Inside Marshall Sports

Grades for FAU game

OFFENSE: D

Did not run the ball well, 41 tries for 128 yards, 3.1 per carry. Marcel Williams, Tyre Brady combined for 12 catches and 204 yards, and they could have had more.

DEFENSE: D

I had bragged about this team’s tackling for most of this season, but these guys struggled with bringing down Conference USA’s top back.

SPECIAL TEAMS: C

Kaare Vedvik executes a perfect onside kick, Ryan Yurachek picks up a first down on a fake punt … And then there was the missed extra point and 31-yard FG and another punt returner thrown for a loss (with a penalty on the play, to boot). What a weird niht here.

QUARTERBACKING: F

I saw one of the best passes I’ve seen out of Chase Litton, rolling out left and throwing across his body to a sliding Ryan Yurachek in the end zone — and in the rain. There were some sweet passes, but you can’t drum those 4 picks out of your mind.

COACHING: D

The double pass is in everybody’s playbook, and Kiffin & Co. set it up perfectly. Defense should not have been so baffled.

OVERALL: D

Florida Atlantic is pretty dang good, but is not invincible. Another missed opportunity for the Herd.

Prediction for Herd-FAU game

Hello, Herd fans!

I could go into this and follow the script, which is this: FAU line blows away MU’s defensive front, Devin Singletary runs for 225, the Herd commits 3 more turnovers and the game is out of hand shortly after halftime. FAU 51, Herd 30.

But that’s lazy, and I smell something possible here. Hardly a slam dunk, not a 50-50 chance, but quite possible.

I look back at FAU’s last game before conference play, an inexplicable 34-31 loss to Buffalo, think about Marshall’s game, and a formula for an upset hits me.

First, Marshall must go back to playing turnover-free football. Hard to do against a ball-hawking secondary, and Tyler King must redouble his ball security efforts, but is it doable? Yes.

The Herd must convert its first downs, and FAU’s defense is *not* good in that category. Can the Herd run on that bunch behind a three-freshman line? I think so.

Combine that, and the Herd can do something that’s very necessary in this one — hog the ball. We’re talking 37 minutes plus, keeping the defense fresh and keeping Devin Singletary off the field. Is it doable? I think so.

Is Marshall really as bad as it looked last week in the loss to Florida International? If it is, it will finish 6-6, no questions asked. It’s better than that, especially on the road.

Yes, this is a road team. Strangely enough, I see that continuing.

You folks should know I’m hardly a homer, but work with me here. FAU isn’t going to win all 8 conference games, and that bubble just might burst Friday night.

The irrational gut hunch …

HERD 38, FAU 31

 

Conference USA notebook, 10/31

OK, commish Judy McLeod, dust off your speech about how strong Conference USA is this year. Realistically, eight of 14 teams can go bowling, and the league will seize unfilled spots in other bowls. There’s a dark side, though: CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm projected Marshall to play Central Michigan in the usually Big Ten-vs.-ACC Quick Lane Bowl.

That’s in Detroit. That thought may make me throw myself in the Atlantic Ocean this weekend, never to return.

The somewhat strange schedule, in (my) order of interest:

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (5-3) at TENNESSEE, 7:30 p.m.
TV: SEC Network

The Golden Eagles were held to 81 yards rushing by UAB, and still has quarterback issues after all these weeks. Maybe Jay Hopson can sort out the Keon Howard vs. Kwandra Griggs dilemma before the season finale at Marshall.

But with the Butch Jones Death Watch at the edge of the cliff, it would be awesome to see the Golden Eagles give the final push. I think they’ll do it.

LINE: Tennessee by 5.5. SOUTHERN MISS, PROBABLY OUTRIGHT

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (5-2, 2-2) at FLORIDA INTERNATIONAL (5-2, 3-1), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium

As much as I like the Roadrunners, they have a Marshall-like problem with their resume. Of their five victories, only one has come against a team with a winning record, and that’s Southern. The four FBS victims are a combined 2-29.

Yeee-ouch!

