptions put him sixth, eight behind Nate Poole. Shuler is 12th in receiving yards with 2,132, behind "Little Ricky" Carter at 2,157 and Antavious Wilson at 2,269. . . . Gator Hoskins is fourth with 25 TD receptions, one behind Mike Barber.
Over-unders150 Marshall rushing yards. This is a very ambitious figure, for ECU has yielded that many just once.50 percent of third downs converted, by either team. Marshall converted 10 of 16, ECU 7 of 15 in the 2012 game.11/2 defensive touchdowns, by either or both teams. As aggressive as these defenses have become, a quarterback is going down and the ball is coming loose, or there will be a "pick-six."Completely useless trivia
East Carolina has received the opening kickoff in 22 consecutive games, and you can pencil in the Pirates for No. 23 - Marshall has been deferring when it wins the toss, a generally successful move.NextThe winner advances to the championship game, and certainly will host if Tulane beats Rice in a West Division showdown. Should Rice win and take the West title, it will finish with an identical 7-1 record as the East champ. Rice has not played ECU or Marshall head-to-head, so the host team will be determined the BCS ranking. ECU has a clear advantage; Marshall is 10 spots below Ricce.Today's winner may go to the Liberty Bowl, though that game can pick an American Athletic Conference team to play an SEC squad. In any event, both MU and ECU are heading to the postseason.