After a dominant week against the Florida State Seminoles, and a week before going on the road to Death Valley, the Louisville Cardinals look to have a little bit of a reprieve from ACC play, as they travel to Huntington, WV. Their foe from Conference USA is Marshall University Thundering Herd. At first glance, this game seems like an easy win, but this may very well be a trap game that the Cards won’t expect.
KNOW YOUR OPPONENT Strong passing offense The one area that Louisville will have a lot of trouble with is Marshall’s passing game, which averages around 380 yards per game, good for fourth in the nation. That’s behind sophomore quarterback Chase Litton, who had played well in the first game against Morgan State, but struggled mightily against Akron last week. The Herd averages nine yards per passing attempt, which is strikingly better than the team’s rushing attach, ranking 77th in the nation.
In the Conference USA, Marshall is the top team offensively, averaging 545 yards per game, and 50 points in those two games. It will definitely be a different feel than the first opponent Louisville faced, Charlotte, also from C-USA.
Tough on the Rush Marshall is in the middle of the pack on defense, however. The one area that Marshall is good at defending, however, is the rush. The Herd averages 96 yards allowed on rushing, good for 20th in the nation. As every Louisville fan knows, the rush is as critical as the pass, and this defense may very well give the Cards everything it can handle on the ground.
From the air, however, is a different story. The Herd allows 277 yards on average from the air, which is almost at the very bottom of College Football defenses. Needless to say, the Marshall secondary isn’t that good. Some of that can be attributed to the 65-38 loss to Akron, in which Marshall allowed 379 yards passing with four TDs coming from the air. In total, the defense gives up 32.5 points per game, which isn’t that good.
Home field advantage Over the past 21 games, the Thundering Herd have won 20 match-ups at Joan C. Edwards Stadium, an impressive win total that ranks up in the top tier of College stadiums. Louisville hasn’t traveled to Huntington since 1977, in which the Cards demolished the Herd 56-0.
KEYS TO THE GAME
Don’t overlook the Herd After coming off one of the best wins in program history, Louisville is going into the match-up with momentum fully swinging in their direction. Louisville is of course in the BCS Playoff conversation, behind a stellar performance back-to-back-to-back from QB Lamar Jackson, who has been the most exciting man in college football and may very well win the Heisman Trophy.
Louisville ranks higher than Marshall in every category, except for one; the one that makes Marshall so dangerous. That category is pressure. Louisville is of course playing with extreme pressure, as they find themselves the sudden favorites to win the ACC and appear in the CFB Playoff, so all eyes will be on the Cards on Saturday. That leaves Marshall playing with no pressure, which could make a team dangerous.
Think back to the year 2012, when Louisville was ranked in the top 10, in the conversation to appear in the BCS National Championship, and heading to Syracuse for a late-season matchup against the Syracuse Orange. The Orange weren’t ranked, and were the underdogs against the Cards. Syracuse ended up blowing out the Cards, and dropped them in the rankings to No. 19, eliminating them from the BCS Championship talks.
Louisville has to make sure that it doesn’t overlook the Herd, which could be easy considering the opponent in week five, which may very well end up again on College GameDay. The one thing that the Cards don’t want is for Marshall to become Louisville’s next Syracuse.
Pass the ball As stated above, Marshall is not a good team when it comes to passing defense. It’s good at defending the rush, but not the pass. Louisville, much thanks to Jackson has the number one offense in the nation, and the 13th best passing attacks. Marshall will have trouble handling the speedy receivers that Louisville has, and will allow a lot of passing yards because of it. Since Marshall has a great rushing defense, the Cards will have to look to the air a little more, and will have success if they do so.
Keep the Pressure Last week, Louisville dominated Florida State on defense, holding them to 10 points with the first-team defense on the field. The reason: Louisville’s front seven kept the pressure on Deondre Francois. So far, Chase Litton has not been as mobile as any QB that Louisville has faced. That will work in the Cardinals favor, as the defensive line is bigger, stronger, and faster than Marshall’s offensive line.
Litton threw three interceptions against Akron last week, and the Herd lost a fumble in the 65-38 loss. That loss is demoralizing, as Marshall let the lead slip in the second, allowing 34 unanswered points right before the half. Louisville needs to keep this feeling up for Marshall. If you sack the QB early on in the game, get an interception, score early on a couple of times, Marshall will start to fall apart, and this game will feel more like a one- sided contest, which is the type of game that Louisville needs to continue its reputation as one of College Football’s premier teams.
MY PREDICTION If Louisville keeps up what it had done against the first three teams in the season, this game should end up being another one that Lamar Jackson doesn’t play the whole game for. If the Cards treat this like any other game, it should be an easy win that will continue the momentum as the top team in the ACC. Louisville will still continue the dominance on offense and defense, and will ultimately bring Marshall its second loss at home in 22 games. Final Score: Louisville 65-Marshall 28