But their two losses are to Southern Miss and North Texas, both in game that went to the final minute. If this team has the character I think it does, it will turn that into a positive against an FIU team that might take a step back after two really good wins.

Besides, QB Dalton Sturm (2 picks all season) won’t turn it over. At all.

LINE: UTSA by 4. UTSA

NORTH TEXAS (5-3, 4-1) at LOUISIANA TECH (4-4, 2-2), 3:30 p.m.
TV: Stadium via Facebook

In full desperation mode, the Bulldogs didn’t inspire confidence by needing a touchdown with a minute left to beat Rice. (The score was 42-28, thanks to a late “pick-six” return.)

Meanwhile, the Mean Green was in full hangover mode last week after its 69-31 pummeling by Florida Atlantic, struggling with Old Dominion at home. The defense woke up in the fourth quarter, making three fourth-and-1 stops to secure a 45-38 victory.

The Bulldogs’ offense is a weeeee little better than that of the Monarchs. I smell a possible 90-point game here.

LINE: La Tech by 3.5. LA TECH

WESTERN KENTUCKY (5-3) at VANDERBILT, noon
TV: ESPNU

What, the Commodores are applying to enter Conference USA? Well, they do occupy the geographical middle ground in the “100 Miles of Hate.”

Vandy held Middle Tennessee (with Brent Stockstill), to 215 total yards, but we know that’s not as impressive as it would be to limit WKU that low. Surely, the Hilltoppers can do better than that.

Then again, as their fourth-quarter performance against Florida Atlantic showed, these Hilltoppers are tough bunch to figure.

LINE: Vanderbilt by 11.5. WKU TO COVER

RICE (1-7, 1-3) at ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (5-3, 3-2), 3 p.m.
TV: CUSA.tv

The best nickname I have seen for UAB: “College football’s favorite zombies.” This once-dead program has two near-gimme shots to clinch bowl eligibility, this one and the season finale against UTEP.

And apparently, Spencer Brown is all that and more. He has 615 rushing yards in his last four games.

LINE: UAB by 11.5. RICE TO COVER, SOMEHOW

CHARLOTTE (1-7, 1-3) at OLD DOMINION (2-6, 0-4), 3:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN3

The Monarchs don’t have UTEP on the schedule, so the 49ers and Rice (in two weeks) will have to do for their shot at a conference win.

LINE: ODU by 8.5. CHARLOTTE TO COVER

TEXAS-EL PASO (0-8, 0-4) at MIDDLE TENNESSEE (3-5, 1-3), 7:30 p.m.
TV: beIN Sports

You think MTSU’s crowd for Marshall was small? A November night game against UTEP is cruel and unusual punishment.

Brent Stockstill is having an MRI this week, and his dad/coach is holding onto hope he can come and rescue the season. My hunch: He can’t come back the rest of the season, and the Blue Raiders are falling short of six wins.

But this week, the Raiders will get win No. 4 with anybody behind center.

LINE: MTSU by 18. MTSU

Last week: 4-1
Season: 35-27

Standings

East: Marshall, FAU 4-0, FIU, Marshall 3-1, WKU 3-2, MTSU, Charlotte 1-3, Old Dominion 0-4.
West: North Texas 4-1, UAB, Southern Miss 3-2, UTSA, Louisiana Tech 2-2, Rice 1-3, UTEP 0-4.
Bowl eligible: Marshall (6-2). On verge: Southern Miss (5-2), WKU (5-2), FAU (5-3), FIU (5-2), North Texas (5-3), UAB (5-3), UTSA (5-2)
Eliminated: UTEP, Charlotte, Rice. On verge: Old Dominion (2-6).

