Make or break.
That’s what both games are Saturday for West Virginia University and Marshall University.
If the Mountaineers (4-6) want to have any chance of gaining bowl eligibility, first they have to defeat Oklahoma State at noon at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown.
If the Thundering Herd wants to remain in charge of its own destiny in Conference USA’s East Division, it can’t stub its hoof against Charlotte at 3:30 p.m. in Charlotte at Jerry Richardson Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Let’s examine each game.
For the Mountaineers, the first step toward winning has to be controlling Cowboys star running back Chuba Hubbard. Easier said than done, of course. The 6-foot-1, 207-pound sophomore has accumulated 1,726 yards on 259 carries (6.7 yards per attempt) with 20 touchdowns.
Those are staggering statistics, particularly in light of the fact that WVU’s defense is allowing 167.1 yards rushing per game.
Obviously, the Mountaineers are going to get a steady dose of Hubbard.
“I don’t think there is any question that he’s going to go down as one of the best ever,” said Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy. “It’s interesting. He’s very young. He’s just in his first full season and he has done a lot. He’s very productive. I’m most proud of our team — and even Chuba — that he is a very unselfish and humble young man. He’s a great example of our culture here at Oklahoma State.”
Yet, in the same conversation Gundy also praised WVU’s defense.
“They are doing a nice job on defense,” he said. “They’ve been good on defense all year for the most part. One thing I noticed when I was watching them is they tackle really well.
“They get pressure up front. A couple of those down guys are active and they’re getting pressure. For the most part, they’ve been really good on defense over the year.”
Considering the weather forecast is calling for a mixture of rain and snow in Morgantown on Saturday, it sounds like a running back’s kind of day.
Oklahoma State will beat WVU 34-24.
As for Marshall versus Charlotte, the 49ers have a 5-5 record and are trying to become bowl eligible for the first time in program history. But there’s also the sidebar of Brad Lambert, who founded Charlotte’s program, returning to Jerry Richardson Stadium for the first time as Marshall’s defensive coordinator.
Some soap operas don’t have scripts that compelling.
“This is going to be a big game for us, in more ways than one,” said Marshall coach Doc Holliday. “These guys are going to have to play with the same emotion and energy they played with last week.”
Holliday expects that to happen.
“The thing I like about this team is it’s a mature group,” he said. “Anytime you get into the middle of November and you’ve got a couple games left and everything that you want to play for is still out there, every game is a big game.
“Winning is fun. Losing sucks. When you win five straight, food tastes better, practice is a lot easier ... that’s what you play the game for, to find a way to go win. And when you win you should be having fun. I’m in a helluva lot better mood when we win than when we lose a game.”
Here’s some good news for Doc. MU will win 27-17.
Season record: 15-5