Inside Marshall Sports

Conference USA notebook, 9/14

This weekend, Florida International’s game at Indiana has been “deferred to a future date,” for good reason. As you know, Miami is still cleaning up from Hurricane Irma, and here’s something you may not know: Special-needs residents of the Florida Keys are being sheltered at FIU.

Most of the Keys (for you who may know the area, below Mile Marker 73) remain closed as of this writing.

With that, here’s your weekend, in order of (my) interest, with picks against the spread:

LOUISIANA TECH (1-1, 0-0 in C-USA) at WESTERN KENTUCKY (1-1, 0-0 in C-USA), 7 p.m.
Television: Stadium

This is a rematch of last year’s C-USA championship game, won 58-44 by WKU, and it is a battle of teams picked by league coaches to win their divisions again.

It is also a battle of teams who had crappy nights against “Power 5” teams — Tech lost to Mississippi State 57-21 and WKU lost 20-7 to Illinois. The teams combined for 559 total yards — barely more than the 523 total yards WKU averaged in the 2016 season.
The Hilltoppers were held to a net 6 yards rushing and the Bulldogs averaged just 3.9 yards per play.

I don’t know that to think now. Perhaps the Hilltoppers are still playing good defense, but was Illinois’ offense a good barometer of that?

Line: WKU by 7. WKU

MIDDLE TENNESSEE (1-1) at MINNESOTA (2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Television: Big Ten Network

Give the Blue Raiders credit for one of the most optimal schedules among C-USA teams: Vanderbilt, Syracuse, Minnesota and Bowling Green. Challenging but not murderous, and no stinkin’ FCS teams.

The Raiders won 30-23 last week at Syracuse, holding the Orange to 308 total yards and registering six sacks. Vandy won the opener easily, but managed a middle-of-the-road 367 total yards.

So is this defense really improved under first-year defensive coordinator Scott Shafer? Perhaps, and the Golden Gophers will provide another barometer. My faith in the Raiders is semi-restored, and this line seems large.

Line: Minnesota by 10. MTSU

NORTH CAROLINA (0-2) at OLD DOMINION (2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Television: Stadium

Timeout here! East Carolina lobbied, pleaded, begged hard for decades to get the Tar Heels to visit Greenville, and then UNC turns around and visits that dungeon of a football stadium to face a ninth-year program. Sheesh!

The Tar Heels have given up 82 points a game, which can happen if you play California and Louisville. They are allowing more yards per play (7.53) and have carried leads into the fourth quarter, only to be outscored by a combined 34-13.

But ODU hasn’t looked impressive so far, beating Albany 31-17 and Massachusetts 17-7. Quarterback seems to be a problem, as the team’s passing efficiency rating ranks 102nd despite that soft schedule. Worse yet, WR Jonathan Duhart, a preseason all-conference pick, is out for the year with a broken foot.

RB Ray Lawry, who missed last week with hamstring issues, may return.

Line: North Carolina by 10. NORTH CAROLINA

RICE (1-1) at HOUSTON (1-0), 8 p.m.
Television: ESPN3

After all that city has been through, it’s just great to see this game played. Just don’t pour too much water in the Bayou Bucket.

Rice is coming off a 31-14 win at Texas-El Paso, in which the Owls outmuscled the Miners for 306 yards rushing. Houston finally got to play and was rewarded handsomely with a 19-16 win at Arizona.

The Cougars will take a 30-11 series lead, and do so by a bunch.

Line: Houston by 22.5. HOUSTON

SOUTHERN MISS (1-1) at LOUISIANA-MONROE (0-1), 7 p.m.
Television: ESPN3

The Golden Eagles regained their footing in a 45-0 pushover against Southern, and catches the Warhawks coming off a hurricane-related cancellation.

Kwadra Griggs made his first start for the Eagles, going 15 of 23 for 209 yards and a pair of TDs, and the running game got moving again. A word about ULM: The 37-29 loss at Memphis wasn’t that close, as the Warhawks scored late.

Line: Southern Miss by 6.5. SOUTHERN MISS

COASTAL CAROLINA (1-0) at ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (1-1), 1 p.m.
Television: Raycom/WBRC-TV/CUSA TV

The Blazers outgained Ball State 504-377 but two fumbles led to touchdowns as the Cardinals rolled 51-31.

The euphoria of football’s return is wearing off at Legion Field.

Line: Coastal Carolina by 1.5. COASTAL CAROLINA

NORTH TEXAS (1-1) at IOWA (2-0), 3:30 p.m.
Television: ESPN2

Mason Fine, who gave Marshall trouble last year, went 32 of 47 for 424 yards and three TDs against Southern Methodist, but the Mean Green still got thumped 54-32.

Line: Iowa by 21.5. IOWA

ARIZONA (1-1) at TEXAS-EL PASO (0-2), 10:15 p.m. Friday
Television: ESPN

Sean Kugler is 12th in the coacheshotseat.com and that my be too low. Netting 26 yards rushing against Rice is not what Kugler envisioned when he came to El Paso.

Line: Arizona by 22.5. ARIZONA

FBS on FCS Crime (maybe)
NORTH CAROLINA A&T at CHARLOTTE (0-2), 6 p.m.
Television: WCCB-TV/CUSA TV

BETHUNE-COOKMAN at FLORIDA ATLANTIC (0-2), 6:30 p.m.
Television: beIN Sports

SOUTHERN at TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (1-0 in C-USA), 7 p.m.
Television: KCWX-TV/CUSA TV

Last week vs. spread: 5-5
Season: 10-7