It’s that time again.
Marshall University (2-3) hosts Old Dominion (1-4) at 2:30 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium and West Virginia University (3-2) is home to Iowa State (3-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday in Milan Puskar Stadium.
Who will win?
Here are my predictions:
n Numbers don’t lie.
On the contrary, they reveal some significant truths about why Marshall has lost three of its last four games. All it requires is a visit to the NCAA statistics.
That’s where it is discovered that the Thundering Herd ranks 95th or lower among 130 Football Bowl Subdivision programs in 10 different statistical categories.
Since Marshall is averaging only 16.75 points versus FBS competition, it comes as little surprise that six of the 10 rankings are on the offensive side of the ball.
MU is tied for No. 95 in scoring offense (24.6 points), tied for No. 99 in fourth-down conversion percentage (.375) and tied for No. 101 in turnover margin (-0.60). Then, the Herd ranks No. 95 in team passing efficiency (127.46), No. 100 in third-down conversion percentage (.355) and No. 111 in red-zone offense (.714).
Defensively, Marshall ranks No. 95 in passing yards allowed (250.8), No. 101 in team passing efficiency defense and No. 111 in third-down conversion defense (.458).
And don’t forget about special teams. Marshall is ranked No. 100 in kickoff return yardage (18.43).
It’s clearly difficult to win football games when a school is ranked among the bottom 35 FBS programs in 10 of the NCAA’s 25 statistical categories.
Yet, as Marshall head coach Doc Holliday succinctly noted during his weekly press conference, “This team needs a win.”
Indeed, it does.
So, what’s the solution?
There’s a reason the Monarchs are 15-point underdogs. Marshall will win 24-10.
n Now, for WVU.
Here are some fun facts about Iowa State.
The Cyclones have won their last eight games in the month of October. Iowa State hasn’t given up a first-quarter touchdown during the 2019 season. The offense has had only two 3-and-out possessions all season. And the offense is averaging an eyebrow-raising 8.4 yards per play.
Besides all that, there’s the “Purdy Factor.”
Iowa State’s sophomore quarterback might be the dualist of dual threats.
“We’ve got to tackle him,” said WVU first-year coach Neal Brown. “They’re going to do a good job of getting us in one-on-one situations. We’ve got to present ourselves differently. We can’t go out and line up in the same defensive calls and alignments that we did against Texas. We’ve got to mix our alignments up.
“They do a good job when they decide to use the quarterback in the run game. They put you in situations that you’ve got to tackle one-on-one. A lot of those situations it’s a safety or maybe even a cornerback in some instances. And, so, we’ve got to be able to tackle him and get him down in one-on-one situations.”
That means WVU’s tackling had better be really good.
“It does,” agreed Brown. “Your tackling better be good all the time or you’re going to struggle. It does. Like I said, he’s got a really strong lower body. And he’s fast. He has broken a lot of tackles this year. I think that’s a credit to him. It’s something our guys have got to be aware of.”
Aware or not, Iowa State will win 41-24.
Season record: 8-2