The roles have reversed.
A week ago, West Virginia University was preparing to play its first Big 12 game of the season at Kansas, while Marshall University rested during a bye week.
This week it’s the opposite.
The Thundering Herd has an important game against the University of Cincinnati at 5 p.m. Saturday in Joan C. Edwards Stadium, while the Mountaineers enjoy a bye week.
Who is going to win?
Here is my prediction:
Both offenses have to take second billing to the defenses in Marshall versus Cincinnati. That’s because defense is going to dictate this game.
And, yes, that gives the Bearcats a clear-cut advantage. UC is ranked No. 24 in the country in passing defense to Marshall’s No. 73, No. 52 in rushing defense compared to MU’s No. 67 and No. 34 in total defense to the Herd’s No. 68.
That means Marshall is facing an uphill battle. But to the Herd’s credit, the players realize that.
“That front seven plays really hard,” said Marshall sophomore quarterback Isaiah Green, referring to Cincinnati’s defense. “They’ve got a good defensive line. They are going to come hard, going to play hard all game long.
“And those linebackers are big, physical dudes who can run sideline to sideline at the same time. I feel like it’s going to be a good match.”
Yet, Green isn’t conceding anything.
“They play really good,” he said. “We’ll just have to get the game plan right and come out and try to execute.”
The Herd is very capable of doing just that. And nobody is more aware of that potential than UC coach Luke Fickell.
“Marshall, to me, I see a lot of talent,” he said. “I think quarterback-wise, running back-wise and receiver-wise is where it starts, but I think the guys they’ve got up front, offensively and defensively, returning and who have played a lot of football, is what makes them who they are.”
Then, Fickell took a traipse down memory lane.
“In the past, you had the Randy Mosses of the world and the athletes they had over those years,” he said. “I think this team might be a little bit different. They still have those athletes. Maybe not as nationally known yet. But I think up front on both sides of the football is where they are better in what I’ve seen.”
So, what do the Bearcats have to do to defeat Marshall?
“Well, we’ve got to score more points than they do,” said Fickell with a chuckle. “That’s pretty simple. I don’t like to overdo this game. It’s still a little bit early. I think we’ve got to go and we’ve got to play.
“We’ve got to play cleaner than what we have. We had 11 penalties in our last game [Miami of Ohio]. I think when you go against good talent, you can’t put yourself in those situations. Especially the one I call ‘undisciplined penalties.’ The pre-snap penalties or the post-snap penalties might be aggressive ones.
“When you are playing someone as talented as Marshall and you put yourself at first-and-15, it’s going to be really difficult. Or first-and-20 on a holding call. Giving them those things instead of making them earn everything they get.
“That, for me, is from the git-go and from the start. We’ve got to do that, especially on the road.”
Yet, UC is still a 4-point favorite even on the road. I agree with that. Cincinnati will win, 24-17.
Season record: 6-1