My call on the FIU game

November 13, 2015 by Doug Smock

One thing for certain: This is not the 2013 Florida International team, a 1-11 catastrophe that came after the surprise firing of Mario Cristobal.

Coach Ron Turner has purged what he needed to purge, recruited a good quarterback and continued to tap into all that Florida speed. I’m not sure what the ceiling is, but this program is better.

My biggest question is whether tight end Jonnu Smith will play. My hunch: He won’t. With Smith out, QB Alex McGough has leaned on Clinton Taylor, who has become the Panthers’ top receiver. He was a part-time starter in 2013, a reserve last year.

Alex Gardner can keep the Herd more than honest. He rushed for 104, but 56 of those came in the first quarter as the Panthers took a 7-0 lead. The Herd kind of figured it all out. But keep one thing in mind: Jarquez Samuel is probably out (my guess based on how he looked last week when he was helped off the field).

Herd DBs should tackle better than they did last week at Middle Tennessee — you could joke that they couldn’t tackle worse. More than in previous years, you’ve got to limit the damage. Giving up 20 double-digit plays is no way to live.

With that out of the way, let’s talk about the still-dark side of FIU. The Panthers lost to FAU, putting them in the situation where they must either beat the Herd or Western Kentucky to become bowl eligible. How did FAU do it? In part because the Owls ran for 229 yards on 49 carries.

Yes, the Herd can run right at these guys, just like it has done the previous 2 games. If I remember correctly, FIU was one team that didn’t stack the box trying to stop Devon Johnson last year. If the Panthers load up the box, the quick passing game should defuse that strategy. (Chucking it deep on Richard Leonard and that secondary is not advisable.) DE Mike Wakefield sits out the first half for targeting.

So … Marshall runs for 250, passes for 225 and the defense plays *nasty* after springing a leak last week. Throw in the home field, those black unis and the Herd will do quite fine.

Can it score 40 on the Panthers as it did the last 2 years? Perhaps, but it isn’t necessary.

Marshall 34, FIU 13

 

 

 

 

 

 

MARSHALL 34, FIU 20

Grades for Middle Tennessee game

November 7, 2015 by Doug Smock

OFFENSE: D+
Phil Steele has a yards-per-point index. In the last two games, the Herd has piled up 1,145 total yards and has 58 points to show for it. The YPP is 19.7, which I recall is not very efficient … and that’s overtime-enhanced. Red-zone only 3 TDs out of 6 trips. Didn’t really wake up until 4th quarter. Struggled against run at times. 515 total yards, mostly wasted.

DEFENSE: C-
Forcing 3 turnovers in the 1st half was great, but you knew that feeling couldn’t last forever. Stockstill and Co. diced these guys up but only scored 2 TDs in 6 red-zone trips. Giving up 17 points in regulation is a winning effort, but … dang.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F
I have a vote for the Lou Groza Award. Nick Smith is not getting it.

QUARTERBACKING: C
Litton made mistakes and couldn’t connect on that throw to the end zone in 3rd OT, but I get the feeling he deserved better.

COACHING: D
So what was Doc doing when he ordered a field goal down 17-10 with 4:32 left? Luckily, that decision became irrelevant. Coaches knew MTSU would throw a bunch of new wrinkles and, indeed, the Blue Raiders did so. So, yes, this was a coaching defeat … except the strength program nearly picked off another win. Strong 4th quarters aren’t always accidents, you know.

OVERALL: D
This wasn’t an effort to flunk and, frankly, kicking let the Herd down. But I can’t go higher than this. Western Kentucky will love this game video.

Last thoughts on Middle Tennessee game

November 6, 2015 by Doug Smock

As Marshall’s streak of being favored comes to a screeching halt, I guess I am making a call for the upset. I’m not sure when the last time I was confident of the Herd in an underdog role, but here we go.

Middle Tennessee will run well at times, but the Blue Raiders don’t have Jordan Parker, Jeremiah Bryson and probably Shane Tucker. QB Brent Stockstill might throw for 300.