Stat leaders

Rushing yards: Devin Singletary, FAU, 1,053; Spencer Brown, UAB, 909; Jeffery Wilson, NT, 834. (Marshall: Keion Davis 8th, 518.)
Passing yards: Mason Fine, NT, 2,388; Mike White, WKU, 2,328; J’Mar Smith 1,960; Chase Litton, Marshall, 1,913.
Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (121-185-2, 1,563 yds, 13 TDs, rating 157.4); Mason Fine, NT (178-280-8, 2,388 yds, 17 TDs, rating 149.5); Mike White, WKU (214-327-6, 2,328 yds, 14 TDs, rating 135.7). (Marshall: Chase Litton 5th, 134.8.)
Receptions: Teddy Veal, La Tech, 50; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 47; Korey Robinson, Southern Miss, 43. (Other Marshall: Marcel Williams, 8th, 36; Ryan Yurachek, 11th, 32.)
Receiving yards: Thomas Owens, FIU, 728; Tyre Brady, Marshall, 694; Jalen Guyton, NT, 692. (Other Marshall: Marcel Williams 13th, 374; Ryan Yurachek 20th, 307.)
Team total offense: North Texas 484.4, FAU 482.4, UTSA 449.3. (Marshall 9th, 388.9)
Team total defense: UTSA 294.7, Marshall 325.6, Southern Miss 331.5.
Scoring offense: FAU 39.5, North Texas 37.4, UTSA 31.1. (Marshall 6th, 28.4)
Scoring defense: UTSA 17.4, Marshall 17.6, Southern Miss 21.3.

Marshall football: Grades for FIU game

OFFENSE: D

I was teetering on flunking this unit, but I’ll address the 3 turnovers in a bit. Gained 505 total yards, but 316 came after the Herd was down 35-7. No sacks given up, but that’s no consolation.

DEFENSE: D

Gave up 224 yards rushing, allowed Alex McGough a 245 passer rating in the first half. Missed most tackles of the season by far.

SPECIAL TEAMS: F

I am betting the specialists don’t practice in the rain enough. Don’t recall the Herd dropping a good snap outright for a long time.

QUARTERBACKING: F

3 turnovers render a 33-of-52, 363-yard game moot.

COACHING: F

FIU used its extra week to out-prepare the Herd.

OVERALL: F

Blew an opportunity to take/maintain share of Conference USA East lead. A loss as ugly as the weather.

Marshall-FIU game prediction

So, I ask you, will the weather Saturday give Marshall an advantage?

Let’s get to practical matters first.

Marshall players say they’re not on a revenge tour, but it’s uncertain if that’s the case or if they’re coached to say it. One thing I know for certain: The second half of their 31-14 loss at Florida International was among the most embarrassing, and they have something to prove Saturday.

Looking at if offensively, the Herd line will have problems with FIU defenders, especially if linebackers Anthony Wint and Treyvon Williams return for injuries after a week off. Against Tulane, the Panthers switched to a 4-2-5 to fit the personnel and held the Green Wave to 10 points. I dare anybody to play a 4-2-5 against the Herd on a down other than third-and-long.

I have expected somebody to rush for 100 yards against Marshall defense by now, but it hasn’t happened. I’ve long been sold on Ryan Bee at tackle, and I’m becoming sold on Channing Hames at the other tackle. The linebacking corps appears to be the best I’ve seen in the Doc Holliday era, and there have been some good combos and great individuals. They should get to Alex McGough, who was benched last year and had rough games vs. MU in 2014 and 2015.

Now let’s get to the weather. FIU will land in Charleston or Huntington on Friday and be greeted by splendid West Virginia fall weather. When the ball is kicked off Saturday, the Panthers will be greeted by crappy West Virginia fall weather, maybe 30 degrees colder than what they have played in this season.

If Alex Gardner gets his 100 yards rushing, he’ll earn it. If Alex McGough gets his 200 passing yards, he’ll earn it. Marshall doesn’t allow sacks and doesn’t turn the ball over often, and I expect both factors to continue.

With another 200-yard rushing day, Marshall will chalk up another workmanlike victory, as FIU wants to go home by the 4th quarter. See if this score looks familiar …

MARSHALL 31, FIU 14

 

We haven’t gotten to November yet, but we have a “remember October” game on the docket this week. The others don’t look so great.

Looking at the games, in order of (my) interest:

FLORIDA ATLANTIC (4-3, 3-0) at WESTERN KENTUCKY (5-2, 3-1), 4:30 p.m.
TV: Stadium

WKU’s Mike White has thrown TD passes to five different receivers the last two weeks, while the Owls are averaging 397.5 yards and 52.5 points in their four victories.