But he might take 50 passes to do it (see: Southern Miss’ Nick Mullins). I don’t see Marshall’s defense magically going flat on the road … remember, it played 3-plus very good quarters at Ohio, even. Look for 2 takeaways, if not more, and less than 35% on third-down conversions.

The Herd may be going back inside with the passing attack, as the Blue Raiders must play without safety Kevin Byard. As good as the Raiders’ linebackers are, I don’t see them covering Deandre Reaves and Ryan Yurachek.

The Raiders’ defense is not that good, as Marshall has gained 1,037 total yards in the last two games in this rivalry. The Herd might get close to half that, and that will suffice.

Take the Herd and the points, but skip betting the over-under.

Marshall 34, MTSU 24

Grades for Charlotte game

October 31, 2015 by Doug Smock

OFFENSE: B-
So how does this happen? The Herd explodes for 630 total yards and doesn’t have a turnover and I nearly put it in the “C” category. Here’s the problem: 5 straight possessions, 5 straight trips to the red zone and no touchdowns to show for it. 2 field goals, 2 missed FGs, 1 stopped on downs. You must cash those in.

DEFENSE: A-
Allowed 166 rushing yards, but so what? After 3 quarters, the Herd yielded 190 total yards and no offensive touchdowns. Forced 2 turnovers in the 2nd half. Shoot, I’m only deducting for degree of difficulty.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C
2 missed FG, 1 kickoff out of bounds and no chance to do anything special, really.

QUARTERBACKING: A-
486 yards, no turnovers and 167.5 passer rating has to be worth something, right?

COACHING: A-
Letting Chase Litton jack up the tempo was a big-time move. Charlotte defense lost a half (31-3) trying to adjust.

OVERALL: B-
Herd travels to face a rested Middle Tennessee team. 3rd quarter must be better.

Last thoughts on Charlotte game

October 30, 2015 by Doug Smock

Hello, gang! And Charlotte-based Herd fans! Did you ever, ever think you would get to see your team without hauling it to Raleigh or Greenville?

According to CBS Sports, MU is a 17.5-point favorite. Our paper’s Latest Line service has a 20-point spread, with a 52 over/under.

Take the Herd. Take the under.

Some of MU’s offensive problems may not improve this week. As laid out in one of my stories, the 49ers built off defense, and has a very good nose tackle in Larry Ogunjobi to anchor the 3-4, plus good inside linebackers in Caleb Clayton-Mobley and Nick Cook. MU offensive players also rave about Jalen Holt.

The Herd will be able to run and dink and dunk in the passing game, but third downs may be a problem again. But Chase Litton and the offense can and should be aided by good field position.

One thing I haven’t written about is the 49ers’ special teams. From the two games I watched (Georgia State, Temple), they’re awful. Give me 2 trades of punts and I’ll show you Charlotte inside its 5-yard line.

The 49ers will run for 150-200+, as 5 other opponents have done. But here’s the deal: In those 5 games, they ave up 270, 156, 189, 101 and 128 yards. That first figure was Purdue, and the Boilermakers needed 48 tries to do it.

The 49ers will do good to gain 325 total yards? Why? The passing game is awful.

Yes, Charlotte has an opportunistic defense, but so does Marshall. The 49ers lead the conference and maybe the universe in turnovers with 27. There’s no excuse for MU not to win this category.

Give Litton some short fields and look for a defense/special teams touchdown. Maybe 2.

But don’t look for a 73-14 blowout of the league’s second-worst team (hey to North Texas), which Middle Tennessee administered. Look for something more like 33-10.

Group of 5 picture, Week 8

October 27, 2015 by Doug Smock

Doug’s G-5 rankings
In case you missed it, Mississippi recovered from its loss to Memphis to belt Texas A&M. Ole Miss is ranked 19/21 this week. The Tigers have to play their way out of my No. 1.

  1. Memphis 7-0 (Navy on deck.)
  2. Temple 7-0 (This is an adjustment, not really related to last week. I reserve the right to do that anytime, without apology. By the way, Notre Dame is on deck.)
  3. Toledo 7-0 (An adjustment. I’ve reconsidered the win over Arkansas, and it looks a little better these days after wins over Tennessee and Auburn.)
  4. Houston 7-0 (Vandy, Cincy, Memphis on deck.)
  5. Western Kentucky 6-2 (No change after loss to LSU.)
  6. Navy 5-1 (Memphis on deck)
  7. Marshall 7-1 (Not on strength of offense vs. North Texas, to be sure. Defense is about a step and a half from special.)
  8. Bowling Green 6-2 (A flat-out omission last week. Helped get Maryland coach fired, 2 decent losses and Falcons are wailing on everybody. If you argue these guys should be 2 spots higher, I’ll listen.
  9. Utah State 4-3 (Should I punish these guys harder for 48-14 loss to San Diego State?)
  10. Boise State 6-2 (I guess)
  11. Appalachian State 6-1 (Nice win over Georgia Southern, but going to have to overcome my anti-Fun Belt bias.In the human polls, Memphis is 16, Houston is 18/19, Toledo is 20, Temple is 21/22. In CBS 128, Memphis is 15, Houston 16, Toledo 19, Temple 21.

Positive results vs. Power 5
Week 1
Western Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 12 (Win)
Hawaii 28, Colorado 20 (Win)
Temple 27, Penn State 10 (Win)
Boise State 16, Washington 13 (Win)
Marshall 41, Purdue 31 (Win)
Oklahoma State 24, Central Michigan 13 (CMU had ball early in 4th quarter, down 17-13)
Kentucky 40, Louisiana-Lafayette 33 (UK broke tie with 57 seconds left)
Week 2
Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20, OT
Houston 34, Louisville 31 (Win)
Florida 31, East Carolina 24 (ECU had ball, chance to tie)
Memphis 55, Kansas 23 (Win)
Indiana 36, Florida International 22 (Game tied in 4th)
Bowling Green 48, Maryland 27 (Win)
Penn State 27, Buffalo 14 (Buffalo had ball in early 4th down 13-7, FWIW)
Toledo 16, Arkansas 12 (Win)
Missouri 27, Arkansas State 20 (ASU had chance to take lead in 4th)
Week 3
Kansas State 39, Louisiana Tech 33, 3 OT (ouch)
Missouri 9, Connecticut 6
Minnesota 10, Kent State 7
Syracuse 30, Central Michigan 27, OT
Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13
Toledo 20, Iowa State 13, OT (Win)
Colorado 27, Colorado State 24, OT
(Note: Western Kentucky did not have ball in 4th quarter with chance to tie/go ahead vs. Indiana)
Week 4
East Carolina 35, Maryland 28 (win)
Nebraska 36, Southern Miss 28
Illinois 27, Middle Tennessee 25
Boise State 56, Virginia 14 (win)
Week 5
Cincinnati 34, Miami 23 (win)
Vanderbilt 17, Middle Tennessee 13
Week 6
South Florida 45, Syracuse 24 (win)
Week 7
Memphis 37, Mississippi 24 (win)
Week 8
None

G-5 vs. G-5
Week 1
Florida International 15, Central Florida 14
Charlotte 23, Georgia State 20
Ohio 45, Idaho 28
Tulsa 47, Florida Atlantic 44, OT
Northern Illinois 38, Nevada-Las Vegas 30
Old Dominion 38, Eastern Michigan 34
Week 2
Ohio 21, Marshall 10
Eastern Michigan 48, Wyoming 29
Tulsa 40, New Mexico 21
SMU 31, North Texas 13
Georgia Southern 43, Western Michigan 17
Week 3
Buffalo 33, Florida Atlantic 15
Southern Mississippi 56, Texas State 50
Texas-El Paso 50, New Mexico State 47 (OT)
Memphis 44, Bowling Green 41
Temple 25, Massachusetts 23
Cincinnati 37, Miami (Ohio) 33
South Alabama 34, San Diego State 27
Week 4
Houston 59, Texas State 14
Appalachian State 49, Old Dominion 0
Western Kentucky 56, Miami (Ohio) 14
Marshall 36, Kent State 29, 2 OT
Colorado State 33, Texas-San Antonio 31
Nevada 24, Buffalo 21
Week 5
Temple 37, Charlotte 3
Navy 33, Air Force 11
Massachusetts 24, Florida International 14
Louisiana Tech 43, Louisiana-Lafayette 14
Appalachian State 31, Wyoming 13
New Mexico 38, New Mexico State 29
Week 6
Tulsa 34, Louisiana-Monroe 24
Week 7, 8
None