In piling up 804 total yards on North Texas — eight-oh-four! — the Owls had 23 double-digit-yard plays. That’s absurd.

Stadium claims it will continue to be a player in the C-USA television picture and it should be. Games such as this should go to a higher-profile network.

I have a hard time going against WKU, which is on a 14-1 conference home streak, but I want Doc vs. Lane at 4-0 in Boca next week. What the heck.

Line: FAU by 6.5. FAU

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (4-3, 2-2) at SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (5-2, 3-1), 7 p.m.
TV: None

I had forgotten UAB’s last game before its unfortunate hiatus was a 45-24 win at Hattiesburg in the last game of the 2014 season. Current Chicago Bears back Jordan Howard rushed for 262 yards.

The Golden Eagles are coming off a ridiculous double-overtime win over Louisiana Tech that lifted it into a first-place tie in the West Division. Korey Robinson caught the game-tying TD and skied over a Tech defender for the game-winner in overtime.

Every UAB game has come down to the final play, and the four contests have a combined margin of seven points. Let’s see it happen again.

Line: Southern Miss by 13. UAB, at least to beat spread

TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (4-2, 1-2) at TEXAS-EL PASO (0-7, 0-3), 8 p.m.
TV: CUSA.tv

UTEP won last year’s game 52-49 game in five overtimes. The Miners couldn’t score that many points in 20 quarters this time around.

LINE: UTSA by 15.5. UTSA

OLD DOMINION (2-5, 0-3) at NORTH TEXAS (4-3, 3-1), 6:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN3

The Monarchs can’t keep a lead against WKU, then has the bad fortune to visit a mad hornets’ nest in Denton. The Mean Green averages a league-best 44.7 points at home, and that could go up.

ODU’s Ray Lawry is the No. 8 active career rusher in the FBS, with 3,588 yards.

LINE: North Texas by 11. NORTH TEXAS

LOUISIANA TECH (3-4, 1-2) at RICE (1-6, 1-2), 3:30 p.m.
TV: None

Don’t look now, but this is a desperation game for Skip Holtz’s Bulldogs. With North Texas, FAU and UTSA still on the schedule, a bowl-less season is a distinct possibility.

I’m not sure it’s fair, but this game helps usher Rice coach David Bailiff out the door. You can’t recruit high-caliber bookworms to that tiny school every year, you know.

LINE: Louisiana Tech by 13. RICE to beat spread, but not outright

Last week: 3-2
Season: 31-26

Standings

East: Marshall, FAU 3-0, WKU 3-1, FIU 2-1, MTSU, Charlotte 1-3, Old Dominion 0-3.
West: North Texas, Southern Miss 3-1, UAB 2-2, UTSA, La Tech, Rice 1-2, UTEP 0-3.
Bowl eligible: Marshall (6-1). On verge: Southern Miss (5-2), WKU (5-2).
Eliminated: UTEP, Charlotte. On verge: Rice (1-6).

Stat leaders

Rushing yards: Jeffery Wilson, NT, 749; Ito Smith, Southern Miss, 733, Devin Singletary 666. (Marshall: Keion Davis 9th, 393.)

Passing yards: Mason Fine, NT, 1,796; Mike White, WKU, 1,653; J’Mar Smith 1,539, Chase Litton, Marshall, 1,382.

Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (91-134-1, 1,241 yds, 11 TDs, rating 171.3); Mason Fine, NT (122-197-5, 1,796 yds, 14 TDs, rating 156.9), Chase Litton, Marshall (121-201-3, 1,382 yds, 13 TDs, rating 136.3).

Receptions: Ty Lee, MTSU, 39, Teddy Veal, La Tech, 36, Tyre Brady, Marshall, 34. Other Marshall: Ryan Yurachek, 9th, 25.

Receiving yards: Jaylen Guyton, NT, 626, Thomas Owens, FIU (614), Tyre Brady, Marshall, 571.

Team total offense: North Texas 499.2, UTSA 460.8, Southern Miss 445.2. (Marshall 10th, 373.3)

Team total defense: UTSA 304.0, Southern Miss 313.3, Marshall 321.8.

Scoring offense: North Texas 37.2, FAU 34.2, UTSA 33.4. (Marshall 7th, 26.5)

Scoring defense: Marshall 15.0, WKU 18.2, Southern Miss 18.8.

Herd-MTSU notebook

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Marshall’s defense entered its Friday night game at Middle Tennessee by giving up a stingy 15.0 points per game. It left Floyd Stadium giving up an even stingier 14.3.

To add to that, 14 is how many points the Thundering Herd scored off turnovers in its 38-10 win over the Blue Raiders. And those points were scored in a 1:34 span early in the second quarter, a stretch that proved to be the backbreaker.

The stage was set on the Blue Raiders’ first possession, as the home team drove to the Marshall 23-yard line. On third-and-2, Channing Hames sacked MTSU’s John Urzua for an 11-yard loss.

That was the first of six sacks, and that doesn’t include other plays in which Urzua was inconvenienced — such as the “pick-six” touchdown scored by linebacker Artis Johnson.

Ty Tyler got around a blocker and draped himself over Urzua as he tried to throw. Where the pass was supposed to go we may never know for sure, as it was altered into a harmless toss forward. Johnson found the gift and took it to the proverbial Christmas tree.

“It developed very slowly,” Johnson said. “I sit there, have my eyes on the quarterback and the D-line was crushing down on the quarterback, he was in the pocket. As he got ready to throw the ball, the D-lineman hit him and the ball comes right at me. It was a great feeling.”

On the Blue Raiders’ next possession — next play, even — Omari Cobb knocked the ball away from receiver C.J. Windham, and Chase Hancock recovered and returned it 18 yards to the MTSU 18. Three players later, the Herd led 21-3 and wasn’t threatened thereafter.

Marshall held the slippery Brad Anderson to 51 rushing yards, and limited the Blue Raiders to 53 rushing yards total, a season-best for the Herd.

Of those six sacks, 5.5 were credited to the offensive line — Hames two, Marquis Couch, Blake Keller and Ty Tyler one each and Bee a sack split with linebacker Jaquan Yulee.

“As a whole defensive line, we just got after it,” Hames said. “We saw they were weak up front, so we decided to dominate up front, and that’s where it starts.”

In the Conference USA statistics, Marshall maintained its top spot in scoring defense, and climbed to No. 2 in rushing defense (109.9, just behind Southern Mississippi’s 108.5) and is third in total defense (314.9, behind Southern Miss’ 313.3 and Texas-San Antonio’s 304.0).

In conference games only, the Herd’s three-game numbers are almost silly: 5.3 points against, 71.3 rushing defense and 227.3 total defense. The Herd still has three of the league’s top five scoring teams left on the schedule, but the defense welcomes all comers.

“I think people across the board understand our whole defense is the truth, you know what I’m saying?” Hames said. “We’re just going to keep coming, continue the whole season. We’re not going to stop.”

*********

With the sixth victory safely tucked away, we can at least list Conference USA’s dedicated bowl games. And fans can sit back and enjoy the professional bowl projectors whiff on the Herd’s destination and opponent.

The venues: Boca Raton (vs. American Athletic Conference), St. Petersburg (vs. American), New Mexico (vs. Mountain West), Bahamas (vs. Mid-American), New Orleans (vs. Sun Belt) and Fort Worth (vs. Army, if eligible). The league has a secondary agreement with the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, in case the Atlantic Coast or Southeastern conferences come up short on eligible teams.

As in earlier years, there is no game specifically earmarked for the champion, as in other leagues. One rule to keep in mind: All teams with seven or more wins will be placed into the league’s bowls before 6-6 teams.

The St. Pete game, which has welcomed Marshall twice, has the coolest formal name of the entire postseason: the Bad Boy Mowers Gasparilla Bowl.

*********

Other notes:

* The announced attendance was 13,412, which may be triple the actual turnout.