G-5 Inter-conference standings
American 10-1 plus 7 P-5 wins
Conference USA 8-8 plus 2 P-5 wins
MAC 6-8 plus 3 P-5 wins
Sun Belt 4-8
Mountain West 3-6 plus 3 P-5 wins

Grades for North Texas game

October 24, 2015 by Doug Smock

OFFENSE: C
No turnovers and a dominant 1st quarter, 213 yards rushing, plus a long TD drive in the 2nd quarter overcame a blah 2nd half. 6 of 17 on 3rd down is about the national median. One thing that was tough: MU was 6 of 7 on *scoring* in the red zone, but only 3 of 7 on *touchdowns*. I consider FGs in the red zone a win for the defense at this level of football.

DEFENSE: B+
North Texas had 259 total yards before a garbage 93-yard TD drive late (15 of those on penalty). Held quarterback DaMarcus Smith to 14 of 36 for 106 yards before a meaningless TD toss. … That’s a 58.1 NCAA passer rating, and that’s not good. Held NT to 2 trips to red zone, 2 FGs.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B
Tyler Williams had nice-looking punt that went off-direction and advanced just 30 yards. He averaged 41 yards an attempt, which is not great fro him. Amareto Curraj had 4 touchbacks in 7 kickoffs.

QUARTERBACKING: C+
No picks, but some throws he didn’t like.

COACHING: C+
Question for rest of year: Will Elzy’s lifted redshirt be worth it?

OVERALL: C
I’ll need a double dose of coffee to drive home from this one.

Day of North Texas game

October 24, 2015 by Doug Smock

Not sure I have much to add.

North Texas has scored six points in the first quarter all year, gives up mile or two on the ground and gives up 60 percent on third downs. The Mean Green could score some with mobile QB DaMarcus Smith and Carlos Harris, one of the league’s best receivers you don’t know about.

Could. Score. Some.

Marshall will run its way to a 24-10 lead by halftime, then score on the first second-half possession. At that point, it’s party time for the Thundering Herd defense. Just try to stick around of it rains, because that unit is fun to watch.

MARSHALL 52, NORTH TEXAS 17

Group of 5 standings after Week 7

October 22, 2015 by Doug Smock

Doug’s G-5 rankings
No index here; good ol’ staring at scores, attempting a little research and using the good ol’ eye test. Everything is debatable … except maybe my No. 1 team.

  1. Memphis
  2. Houston
  3. Toledo
  4. Temple
  5. Western Kentucky
  6. Utah State
  7. Marshall
  8. Navy
  9. Boise State
  10. Appalachian State

In the human polls, Memphis is 18/17, Toledo is 19/20, Houston is 21/22, Temple is 22/24. In CBS 128, Memphis is 15, Houston 19, Toledo 20, Temple 21.