* The strange thing about quarterback Jackson White operating the Herd’s last series: The Herd had to call a timeout with 1:07 left, and then reinsert Chase Litton to run the “victory” formation.

It’s possible that White has never practiced that play, and keep in mind that Marshall uses the shotgun snap in all other scenarios. White, the holder on field goals and extra points, is the third QB on the travel squad, and MU won’t use true freshman Isaiah Green in mop-up duty.

* MTSU’s turnover margin worsened to minus-11, while Marshall’s improved to plus-3.

* MTSU wasn’t helped by losing offensive lineman Conner Trent at the end of the first half and record-setting receiver Richie James early in the third quarter.

* Marshall scored the road team’s first victory in the short all-time series, which the Herd leads 5-2.

* And finally, the word from 12th-year MTSU coach Rick Stockstill: “Give Marshall credit, they did a great job and whooped us pretty good.”

Grades for MTSU game

OFFENSE: B

Ran for 198 yards despite suffering 7 tackles for loss. No sacks. No turnovers, 6 of 13 on 3rd downs. Blue-collar day on that side of the ball. Had to settle for one FG, otherwise scored 4 TDs in the red zone.

DEFENSE: A

Is there any doubt? 14 points off turnovers in 1:34, 6 sacks, 53 yards rushing, 5 of 15 on 3rd down. It’s a shame Brent Stockstill was hurt; I would have loved to see strength vs. strength.

SPECIAL TEAMS: A

Kaare Vedvik’s punt average went under 50 because he had to execute a coffin-corner punt on a short field. Otherwise, he was dynamite. Good kick coverage, no errors.

QUARTERBACKING: B

I should bust Chase’s chops over bailing out on a block (that was funny), and he let a play clock run out on fourth-and-inches. But he had a solid if unspectacular game. His 2 long balls on the first possession (one drew holding penalty, other went for 37) kept the Blue Raiders honest the rest of the way.

COACHING: B

I could nitpick a few third-down calls on offense, but why? Chuck Heater seemed to realized his defense would have the advantage in the trenches and didn’t overthink the game plan. He continues to push all the right buttons.

OVERALL: A

Was it really that easy?

 

Herd-MTSU game prediction

Yes, Marshall has had nightmares in Murfreesboro. The Thundering Herd fell victim to a “last team with the ball wins” game in 2013 and lost in triple overtime in 2015 by missing *five* field goals.

Both games were played as night in chilly weather before puny crowds. There won’t be as much of a chill Friday night, but we will see lots of silver on this supposed “Blackout” night.

(MTSU’s athletic director once campaigned for membership in the American Athletic Conference, claiming it can carry the Nashville market. First, let’s see how much pull these guys have in Murfreesboro on a Friday night.)

Herd defenders will have trouble with MTSU’s receivers, which include diminutive running back Brad Anderson. Patience and open-field tackling will be critical here — when the Raiders drive downfield, you have to make them earn it in 10, 12, 14 plays.
Do that, and QB John Urzua eventually will goof up. MU pass rushers eventually will get to him, making an interception more likely as the game wears on. Cash in on those turnovers and it looks good for the Herd.

But not necessarily *that* good. Don’t bank on the relatively comfortable finishes the Herd enjoyed against Charlotte and Old Dominion. The Raiders have more than enough talent on both sides of the ball to cause another nighttime nightmare.
But here, we’ll flip the 2015 score …

MARSHALL 27, MIDDLE TENNESSEE 24 (with or without overtimes)

Conference USA notebook, 10/16

We haven’t gotten to November yet, but we have some “remember October” games on the docket this week. Looking at the games, in order of (my) interest:

NORTH TEXAS (4-2, 3-0) at FLORIDA ATLANTIC (3-3, 2-0), 5:30 p.m.
TV: ESPN3

If you saw my Tuesday throwdown, I anointed NT quarterback Mason Fine the midseason MVP. He reached another level Saturday against Texas-San Antonio, driving his team 98 yards in less than a minute for a winning touchdown.

The Mean Green invades Boca Raton, where Lane Kiffin has thrown the right switch after a strange start. That switch? Start Jason Driskel, line up and run it down the other team’s throat. The Owls have run for 711 yards in their last 2 games, with Devon “Motor” Singletary gaining 327.

North Texas, which has also beaten Southern Mississippi, may be the superior team, but I’m going to make a selfish pick. They hype guy in me wants 4-0 Marshall vs. 4-0 FAU on Nov. 3.

LINE: FAU by 3. FAU

SOUTHERN MISSISSIPPI (4-2, 3-0) at LOUISIANA TECH (3-3, 1-1), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium

I didn’t think either team would have a league loss at this point, never mind both teams. They do, and that makes the stakes much bigger.

For Southern Miss, Ito Smith has 733 rushing yards, adding to his 1,459 from last year and 1,128 the year before. He’s a horse.
La Tech QB J’Mar Smith threw two interceptions at UAB, but he otherwise did his job. It wasn’t his fault the Bulldogs missed a tying extra point and had a winning field goal blocked on the final play.

Look for a good atmosphere in Ruston, but I have a hunch Smith and the Southern Miss rushing attack will prevail.

LINE: La Tech by 1.5. SOUTHERN MISS

WESTERN KENTUCKY (4-2, 2-1) at OLD DOMINION (2-4, 0-2), 6 p.m. Friday
TV: CBS Sports Network

I’m still not convinced that these Hilltoppers haven’t switched to a defense-led outfit, but the offense unclogged itself against Charlotte. The first-half count: 399 total yards, 38 points.

LINE: WKU by 9.5. WKU, A LOCK

RICE (1-5, 1-1) at TEXAS-SAN ANTONIO (3-2, 0-2), 7 p.m.
TV: Stadium via Facebook

UTSA’s defense has the biggest gap between overall stats and stats in conference play, but Southern Miss and North Texas can do that. I can see a rebound against Rice and Texas-El Paso.

LINE: UTSA by 21.5. RICE BEATS SPREAD, SOMEHOW

ALABAMA-BIRMINGHAM (4-2, 2-1) at CHARLOTTE (0-7, 0-3), 6:30 p.m.
TV: beIN Sports

Is formerly dormant UAB the Team of Destiny, even with a loss to North Texas? Having the minus-49ers on your schedule doesn’t hurt.

LINE: UAB by 7. UAB

Standings

East: FAU 2-0, Marshall 2-0, FIU, WKU 2-1, MTSU 1-2, Old Dominion 0-2, Charlotte 0-3.
West: North Texas 3-0, Southern Miss, UAB 2-1, La Tech, Rice 1-1, UTSA 0-2, UTEP 0-3.

Stat leaders

Rushing yards: Jeffery Wilson, NT, 749; Ito Smith, Southern Miss, 733, Devin Singletary 666. (Marshall: Keion Davis 9th, 393.)
Passing yards: Mason Fine, NT, 1,796; Mike White, WKU, 1,653; J’Mar Smith 1,539, Chase Litton, Marshall, 1,382.
Pass efficiency: Dalton Sturm, UTSA (91-134-1, 1,241 yds, 11 TDs, rating 171.3); Mason Fine, NT (122-197-5, 1,796 yds, 14 TDs, rating 156.9), Chase Litton, Marshall (121-201-3, 1,382 yds, 13 TDs, rating 136.3).
Receptions: Ty Lee, MTSU, 39, Teddy Veal, La Tech, 36, Tyre Brady, Marshall, 34. Other Marshall: Ryan Yurachek, 9th, 25.
Receiving yards: Jaylen Guyton, NT, 626, Thomas Owens, FIU (614), Tyre Brady, Marshall, 571.
Team total offense: North Texas 499.2, UTSA 460.8, Southern Miss 445.2. (Marshall 10th, 373.3)
Team total defense: UTSA 304.0, Southern Miss 313.3, Marshall 321.8.
Scoring offense: North Texas 37.2, FAU 34.2, UTSA 33.4. (Marshall 7th, 26.5)
Scoring defense: Marshall 15.0, WKU 18.2, Southern Miss 18.8.