Positive results vs. Power 5
Week 1
Western Kentucky 14, Vanderbilt 12 (Win)
Hawaii 28, Colorado 20 (Win)
Temple 27, Penn State 10 (Win)
Boise State 16, Washington 13 (Win)
Marshall 41, Purdue 31 (Win)
Oklahoma State 24, Central Michigan 13 (CMU had ball early in 4th quarter, down 17-13)
Kentucky 40, Louisiana-Lafayette 33 (UK broke tie with 57 seconds left)
Week 2
Minnesota 23, Colorado State 20, OT
Houston 34, Louisville 31 (Win)
Florida 31, East Carolina 24 (ECU had ball, chance to tie)
Memphis 55, Kansas 23 (Win)
Indiana 36, Florida International 22 (Game tied in 4th)
Bowling Green 48, Maryland 27 (Win)
Penn State 27, Buffalo 14 (Buffalo had ball in early 4th down 13-7, FWIW)
Toledo 16, Arkansas 12 (Win)
Missouri 27, Arkansas State 20 (ASU had chance to take lead in 4th)
Week 3
Kansas State 39, Louisiana Tech 33, 3 OT (ouch)
Missouri 9, Connecticut 6
Minnesota 10, Kent State 7
Syracuse 30, Central Michigan 27, OT
Ohio State 20, Northern Illinois 13
Toledo 20, Iowa State 13, OT (Win)
Colorado 27, Colorado State 24, OT
(Note: Western Kentucky did not have ball in 4th quarter with chance to tie/go ahead vs. Indiana)
Week 4
East Carolina 35, Maryland 28 (win)
Nebraska 36, Southern Miss 28
Illinois 27, Middle Tennessee 25
Boise State 56, Virginia 14 (win)
Week 5
Cincinnati 34, Miami 23 (win)
Vanderbilt 17, Middle Tennessee 13
Week 6
South Florida 45, Syracuse 24 (win)
Week 7
Memphis 37, Mississippi 24 (win)

G-5 vs. G-5
Week 1
Florida International 15, Central Florida 14
Charlotte 23, Georgia State 20
Ohio 45, Idaho 28
Tulsa 47, Florida Atlantic 44, OT
Northern Illinois 38, Nevada-Las Vegas 30
Old Dominion 38, Eastern Michigan 34
Week 2
Ohio 21, Marshall 10
Eastern Michigan 48, Wyoming 29
Tulsa 40, New Mexico 21
SMU 31, North Texas 13
Georgia Southern 43, Western Michigan 17
Week 3
Buffalo 33, Florida Atlantic 15
Southern Mississippi 56, Texas State 50
Texas-El Paso 50, New Mexico State 47 (OT)
Memphis 44, Bowling Green 41
Temple 25, Massachusetts 23
Cincinnati 37, Miami (Ohio) 33
South Alabama 34, San Diego State 27
Week 4
Houston 59, Texas State 14
Appalachian State 49, Old Dominion 0
Western Kentucky 56, Miami (Ohio) 14
Marshall 36, Kent State 29, 2 OT
Colorado State 33, Texas-San Antonio 31
Nevada 24, Buffalo 21
Week 5
Temple 37, Charlotte 3
Navy 33, Air Force 11
Massachusetts 24, Florida International 14
Louisiana Tech 43, Louisiana-Lafayette 14
Appalachian State 31, Wyoming 13
New Mexico 38, New Mexico State 29
Week 6
Tulsa 34, Louisiana-Monroe 24

G-5 Inter-conference standings
American 10-1 plus 7 P-5 wins
Conference USA 8-8 plus 2 P-5 wins
MAC 6-8 plus 3 P-5 wins
Sun Belt 4-8
Mountain West 3-6 plus 3 P-5 wins

Grades for FAU game

October 17, 2015 by Doug Smock

OFFENSE: B+
This should be higher, but I can’t get pick-six out of my head. 9 of 15 on 3rd downs, 500 total yards, 300+ rushing yards and how about that 8 minutes of clock kill at the end. Nice job.

DEFENSE: A-
Gave up a 71-yard pass and gave Tyler Cameron 15 minutes of fame. Otherwise, good stuff, especially in the red zone.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A-
Only deduction was for Amareto Curraj’s two OB kicks. Tyler Williams started the 9-point play with his 54-yard kick to the 2.

QUARTERBACKING: B
The pick-six, again, but the freshman bounced back and negated a possible game-changing play.

COACHING: A-
Groomed a 100-yard rusher in 2 weeks. That’s earning your courtesy car.

OVERALL: B+
I could be a spoil-sport and tell you MU did it without FAU playing its top quarterback, but why bust the good feeling?